Your task: Write a 5–10 page essay based on your research, plus a Works Cited page(s). The purpose of this research project and essay is to help readers identify and understand what it means to be a member of a particular subculture. While you should come to certain conclusions about the subculture, the over-riding purpose is to understand the subculture, not to make judgments about it. Most importantly, this essay should not be used specifically to encourage people to join the group or to discourage people away from it. 

Minimum requirements:                                            

  • The paper must be 5-10 pages in length (not including WC pages).
    • This means a minimum of 5 full pages, so your text must reach at least the last line on page 5.
  • The entire paper, including the WC page and entries, must be formatted correctly using MLA 8th edition style.
  • The essay must have a clear, logical structure focused on discussing and analyzing the major identifying elements (traits, behaviors, beliefs, values, activities, etc.) of the subculture.
  • The paper must have an original title that reflects or indicates the writer’s focus.
  • Directly quote at least 4 of your 5 traditional sources
    • Required traditional sources: two academic sources, two primary sources, one popular source
    • Use a combination of quotation and paraphrase for most quotations
    • Quotations should be no longer than three lines of text
    • For this assignment, avoid block quotes if possible; you may use one block quote if the entire quotation is necessary AND your essay is 7 pages or longer without the quote. Make sure you format and cite the block quote correctly. Contact the Writing Center if necessary for help.
    • Additional source references may simply paraphrase a sentence or idea; short quotations may be included in a paraphrase.
  • Quote your personal interviews at least twice each.
  • All source material must be properly introduced, integrated, and cited using MLA citation style.
  • Essays that fail to meet all minimum requirements will earn a D or F.

This essay should bring together your primary sources, secondary scholarly sources, secondary popular sources, and ethnographic observations and interview(s) in a logical, structured way that helps readers identify and understand what it means to be part of your chosen subculture.

In your draft, organize details into paragraph chunks. You may wish to use a narrative framework, telling about your experiences observing this culture or reporting on your interview, or you may wish to organize by subtopics or some other logical division. If you have a great deal of information to get down on paper, just try in the first draft to get it down on the page. The bulk of the content of your writing for this essay should be observed details, from both your primary and secondary sources as well as your own observations.

Style Options:

Please review the Student Sample ethnography essays provided on Bb to help you decide with structure or style works better for you.

 Traditional Academic Research Paper

Purpose: Making a claim about a culture. In this case, you are not arguing for or against the subculture, but making a claim about why we should know more about it or what we should know to better understand it.

Argument-driven (but not judgmental), mostly third person, with a clear thesis in the introduction (last sentence); body paragraphs with a clear topic sentence that supports your thesis statement by focusing each paragraph on a specific aspect, point, belief, behavior, requirement, etc. that most people in the subculture share or have in common; and a conclusion that ties things together and points us forward. See additional handouts for more information on thesis statements and paragraph structure.

  1. Ethnographic Research Paper

Purpose: Creating a picture of a culture

Observation-driven, first-person. Although there is no one set way of writing up your ethnography, it should have at least three sections (feel free to use section headings):

Introduction (position yourself as the researcher): Why did you choose this site and culture?  How did you feel about it going in, according to your own history (age, race, gender, background, etc.)? What assumptions did you make about this culture?

Observations (describe the subculture): What can you say about this subgroup? This section is the bulk of your paper. Drawing from your fieldnotes, tell us what you saw and heard. Talk about your artifacts, interviews, and the patterns and rituals you observed. What are the “rules” of this place? Which way is the right way to behave? How do you know who is an outsider? Here you are creating a picture of your subculture, so don’t forget about dialogue, descriptions, etc. These are just some of the types of questions you should be asking as you research and answering in your work. *Remember – do not ask the questions in your essay, but let them guide your work

In this section, you must still quote directly from your primary and secondary sources, including your observations and interviews, and you must use parenthetical citation. Use your traditional sources as support in discussion of your observations and interviews.

Conclusions (reflection on your own experience): What have you learned about yourself in the process of studying this subculture? For example, if you researched a comic book store, do you now understand what aspects of the store surprised you or intrigued you? What have you learned about the group you studied, or society as a whole? In other words, what claim can you make about the subculture’s importance, relevance, or meaning (this claim is analogous to a thesis statement, but it can be restated and contextualized here, as well)?

Choose one of these two options for the form of your research write-up.

Regardless of which one you choose, both of these forms have:

  • A thesis statement or guiding, organizing idea (should be the last sentence of your intro paragraph or section)
    • Logical paragraph structure with effective topic sentences
    • Logical arrangement and development
    • Appropriate use of relevant evidence
    • Direct quotation
    • Beginning and ending (introduction and conclusion)

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