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Essay #2: Field Observation – Online Community


Assignment Description

For this assignment, you will select an online community (social media page, website, hashtag feed, discussion forum, blog, message board, etc.) and observe the participants, their behavior, their demeanor, and their reactions/interactions to/with one another. You are encouraged (but not required) to engage in the community to inform their analysis.

Using field notes from your observation, you will write a 1000-1250 word essay assessing trends and patterns of behavior that you noticed. Your essay should include at least three primary and/or secondary sources outside of your field notes in order to create a broader view of your online community and triangulate your findings. Your response should provide specific details related to the community culture including (but not limited to):

  • Information about your chosen online community (platform, core beliefs, rules, rituals, patterns of behavior, vibe/energy, etc.)
  • Information about the use of language. Consciously observe, record, and analyze what is being said, how is it being said, and the tone of conversation among participants.
  • Information about members of the online community, not only their behavior but general information about their socio-demographic characteristics you are able to ascertain from their accounts (age, race/ethnicity, gender, SES, etc.)
  • Information about how members address one another. What names have they given themselves in the virtual world? What tone does each conversation take? How do participants seem to conceive of themselves as a community or culture?
  • Questions about participants or behaviors for future investigation.
  • Your thoughts and feelings while making observations.

Sample Essays

Throughout the writing process, you will engage in a series of short writing assignments designed to help you hone your research and writing skills while examining the behaviors of others.

  • SUBJECT DESCRIPTION
    • Provide a brief description (250-500 words) of the online community you intend to observe. *Note: The instructor must approve all subjects for this assignment. Questions to consider:
    • What goals or interests do members of the community share? Who are the gatekeepers? 
    • Does the community invent special words or use words in specific ways? 
    • What popular media or scholarly resources could you consult to understand more about the community?
  • OBSERVATION FIELD NOTES
    • Use the template below to create double-entry fieldnotes (750-1000 words) for an observation of your chosen online community. Record your direct observations under ‘Main Notes’ and your subjective responses under ‘Commentary’
  • REFLECTION
    • Along with your final draft, you will submit a short reflection (250-500 words) in which you address several questions about your experience writing this essay including (but not limited to):
      • How did you select your online community for this assignment? Reflect on the process of adapting your focus and how you may have modified your subject given the scope of the paper.
      • What were some of the most interesting discoveries you made while working on this assignment? About the online community? About yourself?
      • What other primary and secondary did you consult to understand more out your online community?

Format

1000-1250 words; Size 12 font, Times New Roman, standard margins, double-spaced. Cite all sources in proper APA format. You must include a Works Cited page with your essay. *Note: Works Cited page does not count toward the word count.

Submission

You will submit both print and digital copies of this essay. Hard copies are due at the beginning of class on the designated assignment due date. Digital copies should be uploaded online via Blackboard before class.

Timeline

MAR 9 REVIEW ESSAY #2 ASSIGNMENT
MAR 23 SUBJECT DESCRIPTION DUE
APR 6 OBSERVATION FIELD NOTES DUE
APR 7 ESSAY #2 FIRST DRAFT DUE
APR 13 PEER REVIEW COMMENTS DUE
APR 15 ESSAY #2 FINAL DRAFT + REFLECTION DUE

Evaluation Rubric

Content – 30%

  • Does your essay provide a compelling analysis of your community’s cultural norms of behavior?
  • Does your essay do more than simply describe your community at face value? Do you provide a social-scientific interpretation of your community?
  • Does your essay emphasize analysis (your ideas) over description?
  • Do you effectively implement the ethnographic perspective by adopting multiple different points of view in your writing? Your essay should include
    • your own first-person point of view
    • the points of view of participants in your community
    • a third-person (outsider) point of view to report on background information and to present events as readers might see them

Development – 25%

  • Does your essay paint a portrait of your community that is rich with description?
  • Does your essay contain illustrative (carefully selected) quotes and thoughtful commentary?
  • Does your essay provide a thick description of your community? Do you address the social, cultural, and/or historical context(s) that influence your community’s norms?

Organization – 20%

  • Does your essay include a strong introduction and conclusion?
  • Does your essay have a coherent structure? Are your ideas united and logically organized in a way that leads to a thought-provoking conclusion?
  • Are your paragraphs focused on distinct units of thought, controlled by specific and detailed topic sentences?
  • Do you implement appropriate, clear, and smooth transitions?

Style – 10%

  • Are the sentences well-worded and well-constructed? Should some sentences be combined for clarity? Should others be broken into two or more sentences, so ideas receive proper emphasis?
  • Do you use quotations and APA citations effectively?

Creativity — 10%

  • Are your essay’s topics, descriptions, or ideas fresh and original?

Grammar & Mechanics – 5%

  • Have you proofread and edited your piece for grammatical and punctuation errors?

Grade Weights

Essay #2: Field Observation – Online Community  20%
  • Subject Description
1%
  • Observation Notes
2%
  • First Draft + Peer Review
1%
  • Final Draft
15%
  • Reflection
1%

 

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