A fieldwork essay is based on an investigation in a field or practice, including anthropology, marketing, archaeology and popular culture. When writing a fieldwork essay, a researcher, faculty member, student or novice investigator provides readers with information found through observation, research, interviews and hands-on experience. The format for the fieldwork essay varies for every discipline, but the standard essay form starts with an introductory paragraph, followed by body paragraphs and a conclusion.
Choose a topic or focus. Base your field essay topic on an aspect of your discipline that interests you most. For example, if you are an anthropologist studying the effect of popular culture on young teenagers, you may want to research how pop musicians serve as role models for teenagers in their formative years by interviewing teenagers and their feelings about the musicians. As a marketing researcher, you might study why certain boxes of cereal in a grocery store sell better than others, based on the placement of the cereal, the colors on the box and the health choices shoppers make for their families.
Investigate a public space where people congregate, such as a mall, a movie theater lobby, an amusement park or a beach boardwalk in the summer. Based on theme of your project, and field of study, investigate by interviewing people and observing how the public space functions. For example, as an anthropologist, you might perform a field study at an amusement park to determine whether certain rides or games are chosen by particular ethnic groups, by couples, by young children or by older people. Through interviews, research what leads people to choose a ride, for example. Later, look for patterns and trends in your research.
Make notes in a journal or on a tape recorder and polish them. If you are studying consumerism trends, you might research three or four stores in a mall to determine why customers choose particular items. In a clothing store, you might observe that higher-priced jeans that are also the highest-quality jeans are placed in the center of store on a table, next to slim, attractive mannequins wearing the jeans. Observe how many shoppers pick up the jeans and buy them immediately, how many try them on then buy them, how many ignore the display and how many consider buying them and do not. Interview customers, with the store's permission, to research the effectiveness of store organization, mannequins and displays.
Include conclusions throughout the essay about the culture or society you are studying. For example, if you are studying how families spend their evenings together on U.S. naval bases, you might write that most wives are not employed and take care of the children and household duties. You might observe that the father comes home in the evening to make dinner and play with the children. Cite sources for every fact and conclusion.
Write your conclusions toward the end of your fieldwork essay, which is usually at least 20 pages long. For example, you might observe which grocery store aisles children drag their parents to first, such as cereal aisle or candy aisle. Pose a hypothesis about the reasons for that. You might observe that the bright, colorful boxes and shiny candy bags lure the children to those aisles more than the contents of the product. Expand that conclusion, observing how packaging lures, or misleads children, and also prompts purchases by knowledgeable consumers.
Noelle Carver has been a freelance writer since 2009, with work published in "SSYK" and "The Wolf," two U.K. literary journals. Carver holds a Bachelor of Arts in literature from American University and a Master of Fine Arts in writing from The New School. She lives in New York City.