5-7 pages double spaced
1. Formulate a sensitizing idea or hypothesis — a way of conceptualizing the observations and experiences you wish to relate.
a. Cite where you got the idea, or if it is original, what extant
idea or framework it is similar or related to. Use the materials we have read, supplemental reading materials, and library resources. Ragin and Amoroso give many examples of the concepts that guide inquiry when they illustrate points in their chapter on qualitative research strategies. By now, we have learned that theory and method go together, like a horse and carriage.
b. State your idea in a way that sets up your project.
2. Describe the setting where you gathered your observations or gained your experiences. This is a methodology section in the sense that you tell how it is that you know what you know. You may gather novel observations in a public setting, or you may rely on recollections of experiences. If you use recollections, you should be specific about the context in which you had the experiences — where, when, how, etc.
3. Relate or document your observations or experiences. You may follow whatever organization you think is appropriate for your particular project. If you are observing, then organize your observations according to principles or rules, or some other conceptual format that allows you to “classify” what you (Ragin and Amoroso give many examples in the chapter on qualitative research). Or, you may prefer to use a narrative approach.
4. Relate the concepts or sensitizing ideas to the documents. Sometimes it is easier to integrate steps 3 and 4. It all depends on your conceptual framework and the type of documents you are using.
5. Draw out an insight, make a concluding statement or otherwise
finish-up your paper with a BIG idea.
There are several journals that specialize in publishing qualitative research. You might want to spend a little time browsing them for examples you can follow. My suggestions are Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Symbolic Interaction, and Qualitative Sociology
Note: If choose to collect observations of public life or use recollections of your experiences in public, report only those activities that take place in the public realm. Follow Lyn Lofland's definition of a public realm: "those areas of urban settlements in which individuals in copresence tend to be personally unknown and only categorically know to one another … the public realm is made up of those spaces in a city which tend to be inhabited by persons who are strangers to one another or who 'know' one another only in terms of occupations or other nonpersonal identity categories (for example, bus driver -customer" (Lofland, Lyn, The Public Realm: Exploring the City's Quintessential Social Territory, page 9).
This means that you observe and report only those activities that are public. In public, people have a reasonable expectation that they may be observed. You must not report names or offer any information that could identity a person or group. In general, a reader of your report should not be able to recognize individual identity. Place identity, or at least accurate descriptions of places, may be important for providing context for your report, but you may prefer to use made-up names of places to ensure the public nature of your observations. Confidentially can be ensured by limiting your observations to what happens in the public realm, and by interpreting these interactive encounters from the perspectives of abstract concepts of the public realm.