field work guidelines



What does a successful Field Work Paper look like? Read a student example from our course.


On the first day of class, each student will sign up for one of the field work projects. Your paper and brief oral report will be due in class on the assigned date.

To begin the project, read the assignments for that class session. The reading will help you get a sense of some of the question involved in your work. The key is to look at the space you visit with as few preconceptions as possible. Pretend you are a visitor from Mars and just observe behavior, language, dress, body movement, spatial organization, etc. Who inhabits this space? How is the space designed? shaped / decorated? How do people speak there? How do people dress? move? interact with each other and the space itself?

You will go to the fieldwork location selected, OBSERVE CAREFULLY and TAKE NOTES. After the observation session, begin to sort out, think through and ANALYZE what you have seen. Your analysis should result in a short formal essay of 2 - 3 pages. In weeks 3 and 4, half of the class will present a 3-5 minute report on their analysis and turn in the paper at class. The paper should report observations and interpretation of the space in question.

Some preliminary questions to get you started:

Museum Field Work at Art Institute of Chicago: (Note: museum free day is Tuesday!)

How does the space look? How is it designed? What is the relation of the space to the objects within the space? How are objects/artworks positioned? How is the space entered? exited? protected? Who enters the space? how do they move? dress? speak? interact? How do people relate to the objects? How is power enacted in this space? How are values enacted in this space? How does this space create a social narrative (tell a story)?

Nature Company / Rainforest Cafe Field Work:

How is nature thematized here? How is it imagined? What sounds / smell / colors/ designs are prevalent? What kind of discourse (language, words, terms) is used to shape this space? How is nature conceived? How is nature presented? How do people interact with the space? What is being sold? How is it being sold? How is culture being conceptualized? What assumptions about nature and culture are being presented? (You may want to prepare by visiting the websites first.)


  • All papers must be typed double spaced, with margins of one inch on each side of the page and in a font no larger than 12.
  • Handwritten papers will not be accepted.
  • 10 points will automatically be subtracted from any essays handed in late.
  • Please take advantage of the Writing Center's fine assistance.
  • The professor is very willing to respond to questions, drafts, etc.