Intact Group Analysis Paper
One of the skills that students need to develop so that they can be better group members involves analyzing the many structures that can be identified in groups. For this assignment, you will practice this analysis through your observations of an intact group. To accomplish this assignment, I have developed the following steps for you to follow:
Identify and observe the intact group. An intact group is a specific kind of group, although most groups are, in fact, intact groups. An intact group is one that preexists your analysis of the group. If you need to create a group where before there was none, then you are not analyzing an intact group. Of course, your presence to the group will almost certainly affect the group in profound and unexpected ways. The difference is that while you are interacting with a group (albeit in a way that acknowledges and minimizes your biases), you should not be the reason why the group is meeting. This means that there are several ground rules that have to be observed in your selection of an intact group:
Ideally, the group should not consider you a member before the assignment. While being an outsider makes group observation more difficult in obvious ways, it also confers an advantage: because the group is somewhat foreign to you, you do/should not know what actions, words, communications, etc, are “important.” By not knowing which ones are important, you need to write as much of it down as you can so that when you apply communication theory to your observations, your theories (not your privileged knowledge of the example) are driving your conclusions.
Each group member must consent to you collecting field notes. Oral consent is acceptable, and make sure that you be receptive to people who don’t want to be identified by name.
The group must be observed in its habitual environment. Group observation often involves watching people for hours on end, tolerating long periods of activity from which you should be at least a little bit disinterested, and fighting the urge to do something else in between short bursts of activity that are packed with detail. You must be vigilant during the boring parts as well as the exciting parts of this long game. You will not turn in your field notes, but make sure that you are paying enough attention to detail so that you have enough material to analyze for your argument in your outline. An additional note: to be able to observe a group in its habitual environment, you must observe it long enough that you notice patterns in the group’s/individuals’ communication.
You should consult with the instructor prior to your field work. While I generally do not “veto” topics, I try to couch my feedback to you here in terms of my knowledge of what kind of fieldwork is going to yield enough information so that you can write a paper. Because that’s the point of this assignment: to represent a culture using your words. There are some responsibilities that are inherited whenever someone attempts to represent a culture.
Do your analysis. This assignment will ask you to write an argument. The length of your writing is only indirectly related to your analysis. More complex analysis will consume more space than simplistic analysis. Therefore, the first step in your written work is the production of an outline. To be able to proceed from field work to analysis, you must turn in an outline. Here is a template outline that you may find useful:
Hook story (describe)
Thesis (the conclusion of your argument)
Preview main points
Describe yourself and the group. Identify why you are studying it. You need to acknowledge and account for your presence to this group. What caused you to make your selection?
Identify group communication theories that should be useful for analyzing the group
What the theory says about your group? What conclusions does the theory (as opposed to your own intuition) say about what you observed
So what? What are the good and not-so-good consequences of doing this project? Of reading about your findings? Will this have a ripple effect on the group? On yourself?
Review main points:
Reiterate the conclusion of your argument
Explain why you chose your hook