Anthropology Discussion:

Discussion: Designing a Fieldwork Project

Do This First:

  • Read Chapter 3 “Fieldwork and Ethnography” Lecture-Study Guide
  • View the Slide Show


Discussion Topic Set-Up:

Ethnographic fieldwork is not limited to foreign locales or distant cultures. It can be carried out in our own cities and communities. For this discussion topic, outline in at least three solid paragraphs a possible ethnographic research project that you could carry out as a graduate student in anthropology.

  • Set the project in a specific community of the Los Angeles area, for instance Gardena or Carson or Wilmington, or any local community. Do not try to cover all of LA!
  • A research setting within the Los Angeles area does not mean your project must address a serious social problem. In fact, avoid topics like homelessness, addiction, and violence. These are problems that require multiple approaches and expertise, sometimes in psychological or medical areas. Keep in mind that cultural anthropologists have a broad range of research interests that may include the creative aspect of people’s lives, such as art, music, or crafts found in particular communities.
  • I recommend considering something that could be done on a small scale with a focus on culture. Cultural anthropologists also study the creative aspect of people’s lives, for instance, for instance the art, music, or crafts of particular communities.
  • Keep you proposed project small and doable, something that can be accomplished in a year’s time.


1. Describe the objectives and purpose of your hypothetical research–what is it you hope to discover or test. “Why questions” can be too open-ended. Look for ways to focus the research. Who or what will possibly benefit from the findings of your research?

2. Describe the main techniques or methods you would use and explain why. Be very specific here. The techniques or methods need to be a good fit for the project and for your overall research objectives. Explain why you might need quantitative or qualitative data. The sidebar terms in Chapter 3 will be useful here.

3. Explain what measures you would take to conduct your research ethically.

4. Describe the preparation needed before you went into the field? Remember that ethnography is carried out through first-hand observations and usually is guided by a lot of preliminary reading and exposure to the research of others. Think “literature review.”

5. How might you yourself be changed by conducting this fieldwork project if it were a “real” project?

6. After submitting your discussion posting, respond with a comment to another student’s posting for this discussion.

This is a hypothetical projectnot an actual project for this class. The point is to challenge yourself with developing a question or hypothesis worth researching and then consider how to best go about conducting the research.

Note: this discussion is worth 15 points and should reflect careful attention to items 1-6.

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