Collecting and analysing qualitative data What are fieldnotes? C.G. Seligman in New Guinea, 1898
Fieldnotes as part of ethnography:
More than an information gathering exercise, but basis for generating theoretical insights
Actor (people) oriented perspective (emic)
In-depths understanding of social phenomena
Writing in the field
Writing fieldnotes: practical issues
When, where, how, what to write?
To write or not to write?
First step: jottings (mnemonic devices)
Establish role as ‘note-taker’
The Paradox of Participant Observation Joan Larcom while on her fieldwork in Vanuatu (Pacific)
The Paradox of Participant Observation
The ethnographer Joan Larcom while on her fieldwork in Vanuatu (Pacific)
What this photo might show: the moment of distraction, when the ethnographer turns away from the social interaction she participates in in order to take not, jots down a few words, it seems, to fix and observation or to be able to recall it later. Larcom seems preoccupied with her notes, people surrounding her do not seem to pay much attention to her.
How to write fieldnotes
Are produced incrementally on a day-to-day basis
No sustained logic or underlying principle: changing form and style
Audience: mostly the researcher herself
Next step: typing up
Different strategies and styles
Tips for initial writing: don’t focus on particular words and sentences, on grammar and spelling, but on the events and people who you observed
Recalling in order to write
Multiple voices and point of view
Fieldnotes and analytic writing
Fieldnotes: mainly descriptive, but include various forms of analytic comments
Move from writing mode to reading mode (Emerson et al. 1995)
First step in the process from event to account: entails selection and framing
Proximity and distance
Inscribing, translating? Writing down or writing up (cf. Clifford 1990)?
The Power of Inscription C.G. Seligman, Malinowski’s teacher, in New Guinea, 1898
The Power of Inscription
“ the natives” gathering around him, armchair anthropology, his authority,
C.G. Seligman, Malinowski’s teacher, in New Guinea, 1898
Both photos from Georg Stocking’s Observers observed
Seated at a table surrounded by half a dozen Melanesian men
Note here “the natives” gathering around him, armchair anthropology, his authority, “inscribing”?