Fieldwork Project


You are required to complete a fieldwork project as part of your final grade (15% or 150 points). This project involves your attendance at a religious service of a tradition other than your own or the one in which you were raised and a brief paper describing this religion and what you experienced in the course of your visit. Please follow the guidelines below exactly.


1.     You must attend a religious service of a faith that is outside of your own tradition. That is, if you currently are or were raised (even nominally) Christian, you must attend a non-Christian service (i.e., Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Baha’i, Spiritualist, Native American, Wiccan or pagan, etc).  See the handout on Oncourse entitled “Fieldwork: Places of Worship” (under the Resources tab) if you need some ideas, but you are not restricted to this list and it is not meant to be comprehensive. You also can find information about non-Christian religious services in the yellow pages, on the internet, at the library, or from friends and colleagues. See me if you have questions.


2.     In conducting your fieldwork, take notes and pay attention to the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How:



Notice who attended the service: the proportion of men relative to women; the proportion of young to old; black or other ethnic groups to white. What was the social class of the congregation? How many people do you estimate to have attended? Who led the service?


What was the service like? In as much detail as possible, note what happened in the course of the service. What rituals occurred? Who led them? What was talked about? Was there singing, praying, chanting, call and response, or other types of audience participation? What happened before and after the service? What is the leadership structure of this religious community? 


Note the organization of space: how was the space arranged? What was the focal point? Draw a diagram of the space, noting where the congregation sat, and other significant aspects of the spatial environment. Were there any decorations and if so, what were they like? Was there incense, music, food, candles, statuary or other sensory elements?



Note the day, time and duration of the service. Was this a typical service or a special event? How often are services held and on what days? What other activities occur regularly (religious instruction, youth groups, choir, charity events, etc)?



Note the location and describe the social makeup of the part of town or neighborhood: is it a middle-class, working class or wealthy neighborhood? What is its ethnic composition? Do people attend from the neighborhood or do they commute from elsewhere? What is the proportion of men to women in attendance? What is the proportion of men to women in the leadership?



What was the main message of the service? Why do people participate in this tradition?



How was this message conveyed (in story, in song, in other rituals, in preaching, in artwork, architecture, etc).SettingSe


3.     It is a good idea to contact the community that you plan to visit beforehand and explain your project. Ask permission to take notes and respect the answer. If it is no, take notes as soon after the service as possible. You may also want to inquire what you can expect in the course of the service, if there is a dress code, how long the service lasts, etc. Talk to members of the community that you visit and ask questions! Most people are happy to share information about their tradition.


4.     Using your fieldnotes, write up your observations in the form of a 3-4 page essay (typed and double-spaced). Your essay should provide answers to the above questions in prose form. Follow the format described in 5-7, below.


5.     Opening paragraph: You should begin the paper by briefly describing the religious community you visited by saying something about their history. You can usually find this at a central website or the local congregation’s website. This information will represent the insider perspective, so you should also research the religion from the outsider perspective, using “The Religious Movements homepage” (see tab on Oncourse), any of the various encyclopedias of religion in the University Library, or the Encyclopedia Brittanica (available on-line through the library: scroll down to Encyclopedia Brittanica). DO NOT USE RESOURCES OTHER THAN THESE WITHOUT MY PERMISSION.  Note any differences or contradictions between the insider and the outsider perspectives if you find any.


6.     Following paragraphs: based on your fieldnotes and in prose form (i.e. use full sentences, not an outline), describe the religious community and the service that you attended.


7.     Concluding paragraph: What three things did you learn about this religion from your research and attendance at the service? Include your diagram of the space with your essay.



Your essay will be graded on the following four criteria, for a total of 150 points:


a)     content (50 points)– Does your essay fully address the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How? What three things did you learn from this site visit?

b)    research/data (50 points)– How careful was your research and observations? How detailed? Do you describe the history of this religion succinctly?

c)     examples (40 points)– do you use concrete examples to illustrate or support your points? Are these examples relevant and clarifying?

d)    clarity/style (10 points) –how clearly and concisely do you convey your points? Does your essay follow the format? Do you employ proper grammar and syntax? Are there significant spelling errors? Avoid using vocabulary words or language with which you are unfamiliar.