Fieldwork Project

Anthropology 1001 Fieldwork Project


In this class, your final assignment will be a fieldwork project, which you will work on throughout the semester. Every paper written as part of this project should be clearly written, well-organized, and should include proper citations and a references cited page. Papers should be double spaced, in Times or Times New Roman font, with standard margins (1” top & bottom, 1.25” left and right).


The project will be broken down into many steps, so please read this entire assignment carefully, and ask questions if anything is unclear to you.


Step 1:  Fieldwork Project Proposal

10/80 points

Based on our preliminary discussions in class, develop a proposal for a topic for your fieldwork project. Our class focuses on anthropological approaches to race, class and gender, and so you should be able to examine your fieldwork topic through one or more of these lenses. Try to think of a topic that is easily explored through on-site fieldwork. If you are interested in how people’s racial experience influences their relationship with the criminal justice system, for example, you could conduct fieldwork in the arraignment courtrooms at central booking, or on the busses that carry New Yorkers to visit family members to visit Riker’s Island.


Step 2:  Practice fieldwork assignment

20/80 points

Visit a field site of your choice, observe the everyday activities taking place there, and analyze them in terms of class, race or gender. Write up a 2-3 page reflection on what you saw and experienced. Before you conduct your field-visit, you should take notes about your expectations as to what you will see, so that you can compare them to what you actually witness.


It is important to relate your observations to the readings from class. Think about the different approaches to fieldwork we have read and discussed in class thus far. Remember: you are a social scientist visiting a research site. Try to keep an objective stance, pay close attention to the details of your observation, take notes during the visit (if appropriate) or immediately after, and be respectful.


  • Watch carefully the everyday activity unfolding at your field site. Do not take notes if this may be embarrassing or distracting for you or the people being observed.
  • Write up your observation. Describe it in detail- include the location, specifics about the individuals involved, your own reactions, the actions involved.
  • Analyze what you have observed: Do you notice aspects of this behavior that seemed to be related to people’s beliefs and experiences of class, race or gender? How did their actions reinforce or challenge these norms? Describe.


Step 3: Fieldwork analysis 

25/80 points

After receiving your practice field notes back with comments, conduct further fieldwork and refine your method. When you have collected a sizeable amount of data, draw upon the concepts we’ve learned about in class to analyze your data in a 2-3 page paper. Pick two of the authors we have read in class, and ask: how would this person view my field site?


For example, put yourself in Pierre Bourdieu’s shoes, and examine your field site in terms of habitus. How does this concept help you to explain the phenomena you have observed? What questions does it raise for further investigation? If you wish, you can conduct further research on your topic in anthropology journals in the JSTOR database:


Step 4: Write a rough draft of your paper.

            Write a rough draft of your final paper, which you can use for reference during a class presentation. This paper doesn’t have to have perfect structure or grammar, but should indicate your argument and the evidence you are using to support it.


Guidelines for the paper: In a 5-7 page paper, analyze the things you observed during your fieldwork in terms of the class readings and your own background research. Make substantive use of at least two course readings in constructing your analysis. Make sure to reflect on the following questions:

  • What kind of class, race or gendered social meanings and power structures did you uncover in the course of your background research, and how do you see these structures at work in your field site?
  • How did your findings at your field site conform to, or challenge, the ideas of the authors we read in class?
  • What is your relationship to the group or behavior you observed, and did your presence affect the actions of people in your field site in any way?
  • Did you come in with assumptions that changed? If so, what were they?
  • What are some questions this research raises for you?  How could you go about conducting further research to answer them?


Step 5: Class presentation

During class, present the rough draft of your paper. Share with your fellow students the fieldwork topic you chose, the results of your background research, and how you think class, racial or gender power structures impinge upon what you observed. Indicate evidence from your field notes that support your hypotheses.


Following your presentations, students will offer constructive critiques and feedback that may help you identify weak points in your argument, indicate other texts that may be helpful in your analysis, or otherwise help you write a good final draft.


Step 6: Revise your paper and complete a final draft

25/80 points

Using the feedback you got from class, revise your paper and complete a final draft. Check your grammar, spelling, organization, formatting etc. Even more importantly, make sure that your ideas are clearly communicated, and that your analysis is strong, and makes use of the course materials, the research you have conducted, and your field notes.  You may want to try reading your paper aloud to be sure that it makes sense, or sharing it with a friend or family member.

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