50269: SO/AO 201 Field Methods
W-2, MWF 10-11
Carl Milofsky


This course provides a hands-on survey of how to do unstructured research in the community or an institution using the methods of sociology and anthropology. It will provide a discussion of different methods used to do field research and there will be a midterm exams on this material.

Click here for an example of a past midterm exam.
Click here for the Spring, 2001 Midterm Exam.
Click here for the Spring, 2002 Midterm Exam

Look at the syllabus for a detailed explanation of the structure of the course.

Click here to link to the assignment on problem definition.


SO/AO 201 prepares students for more advanced field research courses in sociology and anthropology. It grew out of Sociology 215, Human Service Systems. Sociology students interested in the Concentration on Human Services should plan to take SO 215 which normally is offered in the fall. More advanced field research courses include AO 287, Anthropology in Action, SO 402, Public Service and Nonprofit Organizations, SO 418, Social Services and the Community, and SO 422, The Sociology of Medicine.


The major requirement for this class is a field research project that students must work on for the last ten weeks of the semester. Field projects generally require that students be at their field site 3-5 hours per week. A major part of course work are field notes students must write on their field experiences. Usually students must turn in five sets of field notes over the course of the semester with each set being at least five pages in length. Instructors provide detailed critical comments on each paper. This writing and the feedback you receive will be demanding, but it will also be extremely valuable. Reflective writing is critical to thinking deeply and finding real meaning in field experiences.


Students are encouraged to be creative in finding and selecting field research projects. Some projects involve community studies. These are studies of a neighborhood or a town where students collect many kinds of information, sometimes in partnership with a local organization or church. Other projects are internships where students work in a local organization, often under the supervision or with the help of a staff mentor from the organization. The Career Development Center maintains a database of sites where students in the past have done internships. Students have worked in over 100 organizations in the Central Susquehanna Valley representing all kinds of human service organizations.


We expect students to take the primary initiative in setting up field placements. Taking charge of finding a placement is an important part of the experience and it is not unlike the work students will have to do when they look for a job after graduateion. Finding a placement includes thinking about the kind of setting one would like to try, seeking out names and organizations that might host a placement, and making the contacts to set up the internship.


While we expect students to take responsibility for finding a field project, faculty and other staff around the university are ready to make suggestions and to help make contacts. Dean Burnham, Chaplain Ian Oliver, and the Career Development Center all have been very helpful to students in the past. Generally, when students use the Career Development Center database and contact a staff person who has hosted a Bucknell intern in the past, it is easy to find helpful, friendly people in host organizations.