For this assignment, you have three location options to choose from to conduct your direct observation (you MUST choose one of these locations):
A coffee shop you’ve never been to in a neighborhood you are unfamiliar with.
An outdoor sporting event
Guidelines for conducting Direct Observation
Decide on a location. Make sure the location is a public place. Invasion of privacy is unacceptable. You must choose from the list of locations you have been given.
Set a time line. You should plan on spending a minimum of one hour, but not longer than two hours observing. Make sure you plan your schedule so that you can do the observation at the most appropriate time.
Take notes! The more detailed and factual, the better. You can handwrite your notes while in the field (if this is easier and makes you less conspicuous) but you should type up your notes as soon as you have the opportunity (usually right after leaving the field so the memories are fresh). Your notes can be written in the first person (e.g. I arrived at the coffee shop and sat in the far corner of the store at a table that was facing the center of the room. I saw a man with a red hat come in and sit down without ordering anything). Your notes should detail everything you observed related to your research goals, from the seemingly mundane to the more interesting/exciting. It is ok to note what you think is happening (e.g. “the man sat down at the table and seemed angry at the woman who was with him”) but you shouldn’t add any of your own judgement into your field notes (e.g. “he had no right to be angry at her, she was just waiting for him”).
Be aware of your surroundings and be courteous to your subjects. In some situations, people may not notice your presence, but if they ask questions, answer briefly, politely, and honestly. If they seem offended or annoyed, stop asking questions or leave the location. If you interview anyone, you must get their informed consent (you won’t be doing this, just FYI). If anyone makes you feel threatened or uneasy, leave immediately
You will submit your detailed field notes from your observation. Be sure to include the location you observed, date of the observation, your arrival time, departure time and all other details of what you observed while you were there.
Drawing on your field notes as your “data,” answer the following questions:What are the norms for behavior in this location?
What happens when someone deviates from these norms?
Who typically adhered to the norms?
Who were the norm-breakers?
Finally, consider how YOU played a role in the research process. How did your personal experience, perspective, opinions, or behaviors influence the things you paid attention to, and the way you interpreted your data? How did this “structured” observation differ from “everyday” observation? If you observed in the field, what did it feel like? Were you comfortable or uncomfortable – why? Would you do anything differently next time? What did you learn from the experience?
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