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Giving voice to displaced children and young people.

For this piece of writing, students practiced their observational skills. Students were instructed to to do the following:

Choose a place in your home, neighborhood or surrounding area where you can station yourself for a half hour in order to conduct a deep observation. This should be somewhere that is familiar to you and where you spent time regularly in your everyday life. There should be activity and social interaction in this place. However, this activity is based solely on your observations and you should refrain from using any interview techniques.

Your goal is to collect and interpret information about this space through participant-observation and then to construct a narrative on what you have observed. This is your chance to start thinking and seeing like an ethnographer!

Step 1:

Take notes and observe the activity in your chosen space for approximately 30 minutes. Use all five senses to take notes on everything that is happening around you. These notes will inform your narrative. Gather enough data to allow for some reflection and analysis.

Be descriptive! Describe the scene, paying attention to all sensory perception. Indicate when you observed the space (i.e. time of day). If it seems useful, draw a map of the setting, indicating the position and movement of persons. Observe the following kinds of things as you take notes:

-Describe the setting.
-Who is present? Who is absent?
-Look for structure: are the people differentiated from each other? Does someone appear to oversee the space?
-How do people interact with each other?
-Do there appear to be spoken or unspoken rules that dictate behavior in this space?

Step 2:

Write up these rough field notes into a narrative with full sentences describing the details you have recorded. Here you will set the scene of your observation and you might even add a layer of analysis and interpretation about what you have observed. The above questions will help shape your analysis.

In writing your summary and interpretation, try to avoid judgements in descriptions (i.e. ugly building, cute child); also avoid descriptive words needing background knowledge or a particular set of assumptions (i.e. ‘middle-class couple’). Instead, try to describe your seen as though your reader will have no insight into what you have observed.

The length of your writing is up to you and will be based upon the depth and detail of your observations. This will be shared in tomorrow’s class.

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