Course Requirements and Assignment Details

Course requirements are as follows:

  1. Weekly lab assignments (30%)
  2. Participation on online discussion board (15%)
  3. Class participation (15%)
  4. Final proposal for thesis or essay (40%)


I use the following grading cut-offs:  >94%=A; 90-93.9%=A-; 87-89.9%=B+; 84-86.9=B; 80-83.9=B-; 70-80 Cs


I accept late assignments, but I take off 1/2 grade for each day late (so, an A- assignment turned in a day late would be a B+, 2 days late would be a B, etc). The only exception to this is with documentation from your Commons Dean.


Of course, you are expected to adhere to the College Honor Code. You are welcome and encouraged to speak with and work with your classmates on any aspect of this course, but all written work must be your own.



Weekly lab assignments

            Every week, we will have a lab practicing a method we are learning about in class. You will do your own participant observation, interviews, and try out other qualitative research methods. You’ll also organize and begin to analyze the data you collect. For each lab, I will ask you to turn in to me the data you collect or the analysis you do. For participant observation, I’ll ask you to turn in fieldnotes; for interviews, I’ll ask you to turn in recordings, notes, and transcriptions. I’ll give you more information about specifically what I need from you each week as you get ready to do the lab in question.

Grading on the lab assignments will be based on the extent to which you commit to the process, and on the quality of the documentation you create in the form of fieldnotes, transcriptions, etc. (more on this as the class progresses). I want you to take these labs seriously, and do your best. But I also want you to take this opportunity to try things that may or may not work. Try out the method we’re practicing in different ways, take risks, and share your surprising successes and your spectacular failures with the class.


Participation on online discussion board

Every week that we have a lab, you will write a one-page, single-spaced reflection on your experiences, frustrations, and successes using the method we are practicing that week. What worked particularly well for you? What problems did you experience? Do you think this method will be useful for you in your project, and why or why not? Did you come up with any ideas or strategies that might be useful for others in the class? Are there any difficulties you encountered for which others in the class might be able to suggest solutions? This reflection should be posted to the online discussion board by 9 PM Monday. Grading will be based on the extent to which you thoughtfully engage the fieldwork process. Please incorporate readings if appropriate (but not if it’s forced).

I will grade the reflection posts check-plus (numeric grade 96; shows engagement, creativity, and thoughtful reflection about the fieldwork process); check (numeric grade 88; satisfactory report on the fieldwork process); and check-minus (numeric grade 80; you phoned it in).


Class participation

Attendance and completing the reading are the starting points for effective class participation. The grading system for class participation is:


I (numeric grade: 96) I is reserved for students whose presence makes the class one worth going to. They listen to and engage with others; they are not afraid to try out new ideas and change their minds; they are passionate but modest; they always participate, but never dominate the conversation.
II (numeric grade: 88) II is the grade for students who enrich the classroom. Their attendance is excellent; they have clearly done the reading, and thought about it; they engage others and provide interesting comments. Some otherwise “I” students who dominate the conversation may receive a grade of II.
III (numeric grade: 80) III is for students who attend class, and appear to have done the reading, but who do not engage other students deeply, or say much about their own ideas.
IV (numeric grade: 72) Students with attendance problems, or who have not done the reading, will receive a IV.

Laptops are permitted in class only if the wireless is turned off. I can tell if you are tuned into the Web or tuned into class, and failure to abide by this guideline–whether or not I call you out on it in class–will severely and negatively affect your class participation grade. The only exception to this is when we need to use the Internet for an activity in class or in lab.


Final proposal for thesis or essay

The final paper for this course is a proposal for your senior thesis or senior essay.  This proposal will be no more than eleven double-spaced pages, plus an abstract. But this doesn’t mean it’s a short or easy assignment! Part of the art of writing a research proposal is to distill a lot of ideas and background information into a concise, compelling narrative that gets the reader excited about your research, and convinces them that the methods you are using will give you valid answers to the questions you are investigating. The criteria that the Wenner-Gren Foundation uses to evaluate which proposals it will fund are good ones to help you think about what makes a good proposal:

  • A well-defined research question
  • A detailed description of appropriate evidence to answer the research question
  • A feasible plan for gathering and analyzing this evidence
  • The significance of the research to important theoretical and methodological issues in anthropology

Your proposal should include the following sections: *

1)    Statement of Research Focus / Abstract. An abstract of no more than 200 words should be printed single-spaced on a separate cover page with the title of the proposal and your name at the top of the page. The summary should describe the specific focus of your research, what the central research questions are, what theoretical framework(s) you will be using or testing, and what your methodology will be. At this point, of course, you aren’t yet in a position to provide substantive conclusions.

2)    Introduction (about ½ page). This should get the reader interested in your research question.

3)    Research Hypotheses and Objectives (about 1-1 ½ pages). What are the specific questions you plan to answer with your research? Why are they important? While not all anthropological research aims to prove or disprove a specific hypothesis, attempting to frame your project in this way can help you distill exactly what it is you plan to evaluate through your research.

4)    Literature Review and Theoretical Framework (about 5 pages). What work have other researchers done on this topic? In presenting the results of existing research, try to develop a set of categories or topics around which to organize or present the existing literature. (Look at the funded dissertation proposals I’ve posted to get an idea of how to do this.) For many of you, what constitutes the “relevant” literature may change somewhat as your ideas become more refined. Even so, it is important that you explore the literature thoroughly and understand how it relates to your specific empirical and theoretical interests.

In this section, you’ll also need to address the question: How does your research fit into the existing literature? In the end, the point of all social science research is to make a theoretical contribution to the field. Practically, the difference between good senior work and outstanding senior work worthy of honors turns on the student’s ability to thoughtfully and creatively work with theoretical ideas and perspectives. Often there are contending theoretical perspectives to explain a specific research issue. What are these frameworks and how will they inform your research? How do you see your research fitting within this ongoing theoretical debate?

5)    Methodology (about 4 pages). What data will you collect? How will you collect it? How will you analyze it? How will it answer your research questions? Be specific!

In what ways are your research methods suited to gaining the information you need? What is the specific setting where you will conduct the research? If appropriate to your research, how will you sample from the population you are studying? Will you do interviews, a survey, content analysis, analyze secondary sources, participant observation, or some combination of these? If you plan on conducting interviews (focus group or individual), will they be tape recorded? How will you then deal with the recorded materials? If you are planning to do content analysis, how will you go about this? Suggest how you will work with the data/material collected and how it will be tied to the theoretical ideas and perspectives your research set out to address.

If you plan to conduct a survey or interviews, attach as an appendix an initial draft of whatever questions and test instruments you plan to use. (This will not count toward the 11 page limit.)

6)    Project Significance (about ½ page). Why should anyone care about the research you plan to do?

7)    References (do not count toward the 11 page limit). Please use a style that is standard for sociology or anthropology (for example, the American Anthropologist style).

A draft of your proposal containing at least the Research Hypotheses and Objectives section and the Literature Review and Theoretical Framework section, as well as a rough outline of the methods you plan to use, is due November 1. The draft will be worth 20% of your research proposal grade. The final research proposal is due to me by December 15.

* The SOAN department has many people who have worked on describing for students what needs to go into a research proposal. My thanks to Rudolf Haerle, Burke Rochford, and Peggy Nelson for previous outlines, from which I have copied verbatim.

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