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Format Sheet Explained:

A consistent format ensures that your item/collection will be clear and useful to people working in a field that is dependent on reliable observations of culturally important expressions and events. Follow the format below to document each item of folklore you collect.

Name of Informant, location, and date

Put the name of your informant, the place the item was collected, and the date of collection on the upper-right corner of the page. If you are the informant, or if your POD was somewhere other than a specific person (like the Internet), put "Myself" in place of the name. You can put the specific date, month, and year, or just the month and year, as needed. It might look like this:

Colin Macklin
Logan, Utah
November 2014


What is the item called? Or, if it doesn't have a title, how would you best label it? The subject or topic of the folklore can be an easy way to label it:

"Cat Joke"

"St. Patrick's Day Breakfast"

"Lucky Hat"


To what folklore category does your item belong? Use the information you've learned in class to properly classify your piece of folklore. Is it a legend, joke, calendar custom, meme, folk belief, folk object, folk song, game, prank, etc.? If you're having trouble with this, ask your instructor!

Informant/Point of Discovery (POD)

The informant/POD is from whom you received this folklore, or where in the world you discovered it. If you collected this folklore from another person, describe who shared it with you. You'll want to include all relevant data, including their full name, the region(s) where they were raised and now live, their age and gender, their educational background, any ethnic, family, or religious ties, their occupation, their hobbies, and any relation they may have to you (family, good friend, co-worker, etc.). Make sure to include information that's relevant to the folklore you're documenting. If you've collected a joke about fishing, mention whether or not your informant fishes; if you're collecting occupational folklore, mention where they work and how long they've worked there.

If you encountered this folklore out in the world (a roadside shrine, graffiti, an Internet meme in a web forum, a bumper sticker collection on a car, a homemade mailbox, a customary hashtag on Twitter, etc.) and there's no specific informant for you to interview (and sometimes there is, in which case follow the guidelines above), describe the source of the folklore. Where did you discover or encounter it? How was it positioned to communicate culturally? When you encounter folklore like this, you become the informant in a way, since your experience as an audience member for that folklore informs your reception and understanding of it. Describe yourself and your connection to the material and its POD as needed (was it a meme posted in a web forum you visit all the time? a roadside shrine in your neighborhood a town you were visiting? a piece of graffiti on campus or in a bathroom?).

Just a note of caution: there are appropriate and inappropriate PODs for this kind of folklore collection project. Your goal here is to collect and document folklore that is actively circulating, not to gather folklore from pre-existing collections. While it might be a useful source for a research paper, you wouldn't want to collect a folktale for this kind of project from a book of the Grimms' stories, and neither would you want to collect an Internet meme from a meme-gathering website. You'd want to find both the tale and the meme out in the world (whether online or off), being used in actual communicative contexts, so that you can document not only the text, but the context and texture as well.

Remember: your job is to find living folklore to document, not folklore that's already been identified and catalogued. Of course, if you find a piece of folklore that's circulating actively, it's okay if there's already a version of it in the archives--remember that folklorists like to have lots of different versions and variants of folklore for comparative purposes, so the more the merrier! You just don't want to be collecting from an already-archived (or published) source.


The context is the where / when / with whom of the folklore. You'll want to consider three different types of context here: the context of collection, the context of use, and the cultural context of the folklore.

The context of collection is where you were (and when, and who else was there) when you collected the folklore, which may not necessarily be the typical setting for the folklore. The context of use is therefore your informant's description of where, when, and with whom the folklore usually is shared. Sometimes you may get lucky enough to collect folklore in its natural habitat, which is great, but it's more likely that you'll be interviewing someone after the fact or outside of the usual setting for the folklore.

For example, your informant may tell you about a Danish holiday tradition over pizza in your dorm room with your roommates, which is not where that tradition would normally be enacted. Or, your informant may sing you a raucous song in the library, which will surely affect the way the song is sung. It's important to document the setting of collection as well as the typical setting of use, as it may or may not affect the performance of the folklore. Consider this example:

I interviewed Colin in his office at Bank of America's Walnut Creek branch, where he's worked for 5 years. His office is technically a cubicle, located behind the main banking area, but it has nice leather furniture in it and doesn't have any harsh, commercial lighting like one might expect in a bank. There were people in other cubicles around us, but the general noise level was pretty quiet. It was a small space, so Colin and I were only sitting a few feet apart from each other. The feeling in the room was very relaxed since Colin and I have known each other since childhood; we talk almost every day. When Colin told me this joke, he said it's the kind of thing he remembers hearing when he was young, maybe fourth or fifth grade, at a time when kids like to tell stupid jokes to each other, without any real consideration for actual humor. Colin recalled hearing this mainly on the playground rather than in class, as the teachers didn't approve of these kinds of things. A group of children, usually all boys, would huddle under a piece of playground equipment, not making use of the large play space provided, and would tell these kinds of jokes to each other. Colin rarely repeated them anywhere other than the playground at school; he said he never would have told them at home or at church, or to any one he deemed to be too "grown up" for it.

You aren't stuck simply observing contextual information; you can directly ask your informant about a wide range of contextual possibilities, such as, "Tell me more about where you first learned that" or "Is there anyone you definitely wouldn't share this folklore with?" Noting where / when / and with whom the folklore wouldn't be used can often be as telling as where it would. Whether or not audience members are allowed / expected to join in (with a song, a custom, etc.) can be an important feature, too. Don't feel like you have to rush through your interviews; let them turn into interesting, in-depth conversations, and you'll be more likely to get useful information to document.

If you've collected your folklore using technology (via email or chat, or FaceTime, or over the phone), you can still describe the context of collection: explain where you and your informant each were, what kind of devices you were using to communicate, and how familiar that mode of communication is for you both. And you can still easily describe the context of use, by asking your informant to describe where, when, and with whom the folklore would normally be shared (and if it's digital folklore, and sometimes offline folklore too, it's always possible that the context of collection and context of use may be the same!) For example, if you are quick with your recording device you might be able to capture a joke being told at a party in the moment it is being told--in this case the context of use and the context of the collection are the same. In an online setting, like a Facebook feed, jokes that are "told" stick around even if you are not recording them the moment they are posted; so matter when you discover this joke the context of use and collection are probably the same.

Your description of the cultural background of the folklore will be unique to each different kind of folklore you collect. If you're collecting a piece of folklore that is connected with a specific ethnic, national, or regional culture, make sure you explain that. If the folklore requires an understanding of a particular religious or occupational culture, be sure to describe those details, too. If you've collected an Internet meme that references popular culture or a specific online community, you'll need to share all the necessary background information about it. Imagine an archives patron who has no idea about the folk group your folklore comes from or the things it's referring to--fill them in on the all background information they'll need. For all of these groups, it is important to define insider language. For instance, in Utah, many Mormons call a Church that services many smaller congregations a "stake house," which might have different meanings to those outside the faith.

When applicable, photographs are always a wonderful addition to the context section, to provide an even more detailed understanding of the background of the tradition.

Text (Important: double-space this section!)

This is the what, the folklore itself, the item quoted verbatim or photographed and described as is. If you are documenting a narrative form of folklore or a verbal description of a custom or activity, you should provide an exact transcription of the way the folklore was spoken to you: false starts, awkward grammar, and all. For example:

Okay then the next cat lady was, and I remembered her name, Schtefaner [spelled phonetically]. Frau Schte-- we called her Schwester Schtefaner because she was a member of the church. But hadn't been out to church in a long time because she just had lots of health problems, and she had this kind of problemed grandson that lived with her. She cared for him. And he was somewhat mentally slow, socially slow. He always, maybe I should describe Frau Schte-- or Schwester Schtefaner first. She was about five feet tall. Maybe four eleven, or something like that. And she was as wide as she was tall. [gestures with hands to indicate equal height and width]

You can see how periods are used to indicate a full pause in speaking, rather than being used grammatically. Square brackets are used to indicate important, non-spoken notes in the transcription.

If you have conducted interviews via email, text, or chat programs, you can copy and paste the information, but remember to retain things like grammar mistakes and line breaks. For example:

butterflygirl947 (12:55:13 AM): yeah I have heard some ghost stuff

butterflygirl947 (12:55:16 AM): about a girls' campus

butterflygirl947 (12:55:19 AM): something about a girls' dorm being burnt down a long time ago

butterflygirl947 (12:56:25 AM): when they used lamps for light

butterflygirl947 (12:56:32 AM): and she was making chocolate with a burner thing

butterflygirl947 (12:56:44 AM): or something

matrix72 (12:56:48 AM): cool

You'll notice that rather than making a coherent story out of it, it's left as "spoken." This presentation style is important to convey.

If you are documenting a folk object or an example of material culture, you'll want to include photographs in the text section. You can also put basic descriptive information (size, age, measurements, materials, etc.) above or below the photographs. A transcription of your informants' descriptions of the object's use, significance, or connected stories should be included as well.

If you're documenting online folklore like a meme or hashtag or custom, include a screen-capture that contains not only the image but its placement within the context of the screen. If your screen-capture includes names or photos of people who have not given their permission to be involved in your project, make sure you blur or black out those portions.

Digital folklore often has lots of easy-to-locate versions and variants, and it's up to you as the fieldworker to decide whether or not to include one or many different examples of your meme in a single write-up. If there's enough of a contextual or textural difference between examples, you may want to document them separately, but if the same explanation and information could be used for several, you should include them together in a single form.


This is how the folklore was presented or performed; just as the word "texture" often refers to the "feel" of something, think about the "feel" of the folklore you've collected. Consider the style, tone, attitude, volume, pitch, emotion, energy-level, and any facial expressions or body movements.

Texture is incredibly important to truly understanding a documented piece of folklore. A researcher needs to know, for example, if someone telling a joke doesn't truly find it amusing:

Colin told this joke in a way that indicated he didn't really find it funny. He delivered the punchline flatly, and then rolled his eyes after. His attitude seemed to be one of "can you believe I ever found this cool?" He dropped his voice when he spoke the part about the sexual act, glancing at the cubicle wall as he did so. Colin recalls that when he and his friends told jokes like this one at school, they tried to act very cool and casual about it, even though it was obviously very exciting and dangerous feeling to be talking about "dirty" things. They would often make a big deal about watching out for the teacher on yard duty, heightening the excitement of participating in something they knew to be "naughty."

Texture also includes an explanation of your informant's perception (or yours, if this is a POD collection) of the significance or meaning of the folklore. It's important to know, for example, if a serious emotional tone behind a piece of folklore is present because it's connected to a personal sense of loss, or a cultural sense of solemnity, or a facetious representation of something that's actually meant to be funny. Use the texture section to explain any of these elements that a researcher would need to know to best understand the folklore.

The texture of a piece of folklore is often affected by context. People instinctively alter their volume, tone, even the words they use depending on where they are and who else is around. Your context and texture sections will be related, but you can distinguish what info to put where by remembering that the texture is how the folklore is performed, while the context is the setting of that performance.

As you can see from the example above, the texture of collection and the texture of use may be slightly different, just as the contexts of use and collection can be different. You'll want to be sure to clarify with your informant what the texture is like in the context of use, if the context of collection is very different.


If you're conducting your interviews via technology, there's still lots of texture to observe and describe. If you're collecting over FaceTime or Skype, you can still include the usual markers of texture like facial expression, volume and pace of speech, etc. If you're typing instead of talking, you can describe whether they're typing fast and carelessly, or whether they're writing carefully and grammatically. Typed communication can be similar to writing a letter, or it can be similar to casual conversation--describe which of these styles your informant is using and how you can tell. Pay attention to the use of abbreviations, emoticons, emojis, ALL CAPS, and GIFs, too.

Your Name and Course Information

Put your name and course information (including university, course name/number, professor's name, and semester and year) in the bottom right corner of the page, like this:

Your name
Utah State University
Introduction to Folklore/English 2210
Dr. Jeannie Thomas
Fall 2014

Please review the following examples to get a better idea of the format structure for your collecting assignments. Remember: PART OF YOUR GRADE DEPENDS ON FOLLOWING FORMAT. The reason for the strict format is that these items will be added to the Fife Folklore Archives and will be used by scholars of American culture in their work. A consistent format ensures that your hard work will be clear and useful to people working in a field that is dependent on reliable observations of culturally important expressions and events.

Release Forms:

Release forms are required for items deposited in the Fife Folklore Archives. The purpose of release forms (collector and informant) is to protect you, as the collector, the informant and the archives and to insure that collectors and informants are aware of what happens to the material they contribute. By signing the collector release form, you release your project to the Utah State University Fife Folklore Archives. By signing the informant release form, your informant releases his/her folklore item to you and the Fife Folklore Archives. However, although the physical item is released to the Fife Folklore Archives, the intellectual property rights reside with the informant and the collector. If deemed necessary, you may add restrictions regarding the use of the item/collection on the release form.

Item / Collection deposit in Fife Folklore Archives

The USU Student Folklore Genre and Fieldwork (focused) Collections are the fasting growing collections in the Fife Folklore Archives and represent an impressive and important wealth of folk expression. Deposit of student folklore items/collections is important to the ongoing growth and strength of the collection and is greatly appreciated. However, submission of folklore items/collections to the Fife Folklore Archives is not required. If you choose NOT to submit your item/collection for deposit in the Archives, write "DO NOT ARCHIVE" boldly on the item. Unless otherwise stated, submissions will be accessioned and housed in the Fife Folklore Archives, where they will become the property of Utah State University's Fife Folklore Archives, Special Collections and Archives, and will be available for research and other academic pursuits by patrons of the Special Collections.


If you have any questions, please visit Special Collections & Archives, Tanner Reading Room to consult the archival staff or call (435) 797-3493.