Essay #1 and Ethnographic Observation
Essay Assignment #1
Required length: 3-4 pages not including the Works Cited
Since the beginning of the semester, this course has examined the experiences of international students in U.S. universities. To write this paper, you will examine and evaluate one of Rebekah Nathan’s major claims, based on her evidence, the evidence of assigned/subsidiary readings, and your own brief ethnographic observations and/or those of your peers.
To complete this assignment, you must follow these steps:
- Review Nathan’s entire article “As Others See Us,” and choose one of the claims that she makes about one topic (see list under “Topics” below).
- Conduct your own ethnographic observation on the Temple campus, focusing on the same topic. Detailed, typed notes are due in class (see Course Schedule).
- Review other class materials on international students’ experiences, including both assigned/subsidiary readings and your classmates’ ethnographic observations/interviews.
- Write a paper in which you:
- Briefly summarize Nathan’s article in your introduction, beginning with its major claim.
- Present a clear, focused thesis statement that evaluates the validity of one of Nathan’s claims.
- Prove your thesis by discussing Nathan’s evidence, the evidence of one or two other assigned/subsidiary readings on a similar topic, and your own ethnographic observations and/or those of your peers.
Choose one of the claims that Nathan makes about one of the following topics to discuss:
- Teaching methods and classroom behavior in US universities
- Social life and making friends on US university campuses
- US-born college students’ ideas about other cultures, and how these affect the whole student community
In order to complete this paper, you must plan and execute an observation on the Temple campus that clearly relates to your chosen topic. (Note: you may choose to work in pairs. You may not do observations with more than one other person.)
Note: Your observation notes are a separate piece of writing, with a separate due date, from your Assignment #1.
- Choose a site (a place) where you can make observations of Temple students (and perhaps also Temple faculty) that clearly relate to your chosen topic. For example, if you are working on the topic “Social life and making friends on US university campuses,” then you must find a place where people interact with friends, and/or make new friends.
- Plan to spend at least one (1) hour observing your site.
- Decide, before you begin, whether you will only observe passively, or whether you will ask questions. If you decide to ask questions, write out 2 or 3 ahead of time, but be prepared to ask new and different questions to follow up on your interviewees’ answers.
- Write complete observation notes. These must describe:
The physical space:
- Quickly draw a sketch of the physical space. Include structures, objects, locations of people, approximate numbers of people at different locations.
People and activities:
- What kinds of things happen in the site? Are people buying things? Selling things? Doing something (like playing Frisbee, singing, eating, talking casually)? If possible, note the ethnicities of people.
- Is there any pattern to what is happening in the site, or does everything seem random?
- Are people meeting up and heading off somewhere else? Are they walking briskly next to each other and avoiding eye contact? Are they sitting silently?
- If people are alone, are they using mobile devices? Reading? Staring off into space?
- How do the people you observe interact with one another? Are they talking to others, and if they are, do they seem to already know those people or are they meeting there for the first time?
- Are Americans interacting with internationals, or are people staying within their own ethnic groups?
- If you can hear conversations, what are they about? What language(s) are the people speaking? Do they mix languages (e.g., English and Arabic)?
- Are there any differences between the interactions of Americans and internationals and people staying within their own ethnic groups?
- Is there any clear emotion in the people you are observing—do they seem happy, sad, confused, worried, or neutral (or other)?
Your own experience:
- Pay attention to how you feel, too. How do you experience the space or the people? Do you feel comfortable or do you want to leave? Do your feelings change over the course of the hour?
- Does anyone talk to you or notice you? If yes, what was your conversation about?
- Who did you ask questions? Give a description; names are optional.
- What questions did you ask from your list? What answers did each interviewee give?
- Did you ask questions NOT from your list? What were the new questions? What answers did interviewees give?