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Neighborhood Assignment

Neighborhood Assignment

New York is a rich cultural multicultural environment. The purpose of this assignment is to allow you to integrate some empirical observation into your course learning. This assignment DOES NOT involve documentary research; it is, instead, a brief approximation to Latinos and their lives in the city.

This assignment relies on your observation, analysis, and personal conclusions. The paper is simple, but requires what follows:

1. two site observations,
2. some brief conversations or informal interviews, and
3. your reflection.


Direct Observation. In our daily lives, we all see and hear things; we observe patterns of action, behavior, and events in a casual way (we rarely document what we observe). Yet, direct observation can be a means to construct more structured views of whole communities and social contexts; it allows us to focus on physical settings and people's behavior, interaction, and understanding of their own environments.

For direct observation purposes, you can use observation guides, checklists, and fieldnotes. Fieldnotes are the least structured of all these methods. Through them, the researcher uses a notebook to record the environment, behaviors, and observations. -Include in them the date and location and leave a wide margin on the right-hand side of the notebook paper for additional notes and to facilitate later analysis.

Your task:

1. Choose you area of research (just a small area or even a couple of blocks. It can actually be the block where you live in or where you shop

2. Write about your own neighborhoods, comparing and contrasting (i.e.,

finding similarities and differences) with Latinos or with what you know

about them.

3. First Observation. Take your first short walk and - as part of that - pay attention to a particular place. (For example, you can observe a store, a home, a sports event, a doctor's office, a job site, an area for socializing, your own family.

Observe. Remember that you are this time a curious participant observer, -- not a critical tourist or a total stranger in the neighborhood. Take field notes during OR after your observation

4. When you go back home, and based upon your observations, think:

What did you see? How would you understand that? How is the community like? What do they do? Do they get together? Who is working? Who is relaxing? How do old and young people behave? How does the area look like, feel like, smell, or sound like? What kind of business do you see? What language do people speak there? How do Latinos behave and build a community here? Do you know anything about this neighborhood's past?

Keep thinking a little more, for example, what are the strengths of the neighborhood and its community? What are their visible problems and strengths? How do people express what being Latino is? Is there anything that you can use to enrich your understanding of this? How are people's networks constructed? How they construct solidarity? What important themes can you think of?

And there could be more: Is the area in transition? Improving? Deteriorating? Changing? What additional questions have emerged as a result of your observation? What other assessment do you feel you need?

From your observations, select one or two main points or themes that you are interested in and want to explore through short conversations (interviews). MAKE A RESEARCH QUESTION THAT YOU WANT TO ANSWER ABOUT THIS OR THESE TOPICS (in the context of the neighborhood).

Such topics can be related to life, stories of adaptation to the city or mobility, family histories, Latino communities, community entrepreneurs, transnationalism, etcetera (all depends on your curiosity and observation). Develop a very informal interview guide (questionnaire).

6. Second Observation and Interviewing. Take a second walk and see again. Also, find the time to talk to at least two persons about your questions and topics. They can be people that you know or members of your family; they can also be acquaintances, or people that you do not know. Take notes, if you want.

7. Start structuring your paper. What are you going to say about this observation and about your points selected? What answer did you find for your questions?

8. Write your paper (and do not forget to revise before delivering it).


You have to choose a title and tell me in your first paragraph what the paper is about (introduction) and the main ideas that you want to develop though it, based on your field research.

Then, you could describe your research design and procedures, that is, how you conducted your observations and when you did them.

Later, you should provide a view of the area that you observed. Include details and those descriptions that you find convenient.

Tell me about the point or the issues that you focused on, and what you found through your interviews, quoting what people said, as needed.

Write a conclusion: briefly restate your findings and its importance. Mention what step you would take next. -What did you learn?

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