2016 Fieldwork Skills Fall

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Hope Tom 
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Course description and aims

This course explores practical ways to discover and understand culture in Japan, based on the gathering and analysis of qualitative data. Students taking the course will learn techniques of observation and interviewing and will practice applying these techniques in the real world in Tokyo. The course will explore the benefits and limitations of the qualitative study of culture, the gathering of data, and how to analyse the results of interviews and observations.
By the end of the course, students will have discovered some interesting aspects of culture in Japan and developed some skills that are beneficial across many study disciplines.
Please note: The content of LAW.X406 and LAW.X407 is the same. Students who have taken LAW.X406 (Fieldwork Skills Spring) cannot take LAW.X407 (Fieldwork Skills Fall).

Student learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be able to:
- Describe some merits and some problems of qualitative data
- Practically apply knowledge of qualitative observation and interviewing to a cultural topic in Tokyo
- Write fieldnotes of their observations and do some transcription of interviews
- Analyse their fieldnotes and transcriptions


Sociology, ethnography, culture, qualitative research methods

Competencies that will be developed

Specialist skills Intercultural skills Communication skills Critical thinking skills Practical and/or problem-solving skills

Class flow

Classes begin with introductory lectures, followed by group work on the topic of the week.

Course schedule/Required learning

  Course schedule Required learning
Class 1 Introduction to the course and the study of culture. Understand what 'fieldwork skills' are in social science and the requirements of the course.
Class 2 Observation and Fieldwork Understand 'participant observation' and plan a group observation study in Tokyo.
Class 3 Analysis of observation: Coding Understand 'coding' in qualitative social research and apply to their observations.
Class 4 Interviewing Skills Understand the 'long interview' and some skills to obtain good qualitative data.
Class 5 Analysis of Long Interviews: Transcription Understand and practice semi-detailed transcription of interview data.
Class 6 Presenting Results: Thick Description Understand ways of presenting qualitative research and preparing to present the results of group study.
Class 7 Student group presentations and review Present the results of group study on a cultural topic in Tokyo, using both observational and interview data.


None, but some reference materials will be given in class.

Reference books, course materials, etc.

Some materials will be distributed in class.

Assessment criteria and methods

Participation in exercises, including some small observation and interviewing assignments (50%). A final group presentation to the rest of the class (30%) and one-paragraph individual reflective comment (20%).

Related courses

  • LAH.H103 : Cultural Anthropology A
  • GEG.S411 : Global Science Communication and Engagement

Prerequisites (i.e., required knowledge, skills, courses, etc.)

Ability to discuss and do group-work in English.


Each week you will be given a data gathering or analysis task to complete before the next class where you will present some of your results and work with others to improve them. This course is ‘hands-on’ where we work together to study and communicate our results. It therefore requires your full participation during classes (this will also increase your enjoyment of the course!).

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