Bailey CH 8

Field Notes Bailey – Chapter 8

BG Cavazos – EDL 507

Field Notes & Leaving the Field

• Detailed descriptions • Paraphrased quotations • Self-reflections • Profound observations

“If you are not writing

field notes, then you

are not conducting

field research”

(p. 113)

• Entries help decide what you want to

study • Repository for important and not-soimportant

data • Help with methodological decisions • “They are at once one thing and

everything” (p.113)

Field Notes

• Will improve with practice • Don’t leave home without

your journal • Scribble notes quickly &

add details later • “Fuller notes” – writing

while someone is talking • “Mental notes” – try to

remember without notes • “Jotted notes” – key

words & important points

6 Types of Content that

will appear in field


1. Detailed descriptions

2. Things previously forgotten

3. Analytic ideas & inferences

4. Personal feelings

5. Things to think about & do

6. Reflexive thoughts

1. Detailed Descriptions of

Observations and Interactions

• Chronological log of dates & times • Concrete, tangible details – “raw

behavior”, no interpretation • Distinguish between witnessing,

interpreting or recounting by others • Detailed accounts of conversations &

informal interviews • Differentiate between verbatim,

paraphrasing and general recall

2. Things Previously Forgotten

• Something insignificant

can become important or

be seen again • Recollections get

integrated into field notes • Include time, date &

context of original

experience • May be added to field


ü Write down personal

interpretations of interactions

* Note patterns

* Theoretical implications

* Potential insights regarding

goals of the study

* Trivial, obvious & far-fetched


The more analysis that occurs,

the easier the project is to

complete (Lofland & Lofland, 1971)

3. Analytic Ideas & Inferences

4. Personal Feelings

• Note your feelings – happy,

frustrated, etc. • Note persons liked, disliked • Note how well an interaction went • Personal feelings are a rich source of

analytical insights • The researcher can use feelings to

better analyze the dynamics of


5. Things to Think About & Do

Write down: • If you need to go back &

collect a missing detail • Ideas to follow up on • Questions to ask • Someone you’d like to talk

to • To do list – review prior to

observations • Incomplete items to do

the next day

ü Definition- the researcher’s active

consideration of his/her place in the


The researcher is “part & parcel of the

setting, context, and culture” (Altheide &

Johnson, 1994, p. 486)

The researcher is:

– an instrument of data collection

– analyzer & interpreter of data

– author of the final product

– unavoidably present & necessary in

the field.

6. Reflexive Thoughts

Guidelines for Writing Field Notes

• Limit interactions & observations to

3-hour blocks • Write field notes ASAP after each

interaction • 13 pages: 1 hour of observation

(Lofland & Lofland) • 1 hour of observation = 3-4 hours of

writing • Type written data every night

Guidelines for Writing Field Notes

• Keep notes organized • Create formal log of changes to

journal • Keep a master copy that isn’t touched • Edit duplicate copies only • Back up files daily on multiple drives • Store hard copies at another location • “What is not written in field notes

will be lost forever

Leaving the Field

• Lack of safety • Lack of time and/or

money • Not learning anything

new • Concern for relationships

formed must be primary • Discuss & plan leaving

with participants • Do what you said • Consider future contact

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