Give your project a creative a title.
Bad title: Anorexia. Good title: Am I anorexic? Social Class and Perceived Eating Disorders
What is your topic? Why is it sociological? Why is it important?
State your research questions.
Use your own words to describe the findings of studies relevant to your own. You may choose to describe theoretical perspectives that you read about or the findings of empirical studies.
Use your literature review to do one or more of the following: advance a theory; explain the rationale for a hypothesis; show how the findings of prior studies have led you to this research; show how you will fill a gap in what is known about a topic.
Write sentences that do one or more of the following: cite a finding; cite a theory; explain a theory or a finding in depth; cite multiple studies that drew similar conclusions; add your own interpretation.
First describe your sampling strategy. How did you select these people to be interviewed? Be specific but do not name them.
Second, describe the questions you will ask and explain how they will answer your research questions.
Focus on 2 or 3 themes in the results. What are some things you learned that reoccurred throughout the interview process? Do these themes respond to your research questions? Sometimes the answer is no. If the answer is no, think inductively, and rewrite your research questions.
Describe the results of the interviews and explain the themes. Use quotations from the interviews often. Use them to exemplify the themes.
End with a brief conclusion.
In this first project you will conduct a brief observation of human behavior in a public setting. In your observations, you will try to examine something that answers a sociological question. For example, you might explore the different ways that people with disabilities are treated compared to people without disabilities in a shopping mall. Other examples of this kind include observing differences in people and their behavior by ethnicity, race, gender, appearance, etc. However, there are many other kinds of sociological topics. Another example would be to observe deviant behavior such as when cars fail to make a complete stop at a stop sign or when people hold (or do not hold) the door for one another. Sociologists are also interested in language and interaction. You might observe conversations between people in public places to learn about the way they talk about sexuality, news stories, everyday events, etc. Tipping behavior can be observed in a restaurant. You might decide to observe BINGO play in a church gymnasium. The possibilities are endless but be sure to tie your observations back to something that is sociological.
Try to pick a topic that you would like to explore more in the semester on your next two mini-projects. The second mini-project will involve interviewing and the third will involve surveying.
Begin by making some raw observations of the space you want to study. Look for patterns in the practices, episodes, encounters, roles, relationships, or groups that you intend to study. These terms come from the chapters on Qualitative Research in your text. Reread these sections and review your class notes to get a firm grip on what these are. Then think about what you see in your initial observations. Try to identify “units” to analyze such as conversations between two people, encounters in which two people bump into one another, arguments, people exchanging body language, people ignoring one another, etc. And look for patterns in these behaviors that you can code, such as exchanges that end with rituals such as handshaking and relationships that appear strained because of body language.
Once you have finished these preparations, you are ready to conduct your mini-ethnography. For most of you, this should take one to two hours. Longer periods of observation are not required but they might be necessary depending on what you’re looking for. Take notes (written if possible, mental if necessary) on the “units” and the codes that you prepared. If new units and codes become apparent, take notes on those too. Afterwards, organize your data by units and codes. Look for patterns and themes. Interpret what you find. Use the results to answer the research questions you posed. Oftentimes, in qualitative research you will not find the answers to your original questions. Instead you will find answers to questions you did not think about until you got into the field. When this happens, you are working inductively by letting your observations guide your methodology. Can you develop a hypothesis based on what you found? Is a theory emerging? If so, these are what we call “grounded theories.” Review this section of your text.
The final product for this assignment should be no more than 5-6 double-spaced pages in length. Begin with an introduction that states the problem and raises your revised research questions. Follow the introduction with a literature review citing 3-4 peer reviewed academic journal articles. Explain how the research informed your research. You may do this in the first person (Using the word “I”). Next, explain how you went into the field and made your observations. Identify any “units” and codes that you utilized. Then describe your results and show how they answer your research questions.