Bailey ch 8 (Duncan)

Bailey Chapter 8: Field Notes and Leaving the Field

Field Notes Overview (p. 113):

  • Like keeping a journal/diary that is “teeming with detailed descriptions, paraphrased quotations, self-reflections, and profound thoughts.”
  • You must keep entries organized and type them out every night.
  • “If you are not writing field notes, then you are not conducting field research.”
  • Field notes “serve as repository for the important and no-so-important data of field research.”
  • Act of writing is “creating data.”  Methodological decisions made while writing
  • Common to feel uncertain if doing it “right.”
  • Better field notes, better final project
  • Trust process and keep writing


  • Any small tablet, notebook.
  • Journal should be a field researcher’s constant companion.
  • “In a pinch….anything will do”

Note Taking pg 114

  • Not necessary to hide, but don’t make a big production
  • To keep flow of interview, scribble quick and add more details at inconspicuous moments
  • Fine line as some subjects expect note taking or feel you are not listening/paying attention.
    • Researcher must sense whether subjects are expecting more note taking or listening.
    • Lofland and Lofland (1984)
      • Fuller jottings – writing as much as possible (as in a college class)
      • Mental notes – remembering as much as possible (does not result in level of detail in written notes)
      • Jotted notes – writing key words (must be quickly followed up with full descriptions or usefulness diminishes)

Full Field Notes (per Lofland and Lofland 1984) pg 115

  • Detailed descriptions – of observations and interactions in the field.
    • Descriptions kept in a chronological log – with exact or approximate times
    • Concrete, with tangible details
    • Focus on “raw behavior” – do not explain “why” or make guesses.
    • Be sure to specify that any “feelings” written down are interpretation of observation
    • Detailed accounts of conversations and informal interviews
    • Maintain a system to differentiate notes from verbatim quotes, close paraphrases and general recall
      • Use systems such as double quotes around verbatim, single around paraphrasing, no quotations when captured “gist”
  • Words play an important part in understanding the setting
  • Thin Notes – lack detail
  • Rich Notes – detailed
  • Things previously forgotten, now remembered – may be placed in “day recalled” or “day of event.”
  • Analytic ideas and inferences – write ideas of social meanings, inferences, interpretations of interactions, patterns.  Put all ideas, good bad, uncertain into field notes.  More analysis makes project easier to complete
  • Personal feelings – write personal feelings, people you liked and didn’t, did interaction go well or not? Emotional reactions to people and events affect them and shape interpretation.  Will help with analyzation of data but be sure to label as “personal opinions.”
  • Things to think about and do – start journal each day with “to do list” of people to speak with, missing details to gather, questions to ask.
  • Reflexive Thoughts – overlaps other categories.  Active consideration of his or her place in the research.  Observer is “always unavoidably present and necessary in field research”

Guidelines for writing Field Notes pg 120

  • Limit interactions and observations to three hour blocks
  • Write ASAP after observation
  • Do not conduct two or more observations before writing the first
  • Number of pages of field notes per observation varies.  Suggestion of 13pgs per hour observation
  • Should take as long to write out observation as it did to observe…probably twice as long
  • Always type notes from journal
  • Keep notes organized
  • Do Not trust memory
  • Backup computer files
  • Do not put off completing the field notes

Leaving the Field pg 121

  • While class assignments last days, most field research requires months or years in the field
  • Reasons to leave the field
    • Safety: physical, psychological
    • Participants no longer want you there
    • Lack of money or time
    • Not learning anything new (saturation point).  Evidenced by “things to do” portion of notes grows smaller and smaller
    • Fewer and fewer analytic insights
    • Concern for relationships.
      • Discuss plan to exit with participants and be sure you have done “all you said you would.”

METRO High School: An Emerging STEM Community [Eugene]

Basically, the approach was an anthropological in nature. The research team focused on key informant open-ended interviews, written survey questionnaires, observations, guided discussions, interviews and demographic mapping. In the methodology included a multidisciplinary group of social science researchers and experts in education. The field base research approach was qualitative inquiry, utilized triangulation and iterative data analysis methods.

See the entire document here:

Lancy Chapter 7 highlights (Eugene)

Lancy Chapter 7 highlights (Eugene)

The first main point is that there is no one size fits all, no prescription, pre determined path or one way to do qualitative research. Each project is unique and the flow chart that is provided merely points you in the right direction and indicates where decisions may have to be made.

Lancy believes that if you are not willing to engage in a long arduous journey in your research topic, that will include mistakes, at least one major mis-step, and most importantly a lot of uncertainty.

Basically, qualitative research is more difficult than quantitative research in Lancy’s opinion. It requires that a person can write well, can live with a fluid project, want a project that is hundreds of pages and you must be able to write in narrative form. It also means hundreds of pages of notes, field notes, transcripts and much more.

His steps are what we are going to discuss:

1.  Finding a problem in the setting.

2.  Finding a setting for the problem.

3.  The Review of Literature

4.  The preliminary proposal

5.  Entering the field – you must find a way to illustrate the value of your work to people, stakeholders, subjects and people you will be bothering or affecting during your field work activities. They must feel like it is important or your investigators, participants, etc. may not see enough value to be involved.

6.  Data Collection – it is important to do norming, deciding when to take notes, video tape or record audio will all affect that outcome of your data in many different ways. Another important step is to decide when we have enough data. You will always find yourselves constantly referring back to your question in an effort to maintain the proper course.

7.  Refocusing the study

8.  Data Analysis

9.  Structuring the report – use major themes as points of division, use colleagues to get opinions from on your first draft and don’t get into “tug of wars.”

Morgan, D.L. (1997). Focus groups as qualitative research. (Jazmine,Noemi, Brandon

Morgan, D.L. (1997). Focus groups as qualitative research. California: Sage Publications.

Focus Groups as Qualitative Research: Second Edition

 Focus Groups as a Qualitative Method

•Qualitative Research
       •Participant Observation
        •Focus Groups
        •Open-Ended Interviews

Focus Groups versus Participant Observation

Main Advantage: Focus groups give the researcher the ability to observe a large amount of interaction on a topic in a limited period of time.

Main Disadvantage: Focus groups do not give the interviewer the same amount of control as individual interviews do. Additionally, focus groups limit the amount of information that each informant has time to share.

Focus Groups versus Individual Interviews

Main Advantage: Focus groups give the researcher the ability to observe interaction on a topic. Additionally, focus groups make it easier to conduct less structured interviews which are especially useful for exploratory research.

Main Disadvantage: The degree of naturalism is lower in focus groups as compared to participant observation (e.g. unnatural social settings).

The Uses of Focus Groups

Use of Focus Groups

Feature(s) and Benefit(s)

Self-Contained Focus Groups p. 18

Research results stand on their own

Linking Focus Groups and Individual Interviewing p. 22

May contribute to future methodology (e.g. unstructured focus group can inform later structured interviews; May assist with learning about the differences among potential interviewees; One method can be conducted as a follow-up to the other)

Linking Focus Groups and Participant Observations

p. 23

May provide concentrated insight into participants’ thinking on a given topic; May assist with the selection of a site for participant observation; May contribute to theoretical sampling

Linking Focus Groups and Surveys p. 25

May provide an a means to construct future surveys/questionnaires; focus group participants can the sources of the original item pool; focus groups may capture all the domains that need to be measured in survey; focus groups may determine the dimensions that make up each of these domains; focus groups may provide insight into appropriate item language; focus groups may of value in preliminary work by generating hypotheses

Linking Focus Groups and Experiments p. 28

Focus groups may help to define “manipulations” of independent variables in an experimental context; embraced in the experimental research of intervention programs; focus groups can be used to design media campaigns; useful in the selection of appropriate outcome measures; focus groups can “put a human face” on quantitative research

Saldana: Introduction to Codes and Coding p. 1-15 (Allison)

Codes are ways to discover, identify and label repeated evidence collected from qualitative data: surveys, interviews, observations, focus groups, etc.

Saldana states, “The is no ‘best’ way to code…” and advocates a Pragmatist Paradigm of the “right tool for the right job” (Saldana, 2008 p. 2).

29 Coding methods: a few examples (states rarely are all used, even throughout a career).

Descriptive Code: summarizes the primary topic of an excerpt.

In Vivo Code: taken directly from the participant and is indicated by quotes.

Initial Coding: an open-ended process, where first impressions are recorded

Process Code: a word or phrase that captures action

Simultaneous Coding: two or more codes within a single datum


First Cycle: the first pass when reviewing data, a single word or phrase can be used

Second Cycle: revisit the passages and edit, reword, or regroup

Decoding: decipher the core meaning(s) from a passage

Encoding: labeling the passage

Recognizing patterns:

Patterns: have various forms







Filters: how one perceives, documents and codes the data

Codifying & Categorizing: creating a systematic arrangement, even if one category might be labeled “differences”

Recoding and recategorizing: Repeat first and second cycle, are they any changes? Codes, themes, groups and categories may change

Toward Theory

As the categories, subcategories and concepts become evident, they can begin to be related to theory. Layer upon layer can be found and built upon each other.

Code vs Theme: A theme is an outcome of a coding, categorizing, and analytic reflection.

What to code? Depends…

Life happens at four coordinates: participants, activities, time, and place


Units of social organization

  1. Cultural practices
  2. Episodes
  3. Encounters
  4. Roles
  5. Social and personal relationships
  6. Groups and Cliques
  7. Organizations
  8. Settlements and habitats
  9. Subcultures and lifestyles

Questions to consider:

  1. What coding method(s) is appropriate for your study?
  2. What method(s) have you used so far?
  3. What kinds of questions to ask that do not narrow the answer of the participant?
  4.  What is involved in the First cycle and when does one begin the Second Cycle?
  5. What is the rationale for recoding and recategorizing?
  6. How does the researcher find the emergent themes and connect them to a theory?