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These don’t take long and are a nice break from lecture.I do these exercises along with them so they can see that thoughts wander and some pieces will be good, while others need work—lots of work.
The less they put into the notes the harder it is for me to pull a paper out.
First-time ethnographic papers feel a bit like grabbing a rabbit out of a hat—there is some degree of hocus pocus involved.
I generally choose “public spaces” as the ethics approval for these activities is fairly straightforward.
I have sent all my students to the same place and have let them choose their own—both ways work.
After one or two visits, depending on the course, there is enough to get us to the next stage—which is narrowing to a topic/theme (the rabbit).
I admit this piece is much easier in smaller courses where you can meet one-on-one with students.
This challenges them not to leap to a criticism of the exhibit, but to attend to what happens through it. Gather and Narrow Once the students find a “there” to be at, I ask them to take field notes.
I keep the instructions simple: jot notes in the field, expand notes immediately after, and write a paragraph on what they make of things.
If in lecture I ask them to get together to talk or work through a concept or the readings, I ask them to do it in their research communities so that they are dialoguing new information with, and through, their own work/topics.
Their final reading(s) are tailored to their interests, using broad themes like religion, sports, work, gender/sexuality, food, the body, etc. Sometimes this means asking colleagues (or TAs, if you are lucky to have them).