By Liz Olson, PhD
Summer has ended close and for many of us that means heading back to the classroom. Whether you are a seasoned anthropologist or student, we think that reflecting on summer fieldwork is important and enriching. Here we share a synopsis of the series Notes from the Field 2014 which may help students, researchers and professors cultivate and expand conversations about how anthropological work is, and could be, carried out.
We hope that the seven unique blog posts featured in the series can inspire you as you reflect on your own notes and experiences. Notes from the Field 2014 highlights the importance of community dynamics in steering the direction of research. The blog series may also serve as a teaching tool. Here are a couple of sample assignments that draw upon the blog series.
Objective: To help students appreciate the process of conducting qualitative research and the role of the participant-observer.
- Practice taking fieldnotes and writing a field journal.
- Understand the value, and shortcomings, of initial impressions of field work.
1. Go to a public space, either on campus or in the community, and take detailed field notes on the observed behaviors and interactions for forty minutes. (Take notes individually, although there should be two or three students at each location.)
2. Return to the classroom or your workspace and write a field journal reflection. It should be a summary of your impressions and observations, but without the use of your field notes.
3. Using your detailed field notes and field journal, consider the similarities and differences between the content, style, and utility of both the notes and the journal.
Class Discussion Questions:
1. What types of information (data) are in your field notes and field journal? How can you use the data to support drawing conclusions?
2. How does the ethnographer influence the field notes and field journal? Are your field notes and field journal mostly objective or subjective?
Objective: To think critically about the role of community in anthropological field work.
Student Learning Outcomes:
- Understand the multiple ways of defining community.
- Identify key characteristics in common anthropological research methodologies.
- Apply principles related to community-based research to their own experiences.
Read three of the blog posts and answer these questions in preparation for class discussion.
(1) How did the authors of each blog post interact with the study community? In what ways does the nature of the interaction demonstrate participant-observation? Applied anthropology?
(2) Problems arise during fieldwork. Think about an experience you have had working with a campus/community institution and what types of tensions or problems you encountered. What strategies did the blog authors have to deal with hiccups, tensions, and conflicts in the field? How might these strategies translate into your own community/campus work?
(3) How is community-based research different from traditional research? Give some examples of community based approached from the blog entries.
(4) What can we learn from collaborative projects like this one? How did reading these posts together as a series help you expand your conception of fieldwork?
Synopsis of posts in C&A’s Notes from the Field 2014
Source: Science Daily News