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observation essay english class

observation essay english class

Here are the details for the first assignment.

Tim Wallington

Paper #1 – Observation

As students, you often have the opportunity to observe various types of social interaction. For this assignment, you should choose a place where social interaction tends to occur—perhaps a coffee shop, a common area in a dormitory, the hallways—and engage in careful observation and documentation. You should pay close attention to the groups and how they interact. You should also take notes on both conversations and on the location so that you will be able to refer to them as you write your paper. You will need to respect the privacy of others and either get them to agree to the observation or be sure to use different names to guard their privacy.

Begin by sitting in the location you have chosen for at least thirty minutes and at a time when the location is busy enough for you to be able to observe multiple interactions and overhear the talk that is going on. You will need to take notes, make a sketch of the physical layout and keep track of topics of conversation of the patterns of interaction. You may notice that small groups cluster together or that everyone that enters interacts with the same person. Try not to narrow your focus too quickly because you should examine the role of both individuals and groups as they interact in this location. If possible, visit your location more than once on different days and/or at different times to see if the interactions are similar.

Write an account of your observations of the interactions in the common area you have chosen. As you work to represent what you have observed, determine what patterns (if any) exist and what meanings can be attached to the interactions you have observed in this location. What do the interactions say about the roles of the people involved? How does the setting affect them? What kind of language is used, and might you expect these people to use different language if they met the same people under different circumstances? What might the interactions say about the culture, age, gender and beliefs of those involved? An important consideration is also your role in observing the interaction; to what extent do your beliefs, age, etc. affect what you hear/see and how you hear/see it?

You will need to think about how you are going to organize the paper. Will you describe and analyze simultaneously, or will you set aside the first section to describe the interactions and the second to analyze it.

Length: 4-6 pages, double-spaced, MLA format, font size 12.

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