Anthropology Adrian S. Novotny
This project involves doing research on some aspect of the cultural mix in the surrounding area.
You have a choice of picking either a subject group or a specific location/facility to investigate.
Subject groups could be surfers, foreign students from a particular country, break dancers, all-
night coffee shop waitresses, punkers, goths, a religious group, fraternities, sororities, students
who major in a particular field, dungeon and dragon players, bag ladies, alcoholics, or
whomever else you may find interesting.
Specific locations or facilities might be parks, piers/beaches, welfare offices, medical or dental
waiting rooms, elevators; retail oritlets, malls, unemployment offices, libraries, ski resorts, or
any other place you think might stimulate your curiosity and which would be interesting to
"watch" for a few hours once or twice.
After choosing your topic, you should design a research strategy, that is, what do you want to
find out and how will you get that information? Some of your research questions, of course,
will become clear to you only after you have begun your observation. This is a natural
development in research projects. You will, of course, observe the group or location, but what
else will you do? Usually, but not always, such projects involve.talking with the people present-
interacting with them in other-ways, asking questions, making mental, written, audio, video,
photographic, or filmed records of what people are doing. Use of such media is optional in this
project and your grade will not be based on the inclusion of such materials. Primarily, the grade
will be a reflection of how well you planned, carried out, and reported upon. the subject place
or group which you chose~ Hopefully, you will be seeing things in an anthropological way, by
which I mean that anthropological methodology, jargon, theory, etc. will strengthen the grade
which you receive on your project.
Most fieldwork projects try to answer the "wh" questions early in the research
(who, what, where, when, and why). Identify the subjects in terms of how they
are different from "mainstream" culture and include any findings that may help someone
understand the group or location better.
As to the amount of observation necessary for this project, a few guidelines are often helpful.
You should observe and/or interact with the subjects as much as you feel is necessary to present
the topic adequately. Obviously, the more you observe, the more accurate and trustworthy your
conclusions will be. Sometimes, several visits are better than one longer visit, since conditions
may vary depending upon the weather, the time of day or night, the day of the week, or the time
of the year. Much of your strategy will, of course, depend upon the subject you choose. DO
NOT choose a subject or location that you
think might prove dangerous or embarrassing to you or to the subjects of your study. Street
gangs or prostitutes, for example, might seem interesting, but "outsiders" asking questions
might become dangerous for the researcher. If you have any questions regarding this
consideration, please check with me before you begin the project.
If a location is chosen which has someone "in charge" of the area or facility, I recommend that
you introduce yourselves to them and indicate what you are doing and why. In this way, you
will avoid the possibility of arousing suspicion as you are seen "lurking" in the area. It is also
wise, under some circumstances, to be as unobtrusive as possible so that the behavior that you
observe will be as "natural" as possible. You should not be so conspicuous as to alter, in any
way, the behavior of the subjects of your study. Examples of conspicuous behavior might be
boldly writing down everything people say around you, without having secured their
permission, or having a tape recorder on in full view of the subjects, again, without their
permission. Of course, if you talk with the subjects about what you are doing, you will alter
their behavior as they begin to "play to you" as actors on a stage. You must decide beforehand
what your research methodology will be. In.this way, you will avoid the dilemma of whether
to disclose your research to the subjects or not.
All people, as well as exact locations in your research, must remain anonymous for the
protection of your subjects. You never know how.your data might be used in the future. This
is especially important when we come upon illegal, immoral, or otherwise deviant behavior on
the part of our subjects.
Please respect their privacy by using such identification as "Subject No.1," "Playground Z," or
pseudonyms for people or places if you choose to use common names. After your
observation(s) are complete, the results of your research should be word processed or
typewritten and be three or four pages in length, excluding drawings, photos, maps, etc. (if
any). Use standard margins, double space, include a title page, and use a twelve point font.
Staple the upper left and please do not use plastic or cardboard binders on the papers.
In the introduction, please include a brief statement as to why you chose the
group/location/facility which you are observing. Also include a brief summary of your
research strategy-how did you approach the subject? What techniques did you use? Did your
strategy work or did you have to modify it?
Check with me if you have any questions regarding this project. Remember, the last day to
submit projects for credit is the semester's last class meeting. I hope you will enjoy doing some
anthropology in the area.