The goal of field observation is to obtain “thick descriptions” (as described by Clifford Geertz in The Interpretation of Cultures) of a setting or group from the perspective of the participants, and to explain what you observe using insights from the sociological perspective.
Observe the activities at a public place for two hours. Choose a place where you do not need to ask permission to stay and will not get in trouble for observing what is going on. This can be a coffee shop, a farmer’s market, a mall, a religious service, a train station, a courtroom, etc. Avoid schools, hospitals, anything on a military base, or any other restricted place. Make sure to go at a time when there will be a lot of activity. Take some notes about what is happening: What does this place look like? How is it organized spatially? Who comes here? What do they do? How do people interact with each other? What kind of conversations go on? Are there any subgroups? How do people handle unexpected or upsetting situations?
Write a narrative summary of your notes describing what you experienced. Then, explain how each of the three sociological perspectives (structural-functionalism, symbolic interactionism, and social conflict) would analyze what you say. Your description of your observation should represent about 50% of your paper and your analysis another 50%, divided evenly between the three perspectives. At the end of your paper, discuss which perspective you think is the best suited to analyze your observation and why you think so. Whenever appropriate, link the information you present to concepts, theories, facts, and core values of “community and social justice” from the course
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