Fieldwork: Exploratory Writing

The end of the first chapter of Fieldworking, a research and writing guide by Bonnie Sunstein and Elizabeth Chiseri-Strater, provides a few steps to think, choose, and write about a potential field topic or site. In particular, steps three and four on page 54 (which focus on thinking about problems and drawbacks of picking a topic), was something I found useful in thinking about my field site.

After listing the subcultures and groups that I belonged too, I wasn’t sure about what I really wanted to explore or spend the last few weeks of the semester researching. But after getting to the third and fourth steps–questions focusing on practical issues of doing research (drawbacks, objections by people within the group, benefits to its members and yourself, and the possibility of giving back to a group)–I realized that the topic I wanted to write about and would be the most useful for these last few weeks of the semester was something I didn’t think of listing at all: job-seeking seniors (who are about to graduate).

What I’ve been largely thinking about (like many other seniors) these last few months is, “How am I going to find job between now and graduation?” While we job-hunt and prepare for graduation, we’re listening to various media outlets–blogs, news articles, TV broadcast news, etc.–repeat the same, overused line: this year’s group of graduates is still facing the hurdles of the previous graduating classes — with more difficulty. In choosing this topic, the main questions I’m wondering about right now is which aspect should I focus on? Should I focus on observing a physical site, like the CareerCenter, and watch the practices and methods of jobseekers? Or should I try to mine online jobseeking communities to see how posters interact online? Which methods work the best? Or is it possible to try to research both?

I’ve wondered how the rise of unpaid or extremely low-paid internships replacing entry-level positions is affecting jobseekers? Which online jobsite is deemed more effective? How have online jobsearch practices changed or adapted to the ongoing recession? In addition, there are many drawbacks to this fieldsite/topic, since the CareerCenter is only open during certain hours — and for a good chunk of those hours, I’m in class or running an errand. When at the site, who would I talk to? Besides the the obvious people who work at the CareerCenter–how comfortable would jobseekers be in talking about their job prospects or employment status? And in online communities, how verifiable would online posters need to be? Would just using their screen names in the research project be enough or would I need more in-depth identification, such as a full name and general location?

Although, undertaking this topic sounds daunting and will require a lot of research, at least I’ve chosen something that will probably give me greater insight into how the Great Recession, Internet jobsites, physical job centers, and millenial jobseekers are affecting each other.

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4 thoughts on “Fieldwork: Exploratory Writing

  1. I’m very impressed by your thought process and chosen topic for this assignment. As a graduating senior, I too am stuck in the process of finding post-graduation plans and frequent job sites daily. I never thought, before reading your blog post, as those sites as a culture, but they totally are. I will be interested to see what you uncover in your process and if it changes your approach for job hunting as well. While possibly daunting and time consuming, I think it will be worthwhile as you uncover a subculture that you are both an insider of (applying) and an outsider (not an employee of the company that runs the site). Will you find differences in the audiences they target? Their effectiveness, their reputation? It is important to address subcultures like this that haven’t always been there to see the effect they have had on the job hunting process, and what effect they will continue to have. Good luck!

  2. This topic hits close to home as I’m also a graduating senior. I think dissecting LinkedIn profiles and other personal portfolios have been redefining the job search processes, especially for the applicant. Selecting a LinkedIn profile picture takes hours and the content edits take just as long as well. You’ll definitely be able to find colleagues who are in this situation to add input to your paper!

  3. Solid topic Jon! It’s a really good one because it’s so applicable to your life, which is awesome. I think this will be a good site to fieldwork in, as it will probably help you on your own job hunt. I’d be really interested in reading your paper and finding out what kind of stuff you discover. For instance, I’ve never been to the career center, and I’m sure many other students haven’t either, so it would be great to read about how they help you and what kind of advice/information they offer.

  4. this is a great topic: i read an article not long ago about how businesses (particularly publishing & start-ups) are really taking advantage of recent college grades and exploiting them for free labor (though some internships do pay)

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