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PART I: Conduction the Fieldwork


Step 1: Choosing a Topic:

First, you will need to choose a folk group with whom you want to conduct fieldwork. You do not have to be a member of this group. Folk groups are semi-permanent groups and members interact with each other over a period of time. Your folk group may be based on occupation, age, region/where they live, ethnicity, family, gender, a group with a set of common interests, or, most likely some combination of the above. It may also be simply a group of friends. Your folk group may be based on other factors as well.

Once you have decided on your folk group, you will need to decide what kind of genre or tradition belonging to the group you want to document. You may already know before you begin your fieldwork what you are interested in. For example, your folk group may be particularly jovial and tell a lot of jokes. Perhaps they are somewhat intellectual and tell riddles. They may value wit and use a lot of clever insults, retorts, and comebacks. Or, they may simply be good liars. Remember too that folklore is not always verbal in nature. Perhaps your group specializes in pranks, or maybe they have a specialized set of gestures. Look at Dundes' list of folklore genres to get some ideas; however, you do not need to limit yourself to this list. If you do not know prior to beginning your fieldwork what folklore your group performs, you may need to spend several sessions simply observing and listening in order to get ideas. Look for moments in conversation or other forms of social interaction when people begin to "perform" in some way. Also, look for moments of performance as well as what groups "specialize" in, or the ways they are "artistic." In other words, What unwritten traditions make this group a group?

Step 2: Documentation:

Tape recording. The way in which you document folklore depends somewhat on your group and your material. The most common way to document folklore is with a tape recorder. A 60 minute tape is preferred (30 minutes a side). Put your name, date of documentation, course number, instructor's name, title of paper, and informant(s) name(s) on the tape. Fieldwork tapes should be handed in with the final paper. Be sure to remove the re-write tabs at the top of your tape when you are finished documenting, so that you can not re-record over your fieldwork. If, for some reason, you are unable to tape record because of particular circumstances, you will need to document your folklore in some other way, which must be approved by your instructor.