ANT 244W: Folklore and Folklife
Directions for Fieldwork Project


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Before you begin your fieldwork you should have read Fieldwork, by Bruce Jackson, parts one, two, four, and the appendix. If you plan to use a digital recorder, a still camera, or a video recorder in your fieldwork, you may also want to read part three, chapter nine ("Minds and Machines"), and any other chapters in that section which apply to your equipment.

You should also have cleared your topic with me. If you begin work on a topic which has not been approved you may waste a lot of time. Send me a message by ANGEL mail stating your proposed topic. I shall either approve your topic or suggest some changes by return mail. For help on selecting a topic, read the document "Selecting a Topic for your Fieldwork Project" on your class page of my website.


Prepare a bibliography consisting of at least ten items, five of which must be articles from scholarly, peer reviewed journals, or chapters in anthologies. (What the MLA International Bibliography calls "book articles.") The other five items may be books, audiotapes, compact disks, DVDs, websites, television programs, films or newpaper articles. ALL students will need to use:

  • MLA International Bibliography
  • Peer Reviewed Articles EZ
  • Students working with specific groups such as restaurant workers, Italian-Americans or bikers will need to use SocINDEX and Anthropology Plus. (The latter is especially helpful for students doing work on Native American folklore.)

These databases can be accessed on the "Research Tools" page of the Butler Library website. Even though Peer Reviewed Articles EZ covers periodical articles in the MLA International Bibliography, it does not include chapters in books or book reviews, so you will need to access the MLA International Bibliography separately to find these. Book reviews are often helpful; if it sounds as if the book reviewed would be useful to you, check and see if is in Butler Library or order it on Interlibrary Loan.

Depending on your topic, you may also need to make use of the University of Buffalo libraries or the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library. Do not overlook broadcast sources; transcriptions of radio and television broadcasts can be found on LexisNexis Academic and there are huge amounts of helpful material on the NPR ( and PBS ( websites.

You should also read carefully the document "Improving your Preliminary Bibliography" on your class page of my website, with special reference to the section dealing with your topic.

Your bibliography is to be in MLA format. Use EasyBib to format your bibliography or consult the OWL at Purdue University.

The bibliography is to be word processed, using 12 point Times Roman font. Be sure to include the topic of your collection project in the title of your bibliography.

Remember, this is a preliminary bibliography: a list of books, periodical articles, chapters in anthologies, or other media that you think may be helpful in writing your analytical essay. At this stage I do not expect that you have read or even seen all the items that are included in this bibliography.

Please note that a bibliography is not the same as a list of sources cited, although you will use the same format for both. A bibliography is a list of books, articles, chapters in books, and other media about a specific subject. A list of sources cited is just that: a list of sources actually cited in a research paper. Your preliminary bibliography, which is due early in the semester, is a list of books and articles that you think may be useful in writing up your fieldwork project. Your list of sources cited will be handed in with your fieldwork project and will include only the books, articles, and other media that you actually cite in the paper.

The interviews which you have conducted and your field notes (your collectanea) should not be included in your bibliography. Book-length bibliographies, encyclopedias and dictionaries also should not be included as such. If you find a helpful article in an encyclopedia, list the article by the author's name (if it is given) or the title of the article. Use the "article in an encyclopedia" format in EasyBib.

Some books are essentially collections of articles by different authors or anthologies. Your textbook, Folk Groups and Folklore Genres, is an example of this kind of book. If you include one of these articles in your bibliography (the MLA International Bibliography calls these "book articles") it should be listed by the author of the article, not the editor of the book. Use the "article in an anthrology"format in EasyBib.


Your completed project should consist of the following:


If you use an audio or video recorder, write a detailed synopsis of each interview or event which you have recorded. If you do not use a recorder, write a detailed description, based on your field notes, of the interviews you have conducted or of the events which you have observed.

This part of the collection might contain:

  • Detailed synopses of your interviews with friends about Halloween customs in their families and neighborhoods
  • Detailed synopses of your interviews with your fellow workers about folklore of employees at Joe's Diner or the Widget Manufacturing Company
  • Detailed description of your field trip to the Broadway Market during Holy Week
  • Detailed synopsis of your videotape of Halloween activities on Elmwood Avenue.

Identify each informant and give some information about the conditions under which your fieldwork was conducted. Was your grandmother born in Sicily or in the United States? Are the friends you interviewed about games they played as children from Tonawanda or Brooklyn? Did you interview fellow workers on the job? Did you talk to fellow students in your dormitory room or your neighborhood coffeehouse?

If you include photographs, write a full description of each image and of the circumstances under which it was made. Photographs should be mounted or printed on 8 1/2 by 11 inch paper. All photographs, CDs, DVDs and other media should be labeled.


  • Write an analytical essay comparing the material you have collected to that described by the authors of the books, chapters in anthologies, and periodical articles on your subject which you have read. For example, compare the material you have collected on St. Joseph's Day on the Niagara Frontier to descriptions of this celebration in other parts of the country. How are celebrations in Buffalo similar to those in California, Texas and Louisiana? How are they different? You should include citations to at least ten works, five of which must be periodical articles from scholarly publications, or chapters in books. Your citations should refer directly to the material you have collected. Do not write a history of St. Joseph's Day!!!!

  • Discuss the functions which the folklore you collected serves in the lives of your informants. Why do your informants continue to celebrate St. Joseph's Day? Does the celebration have a different meaning for the young women who prepare the food than it does for their grandmothers? Why are newcomers on the job at Widget Manufacturing Company sent on useless errands?


Include a list, entitled "Works Cited," of books and articles (or other media) cited in your paper. This may be identical to the bibliography you handed in earlier, or it may contain additional or different items. You probably won't be able to locate all the items listed in your preliminary bibliography, or you may find additional items as you continue your research. Sometimes an article with a very promising title turns out to be useless.

Please remember that quoting directly or indirectly from a book or article without making a citation to that source constitutes plagiarism. For the form of the citations and of the list of works cited consult EasyBib and the OWL at Purdue University.. Links these can be found on your class page of my website.


Your paper should be in MLA format and contain at least 3000 words, including the list of works cited. All parts of the manuscript should be word processed using Times Roman 12 point font. Include a word count as the last line of the heading on the first page.

If appropriate, a list of all media handed in with the project should also be included. Your name should appear on all media handed in with your project.

The pages of the manuscript should not be fastened together in any way. The manuscript should be handed in in a manila envelope. Please print your name and the title of your project on the front of the envelope.

No part of the project will be returned. The fieldwork projects for this course become part of the Niagara Frontier Folklore Archives, where they are available for use by scholars and social services professionals.


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