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Taking notes

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Taking notes

  1. 1. Collecting and analysing qualitative data What are fieldnotes? C.G. Seligman in New Guinea, 1898
  2. 2. Fieldnotes as part of ethnography: <ul><li>More than an information gathering exercise, but basis for generating theoretical insights </li></ul><ul><li>Actor (people) oriented perspective (emic) </li></ul><ul><li>In-depths understanding of social phenomena </li></ul>
  3. 3. Writing in the field <ul><li>Fieldnotes </li></ul><ul><li>(Headnotes) </li></ul><ul><li>Diary </li></ul>
  4. 4. Writing fieldnotes: practical issues <ul><li>When, where, how, what to write? </li></ul><ul><li>To write or not to write? </li></ul><ul><li>First step: jottings (mnemonic devices) </li></ul><ul><li>Establish role as ‘note-taker’ </li></ul>
  5. 5. The Paradox of Participant Observation Joan Larcom while on her fieldwork in Vanuatu (Pacific)
  6. 6. The Paradox of Participant Observation <ul><li>The ethnographer Joan Larcom while on her fieldwork in Vanuatu (Pacific) </li></ul><ul><li>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. </li></ul>
  7. 7. How to write fieldnotes <ul><li>Are produced incrementally on a day-to-day basis </li></ul><ul><li>No sustained logic or underlying principle: changing form and style </li></ul><ul><li>Audience: mostly the researcher herself </li></ul><ul><li>Next step: typing up </li></ul>
  8. 8. Different strategies and styles <ul><li>Fieldworker’s stance </li></ul><ul><li>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 </li></ul><ul><li>Recalling in order to write </li></ul><ul><li>Multiple voices and point of view </li></ul>
  9. 9. Fieldnotes and analytic writing <ul><li>Fieldnotes: mainly descriptive, but include various forms of analytic comments </li></ul><ul><li>Move from writing mode to reading mode (Emerson et al. 1995) </li></ul>
  10. 10. Epistemological issues <ul><li>First step in the process from event to account: entails selection and framing </li></ul><ul><li>Proximity and distance </li></ul><ul><li>Inscribing, translating? Writing down or writing up (cf. Clifford 1990)? </li></ul>
  11. 11. The Power of Inscription C.G. Seligman, Malinowski’s teacher, in New Guinea, 1898
  12. 12. The Power of Inscription <ul><li>“ the natives” gathering around him, armchair anthropology, his authority, </li></ul><ul><li>C.G. Seligman, Malinowski’s teacher, in New Guinea, 1898 </li></ul><ul><li>Both photos from Georg Stocking’s Observers observed </li></ul><ul><li>Seated at a table surrounded by half a dozen Melanesian men </li></ul><ul><li>Note here “the natives” gathering around him, armchair anthropology, his authority, “inscribing”? </li></ul>
  13. 13. <ul><li>A ‘pure’ emic perspective? </li></ul><ul><li>Ethnography as dialogue? </li></ul>

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