Student Anthropological Documents
What Are These Documents?
These documents essentially form the core of my thesis project. The thesis prospectus is a type of research proposal in which I discuss  the relevant academic/anthropological literature which deals with tabletop role-playing games,  the theoretical orientation I will draw upon during the project,  what social scientific methods I will employ during the project, and  my own (extensive) familiarity with the topic of RPGs. The papers above labeled “A Change of Scene…” Parts 1-3 share the basic title of the prospectus; I wrote these papers to satisfy the requirements of a course I took at Northern Arizona University with Dr. Jill Dubisch called Writing Culture (an excellent class which I highly recommend everyone take if possible). It was in these papers that I first explored the idea of studying tabletop RPGs, and thus they are relevant to the ongoing project. This is particularly true of Part III., which uses the example of an Action Figure Role-Playing Game (AFRPG) to describe what exactly a tabletop RPG is. In my opinion, the AFRPGs children engage in are not all that dissimilar from the “more sophisticated and adult” (so some believe) games like Dungeons and Dragons. Whether or not we use dolls, action figures, or miniatures to represent the characters we take the roles of we are all playing similar games.
The ethical documents were written for the Northern Arizona University IRB (Institutional Review Board). This body monitors the ethical conduct of researchers affiliated with the university whose projects involve human research participants. The basic ethical principles of human research upheld and enforced by IRBs are described in The Belmont Report and include Respect for Persons, Beneficence, and Justice. Basically, these principles require that I be upfront and honest about my research practices, that I place the welfare of research participants before the success of my project, that everyone who participates in the project do so willingly and with informed consent, and that the overall benefits of the research project outweigh the potential risks (harms) it creates. Before a student anthropologist (such as myself) can begin an ethnographic research project they must submit an application to their institution's IRB. My completed, approved application is linked above. This document is sort of like an ethically-minded, concise prospectus written for a general (lay) audience. The Informed consent document is one of the most important tools of the project: it ensures that research participants provide their informed consent prior to participating in the research. Before I take any data in a particular gaming group I provide all the players with the informed consent document. I then ask them to read it over, to consider the risks of participation, and to sign it if they would like to participate. In the event that any player in a given gaming group  refuses to sign the form,  has a problem with my presence as a social scientist conducting research, or  is uncomfortable with the project in any way I will not gather data or participate in the game session in question. This is my ethical duty.
I have reserved a place in the forums section for comments you may have concerning my research practices. This facilitates an open and ethical research approach and I encourage you to log-in and participate.
In the future I will add the following documents to the links above: The "Pre-ethnography" and the completed Master's Thesis!!!