sociology 78

This activity is Step 3 in our semester-long “doing sociology” assignment.

In this step, you will go out into the community to do sociology by exploring what local grocery stores can tell us about food, cultural diversity, and immigration patterns in specific areas of the DMV.

You will visit an international grocery store (or other cultural or commercially significant establishment), explore and observe. During your visit, you will make observations about the food and other products sold in the store focusing in particular on what products are sold in the store, where these products come from, and who they’re marketed towards.

You should visit a location associated with one of the Zip Codes from Step #2.

You’ll be using the sociological research method of direct observation to systematically document what you see in the store. For documentation purposes, you’ll need to write out clear field notes containing detailed descriptionsof what you see.

Your Task

Visit an International market (preferably a large supermarket) in one of the zip codes that contained 30% or more foreign-born.

You should spend approximately 45 minutes to an hour in the store making your observations. Take the opportunity to explore the market and its’ various product offerings. Be sure to make note of those things that are familiar to you as well as those things that are strange.

While in the store you should take some simple jotted notes to remember what you’re observing.

Soon after leaving the store, you should write up your field notes; these notes should contain a narrative description of your observations with as much detail as possible.

Your field notes won’t describe everything you’ve seen in the store; instead, you should focus on a few sections of the store that you find particularly interesting and write up detailed descriptions of those parts of the store.

Submit your detailed field notes before class on November 21st!


  • take this exercise seriously, be sure to take your time and make thorough observations.
  • your field-notes should be complete and tell a story about the observational experience. I should feel like I am present with the observer as they walk around the store.
  • field-notes should include local-global connections or considerations of the strange and the familiar.

“”The store is Walmart””