Step 3: Doing Sociology Assignment


This activity is Step 3 in our semester-long “doing sociology” assignment.  In this step you will go out into the community to identify how globalization shapes social life in our our area. You will observe and compare two local food markets (or grocery stores) and write clear, detailed descriptions of what you see. Your goal for this activity is to use a sociological research method, ethnography, to systematically observe the similarities and differences in these local grocery stores, their physical layout, the products they sell, and the clients that they serve.  The material you gather in this activity will form a major part of your final paper.  


Compare a mainstream grocery store (Select one: Giant, Harris Teeter, Safeway, Shopper’s Food Warehouse, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Walmart, Target) with an international food market (Select one: Super A Market, Food Star Market, Bestway Supermercado, H Mart, Grand Mart, Good Fortune). A number of approved international food markets are shown on this Google Map.


This project requires that you make site visits to several locations. You will spend at least 45 minutes at each location making observations.

Step #1: Before you begin your field observations, spend some time thinking about how grocery stores are designed and organized. Use these initial expectations to make predictions regarding what you will find during your visit.

Step #2: Next, it’s time to visit the markets.  Spend at least ¾ hour observing at each location. As you observe, be on the lookout for similarities and differences between the two markets.

Use the following list of questions to guide your observations:

Before entering the store notice what kind of cars appear in the parking lot.

Describe the overall store layout (lighting, advertisements, decorations, background music).

What kind of products are being sold? For example – are there fresh vegetables and fruits? Are there packaged and processed foods?  Where did these products come from?

Who frequents this store? What can you tell based on the type of products that are being sold? Also consider the people you see in the store (shoppers & clerks).

Once you leave the store, immediately sit down to write out field notes describing in as much detail as possible what you just observed.

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