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Travel Writing Final Project

Travel Writing Final Project

Assignment: Write an 8-10 page narrative that tells the story of a setting/subculture of which you are not a member.

Purpose: One of the principal goals of travel writers is to make the strange familiar: to represent distant lands and people in effective and ethical ways to an audience at home. As we have seen in this class, it is often challenging to separate the self and the other in contexts and experiences of travel. In some way, the writer is always implicated in what s/he is observing and writing about. For this reason, representation of other persons and groups is one of the most challenging and ethically important aspects of travel writing. By asking you to focus on a specific subculture that you would like to learn more about, this assignment engages you directly in that tension. Throughout the course of your work for this project, you will need to continually track your own reactions to—as well as to make sense of—what you are seeing. Finally, as you draw on your research notes in order to write your final narrative for this class, you will need to carefully consider the way(s) that you represent both your research participants and your own involvement in the research and writing process.


1)  Choose a community/subculture that intrigues you. Your topic should be specific, although it need not be flashy. A wide variety of “everyday” sites and communities all around you could make for interesting material. Whatever you choose, though, you will need to be able to find an opportunity for observation, and you will be able to access participants for interviews.


Potential Sites: a tattoo parlor, a swim team’s practice center, a law office, a marine biology research center, a frat house, a community center for the elderly, an alternative high school, etc.


Potential Communities: ultimate Frisbee teams, role-players, Boy Scouts, female impersonators, salsa dancers, martial artists, computer programmers, people who live in RVs, people on Facebook, etc.


**Note: During Week 4, you will submit a brief topic proposal for feedback. In your proposal, please 1) identify your site and community/subculture, 2) explain your interest in this choice, and 3) explain how you will gain access to observations and interviews.


2)  Conduct field research and keep a field journal

Your field work for this project should include a minimum of 2 hours of on-site observation (and/or participant observation) and 2 recorded interviews of ½ hour each. Throughout this process, you will need to keep a field journal to record your notes. Your field journal may be hand-written or typed. This journal may be organized in whatever fashion is most useful to you, but regardless of format, it should include the following components:

  • Clear labeling (i.e. date, time, and location of observations)
  • Consistent pseudonyms to identify the people involved
  • Detailed descriptions of the activities that you observed and/or participated in
  • Clear differentiation between your observations and your own personal reflections


In addition to these field notes, you should also record and transcribe your interviews. You will need an audio recording device for this portion of the assignment. Transcriptions should clearly indicate when you are speaking and when the participant is speaking.

3)  Get feedback & revise: Throughout your process completing this assignment, you will submit pieces of it to your “Writing Group” for feedback. In addition, you will get feedback from me.

  • Week 4: Submit your proposal & reflection (to both me and your “Writing Group”)

    • You will submit a 1-page proposal of what you plan to do, including which community you have chosen; why it interests you; and how you will access it.
    • You will submit a 1-page reflection describing your initial thoughts about the community you chose. What do you think they’re like? How do they spend their time? What unites them? What are their greatest challenges? greatest interests?
  • Week 5: Submit a summary & reflection of your observation notes (to both me and your “Writing Group”)
    • You will submit a 1-page summary of what you saw during your (minimum) 2-hour observation of your chosen community.
    • You will submit a 1-page reflection describing what you noticed? What surprised you? What are you left wondering?
  • Week 6: Submit a summary & reflection of your interviews (to both me and your “Writing Group”)
    • You will submit a 1-page summary of what the (minimum) 2 interviews that you conducted with members of your chosen community.
    • You will submit a 1-page reflection describing what you noticed? What surprised you? What are you left wondering?
  • Week 7: Submit a draft of your 8-10 page narrative (to both me and your “Writing Group”)
  • Week 8: Receive feedback from your “Writing Group” and use it to revise your project for final submission.


4)  Submit your materials: When you are ready to submit your final project, please upload the following documents to the “Final Project” drop box on Canvas:

  • Final, Revised Narrative (required 8-10 pages, double-spaced)
  • Revision Narrative: In 2-typed, double-spaced pages, describe your process researching this project and drafting and revising it based on feedback from me and your peers. Be as specific and detailed as possible. Show me your thoughts throughout the process. What were your ideas at the beginning of the process? How did they change along the way?
  • Project Materials
    • Observation notes (can be scanned, if hand-written)
    • Interview transcripts (should be typed from your audio recording)

**Note: You do not need to send me the audio files of your interviews—just the typed transcripts.

Evaluation Your project will be evaluated principally on the following components:

  • Engaged and thorough research (as demonstrated through field notes)
  • Thoughtful reflections on your research and writing process (as demonstrated in your “Revision Narrative”)
  • Compelling and self-aware representation of the site/community that you studied
  • Complete and effective narrative, including craft components from class (i.e. showing/telling, conflict, character change, voice, etc.)

 Points Possible: Final Revised Narrative (10), Revision Narrative (5), & Project Materials (5).


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