Quinebaug Valley Community College
Danielson, CT, 06239

Local Studies Projects

The "local-studies" represented here are brief research projects carried out by students in several anthropology and sociology classes at QVCC, as taught by Brian Donohue-Lynch. The aim of these projects is to help students discover something of interest to them in the local community that relates to the issues and concerns of their respective classes. In the process, students are asked to consider various methods of "social research" (broadly defined) and then to choose an effective way to gather relevant information and insight regarding the community focus they have chosen.

Over the course of the semester the impact and significance of these projects is cumulative as well as individual: not only are individual students engaged in learning some rudimentary concerns, methods and issues of social research, along with learning about their chosen topic, but classes as a whole are also exposed to something of a "mosaic" effect of the variety of research experiences, issues, questions and strategies surfaced and explored together over the semester.

These projects, as such, are not intended to be in-depth fieldwork, but rather to be more like the preliminary "site survey" of the archaeologist-- to begin to see what social/cultural facets and artifacts relating to "who we are, " can be seen and recorded through "surface" investigation of ourselves and our local communities. Through these, students begin in an introductory way to see various merits (as well as pitfalls) of "social research" as they begin to carry it out. And in the future, their projects could easily serve (for themselves or for other students) as starting points for more in-depth investigation.

Generally, the focus of each project is determined by the interest of the student, who suggests a topic sometime in the first three or four weeks of the semester, after the class has discussed the outline and aims of the project. Students are given "feedback" if projects seem too broadly or too narrowly defined; as well, they discuss in class the possible relevance of potential projects to see how they may relate to anthropological or sociological study.

At the end of each semester students get a chance to discuss what they have come up with in their investigation. In addition, they are encouraged to think creatively as to how they will put their findings into presentable form. These forms have actually included everything from video-taped interviews, to ordered collections of photos, to research-paper formats, and more.

The related projects on display in these web-pages are a small sample of such efforts by students. They represent the work of people who have a broad range of varying degrees of interest and/or experience in formal study. For some, this is the first work they have done after many years away from school. For others it is yet one more learning experience on an ongoing road of "higher education."

Two final points seem worth noting:

bulletFirst, early each semester when these projects are discussed, students express much anxiety about doing them; this anxiety about an unknown effort has come to be predictable.
bulletBut just as predictably, at the other end of the semester when students are ready not only to "hand in" a project, but to share it with the rest of the class, there is a shared sense of enthusiasm--if not pride--in the variety, character and quality of what we have done.

It is with this sense that we share these samples here on the internet, both to show others what we have done as well as to invite discussion, questions, comments and suggestions for further exploration. Some of these projects have been deliberately done by students themselves in a form that could easily be shared electronically. As our classes become more in touch with this process, this will be the preferred way for students to prepare their work. At the same time, some of the projects displayed here have been translated, after the fact, into files and images suitable for posting on the internet.

Let us know what you think about the work represented here.
Send your comments, questions, suggestions and ideas to:
Dr. Brian Donohue-Lynch
Anthropology/Sociology Dept.
Quinebaug Valley
Community College
Danielson, CT 06239

Last revised: April 18, 2005