Guide to Folklore Collecting Assignment

By Randy Williams and Barre Toelken, 2000; updated by Randy Williams, January 2020


The purpose of having you collect folklore for a class assignment is to provide you with firsthand experience with how folklore is identified, collected and archived. The activity will deepen your acquaintance with your personal living culture and make you aware of the many folklore forms that surround you.

You may collect from strangers, acquaintances, relatives, the internet, or yourself. Folklorists Lynne McNeill and Randy Williams call this the point of discovery (POD): the person or place where you encounter folklore in your life. It can be exciting to use this project as way to find folklore you have never encountered before, however, often the best place to start is with people, settings, and traditions already familiar to you. Release forms are required. The materials that you collect, unless otherwise noted on your collection, will be archived at the Fife Folklore Archives, Special Collections & Archives, Utah State University Libraries. Go to the USU Folklore Homepage for more information about the Utah State University Folklore Program.

Project Guidelines

The Fife Folklore Archives accepts two main types of collecting projects: single item and focused. Single item projects give students the freedom to collect varied genres of folklore from different folk groups, while focused projects are united around a theme (a particular genre, folk group, mode of transmission, or subject). The following sections will give you guidelines for both types of collecting projects. Your instructor may also provide you with additional information.

The reason you are required to document your collected folklore in these specific formats is that along with being a lab for student instruction of folklore, the fieldwork conducted in USU's folklore classes also serves as a large body of research (spanning both time and space) that is used by scholars all over the world. Keeping the materials consistent in content and form helps researchers find, compare and contrast, and analyze the data.

Photographic Image Requirements

Many collection projects will include images. Images should be high quality files, should be embedded within the collection document (rather than printed seperately), and should be in color. For non-electronic submissions, if color printing is truly a hardship, you must fully describe the object as it appears. However, color printing is highly encouraged. Example of embedded image.

Release Forms

Release forms are required for items deposited in Utah State University Library's Special Collections & Archives, which includes the Fife Folklore Archives (hereafter SCA). The purpose of a release form is to protect the informant, collector (you) and the Archives and to ensure that collectors and informants are aware of what happens to the material they contribute. By signing the release form, the participant and collector release the item/collection to SCA. However, although the physical item is released to SCA, the intellectual property rights reside with the informant and the collector. If deemed necessary, you may add restrictions regarding the use of the item/collection on the release form.

How to Use Release Forms

When submitting a Genre (Single) Item or a Context Focused Fieldwork Project, there should be one completed release form for each participant. This form includes a release of the collector for the item. When submitting a Genre Focused Fieldwork Collection, a separate release form must also be submitted by you, the student (collector), which serves to release the entire collection (including your student essay) to SCA.