Final paper format
a. Provide 1-2 paragraphs introducing the
topic/theme/subject of your paper and what you
will address in it.
II. Data collection (methods)
a. How, when, where and with whom (remember no direct identifiers!) did you collect your data
III. Data presentation and wrap-up (discussion/conclusions)
a. Describe your observations, what was the focus
of your observations, how does your data
illustrate the theme/subject of your paper.
b. You will need to draw on resources from either your textbook or from peer-reviewed articles to
analyse your observations in terms of what others have found.
From Nancy McKee for Anth 350:
OK, so now you have your data (raw information—and by the way, the word “data” is plural, as in “my data ARE really great”). Like the dog who actually caught the car he was chasing, what are you going to do with it (them) now? You’re going to do three things:
• announce the theme, argument, or basic point (usually called a “problem”) you are going to explore with the data you have collected;
• lay out your data in such a way as to make and illustrate your problem; and
• wind up your paper with an economical analysis (a thrifty general statement) about what you think you’ve found out.
The big problem is determining a problem. This is the big problem for everyone at every level. Even PhD students have terrible trouble formulating a question or problem to guide their research, so if you have to struggle a bit, it might make you feel better to know you aren’t alone. But if you don’t have a problem to guide you, all you have is data, and as a my favorite anthropology professor used to yell at his classes, “Data never taught anybody anything.” You need to think hard about a problem even BEFORE you go into the field, but the truth is that the sacred problem might not occur to you until after you get started doing your observations. Still, the sooner the better, because then you’ll know better what you should be looking for.
What are some sample problems? Suppose you’re observing 3-5 year olds in a daycare. How about “Linguistic Dimensions of Young Children’s Conflict Resolution.” (I know it’s a bit pompous, but there’s no harm in learning to talk like the academic natives.) Basically, you would be trying to see how little kids fight verbally with each other, how it differs from the ways adults resolve conflicts verbally, and how kids’ quarrels plug in to other phenomena, like age, gender, maybe ethnicity or social class, if you can get a fix on these. Or suppose you’re going to go to three Tupperware parties (I’m not sure they still exist, but other kinds of pseudo parties do). You could explore “Social, Commercial, and Gender Aspects of Language Use at Home-based Selling ‘Parties.'” Here you would be looking at the ways in which everyday language use intersects with language aimed at pitching a commercial product, so as to produce the illusion that this is not a profit-oriented undertaking, but just a group of women in a social setting talking about the domestic duties and pleasures they share.
Remember that your paper will need both general statements and specific examples from your field notes. “””General statements without specific substantiation are worthless and indefensible.”””” Concrete examples without interpretation may be interesting curiosities, but they are meaningless in any significant context.
Finally, there is the very important issue of protecting the privacy of the people you observe. If the group is so large or anonymous that you and your work are unnoticed and that none of the people you observe could be identified from the paper you write, then don’t worry. Make sure you use pseudonyms (invented names) if you describe individuals, and use pseudonyms also for the names of institutions and locations. On the other hand, if the group is so small that your work is noticeable and/or individuals could be identified from your final paper, then you must get permission from these individuals (or their parents, if they are children) to report on them.
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