"Using the Archive" Course Module

About the Assignment

The "Using the OSU Folklore Archive" assignment has been created primarily to work as a component of courses which involve students creating Student Ethnographic Projects which will be submitted to our archive in due course. If you require information about how to submit student work to the archive, please email cfs@osu.edu.

This assignment is designed to help your students learn about, explore, and appreciate the value of archives generally and the OSU Folklore Archive in particular. This assignment is centered on one of the Folklore Archive's greatest treasures: the Student Ethnographic Project Collection (SEPs). The SEPs are the Folklore Archives’ largest collection and one of its oldest, most important collections. The earliest archived projects date from 1967 and submissions have been made almost every year since that date, up to the current semester. The collection is therefore continually evolving thanks to OSU students who have – for decades – regularly completed fieldwork projects as part of folklore, writing, and other courses.

Student Instructions

The “Using the OSU Folklore Archive” assignment consists of two steps, the first of which should be assigned shortly after your students have settled upon the topic of their own SEP semester projects and the second at least three weeks after that. The student instructions for the two steps which make up the assignment and which you should include in your syllabus and, of course, share with your students are below:

Briefly, the two steps involve each student 1) selecting and obtaining two past projects from the SEP archives and 2) after receiving and parsing those past projects, they will then write a summary, comparison, and review of their contents.  

Instructor Actions

There are various actions that we recommend that you take as the instructor in order for this assignment to work in a smooth manner for all concerned. They are as follows: 

  • Please let the CFS know as early as possible via cfs@osu.edu - i.e. before or at the start of the semester in question - that you plan on using the “Using the OSU Folklore Archive” assignment in your course. You will then be sent a copy of the most recent copy of the current SEPs Finding Aid. 
  • When preparing your syllabus, please ensure that the deadlines for the two steps are set at least three weeks apart. For example, if you set the deadline for Step One on January 25, you should set the deadline for Step Two no earlier than February 15. Please keep the CFS informed of these deadlines via cfs@osu.edu. 
  • Please share the current SEPs Finding Aid with your students at the start of the semester (you might suggest that the aid can be used to help find inspiration for selecting their upcoming semester project). 
  • We suggest that you schedule an in-class session on using the SEP finding aid between one and two weeks ahead of the step one deadline. It is a large and somewhat complicated document, and your students would appreciate your guidance in navigating it. We have included guidance on ways to use the finding aid below.
  • As soon as students have completed step one of the assignment, please send details of their requested past projects to the CFS. CFS staff will then deliver digital copies of the requested projects back to you within 10 days. These should in turn be shared immediately with your students who can then continue with step two of the assignment. 
  • At this time, you should offer them advice regarding summarizing, comparing, and reviewing the two projects so as to enable them to successfully complete the assignment’s second step.  

Tips for Using the Finding Aid

The SEP finding aid is a large document which contains almost 11000 entries and 24 columns of information per entry. The two columns that you and your students will need to pay most attention to are those headed "Title of Collection" and "Keywords." Those are where the bulk of the information regarding the contents of each SEP is stored with regard to searchable terms such as topic, location of study, and other relevant data and using CMD+F (Mac) and CTRL+F (PC). For example, if a student were interested in looking at past SEPs that focussed on Dungeons and Dragons, searching for "dungeons," "dragons," and "dungeons and dragons" will yield some fruitful results; (they could also try "D&D," "D & D," and "D and D") . The selected cell where the word has been found is highlighted will appear the centre of the computer screen.

Searching for past SEPs devoted to studies of Dungeons and Dragons is likely to be a fairly manageable task, since there are some in the archive, but not an overwhelming number. The same would not be true if your student wanted to look up previous SEPs about, say, superstitions or supernatural legends since there are hundreds about both in this collection. In such a case, your student would be well advised to begin with more specific terms - such as "weather" in the case of superstitions, or a specific location or ghost name in the case of supernatural legends.

You might also encourage your students to think tangentially regarding potentially useful past projects. For example, if they are interested in jokes spread via digital forums today, they might also to review ways in which such material was passed on before the rise of the internet and, for example, consider Xerox lore or latrinalia.

We suggest that you spending time looking through the Finding Aid and trying out various searches on screen during class time so as to help ensure that your students are not overwhelmed by it when they go about using it on their own for this assignment.

If you require more information about this module, please email cfs@osu.edu.