Anthropology Department


The Department neither encourages nor discourages a fieldwork component to the thesis. However, note that in the short space of a senior year, it is very difficult to arrange an in-depth ethnographic component, and then have time to analyse the data and include it in the thesis. Anyone proposing a fieldwork component (that includes any direct interaction with people) will need to clearly demonstrate specific and appropriate methodological preparation prior to conducting the ethnographic research. We do not consider prior participation and travel without such preparation to qualify as "fieldwork". Our requirements for preparation in methods will increase with the complexity of the situations you propose to study. Appropriate preparation could include:

  • A fieldwork methods course taught here or elsewhere;
  • A significant methods component in an Anthropology upper division course (ie., including some reading on methods and a mini-project);
  • A research component in a summer internship or NGO work;
  • Significant self-study on methods and relevant debates in anthropology (please attach an extra page to the proposal summarizing the main debates and fieldwork methods relevant to your project, as well as an additional bibliography of methods readings);

Here are some important resources to check out as you consider whether and how to do an ethnographic project in anthropology at Reed.

American Anthropological Association Code of Ethics
Anyone considering an ethnographic project at Reed should start by reading this document. This is the 1998 updated version of the professional code of ethics for anthropologists. See especially the sections on anthropologists' responsibilities to the people with whom they work and on informed consent. Use this to think through your project and talk over the planning with your advisor.

Reed Institutional Review Board
As of fall 2003, Reed has announced that all research under Reed auspices involving human participants must undergo some form of review by the college's IRB. Most anthropology projects would fall under "exempt" (from full committee review) or "expedited". But you will still need to allow yourself sufficient time to submit a proposal. See this website for detailed information.

Sample Anthropology IRB Proposals and Consent Scripts
All of these proposals submitted for different forms of ethnographic research by anthropology majors in recent years were approved.

American Anthropological Association Statement on Human Subjects Review, June 2004
This is the most recent statement of AAA on Human Subjects oversight of ethnographic projects. Gives some background and the stance of the association on ethics and ethnography.

Ethical and Legal Aspects of Human Subjects Research on the Internet
Internet research is a growing field. See this 1999 report from the American Association for the Advancement of Science on related issues.

Guide to Ethnographic Research
This Web site by Barbara Hall is intended to provide general, simplified information about how to conduct and write up the results of ethnographic research. It was created for students on the Program in Public Interest Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania who intend to undertake small- scale fieldwork projects as part of their studies. In a clear and straightforward style, the site covers the main methodological, ethical and intellectual issues raised by ethnographic fieldwork and reporting, providing along the way references to other printed and electronic resources.

Fieldwork: The Anthropologist in the Field
A lively, detailed description of how a variety of issues associated with doctoral dissertation level ethnographic research (from planning the project to finding a field site to how many pairs of socks an ethnographer living in Papua New Guinea might need) is provided at this site by Dr. Laura Zimmer Tamakoshi.

Further Reading

Bibliography on Ethnography and Fieldwork
This is a substantial bibliography of more than 600 items published over the last 80 or so years. The listing includes books, journal articles and chapters in edited volumes. All the items are in English and are arranged under the following seven headings: Introduction to fieldwork, Research methods, Ethics and fieldwork, Sex, gender and fieldwork, Writing ethnography, History and theory of anthropological research, Personal accounts of anthropological fieldwork. The compiler is at the Scientific Research Centre, Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts. The bibliography is one of a series of specialist bibliographies from AnthroGlobe.

James Dow's Bibliography on Fieldwork
This 1992 bibliography contains some 390 items published during the twentieth century in the English language. It covers research methods in all areas of anthropology. Books, chapters in edited volumes and periodical articles are all included. The arrangement is alphabetical by key word and there is also an index. James Dow is Professor of Anthropology at Oakland University, Michigan.