I generally choose “public spaces” as the ethics approval for these activities is fairly straightforward.
I have sent all my students to the same place and have let them choose their own—both ways work.
Many students want to search for an authoritative voice for note taking.
Usually this means listing demographic facts in the hopes of sounding thorough or scientific.
This anchors all the papers in the group to a debate. Revisit I almost always have them do multiple visits (2-3) because it usually opens up their observation skills and brings in richer data. Write To get them into the flavor and feel of ethnographic writing, I start one or two classes with free writing exercises geared at getting them to find their voice, or the story they are going to tell.
Kirin Narayan’s book has great prompts adaptable to student projects.
A full-blown paper may not always be the best way to assess what they have learned. I have found a few ways around the “too much” dilemma.
For example, in my large linguistic anthropology course, exams are mandatory.
They almost always cluster well, with only one or two real outliers.
In larger classes, I reorganize tutorial groups by these shared interests.