Anthropology has been predicated on fieldwork over the past century. Though fieldwork is not the only way to become an anthropologist, it certain has been considered a prerequisite over the years by many in the field of anthropology.
Thomas Barfield (1997) defines fieldwork as the “Intense, long-term anthropological research conducted among a community of people.” I do not expect anyone to spend an intense, long-term period doing this project. However, you will be doing fieldwork though in a more limited form.
The main methodological approaches used in fieldwork are often qualitative methods. There are several different types of methods used. They include:
1. Participation – The interaction of the researcher with members of a community during which the researcher plunges into their activities as completely as possible. (Barfield ed., 348)
2. Observation – Observation is similar to participation and is often called participant-observation. However, I make a distinction between the two. Observation is different, in that, the researcher does not directly interact with the community but simple observes the community. Most often, both participation and observation are used together.
3. Key Informant Interviews – The true sense of key informant interviews can not be gathered in a short time. However, you will be able to utilize this method in a limited way. Interviewing an informant can be done in several different ways. These ways include one long interview or several shorter interviews. Interviews can also be done with a number of people.
4. Surveys – Surveys provide the quantitative side to qualitative research. In other words, surveys often involve numbers. One of the key points of surveys is to access a greater amount of information from people in the community. Surveys vary in form from multiple choice to fill-in-the-blank questions, from long to short. The survey depends on the information the researcher is seeking.
5. Audio – The audio method is used in varying forms. Audio is often used in the interview process to retain data to be reviewed later. Audio can also be used in this project as a methodological approach. By recording what you are doing, the audio can act as a source of information both by way of a written and an audio format.
6. Photography and Video– Visual anthropology has been a subfield of anthropology since the early days. Nearly all fieldworkers have used film and/or photography over the past one hundred years as an individual method as well as a method to enhance other methods.
1. First you will need to decide on a “culture” you would like to study. It needs to be a group you are not already a part of or are familiar with beyond a minimal level. Think of different sub-cultures you have access to around school and the greater community.
2. Once you have chosen what you will study now you will need to decide which qualitative methods you will use. You must use at least 4 of the methods. Which methods you use and how you use the methods might and often will chance as you do your study.
3. Now comes the fun part! Jump in and see what you learn.
4. You will need to keep a notebook of your research. It will need to include the notes you take and a time log of when and for how long you did praticapation and/or observation. You will be turning this in as part of the grade.
5. Here is how I want you to write up your project report.
1. A brief overview of what you project is about.
2. The methods you used for your project.
3. The setting in which you did your project.
4. Analysis of data (what did you learn or find out from the data you gathered).
One finally thing, have fun with this project. The object of this exercise is to teach not only about different methodological approaches but to learn about your own culture as well.