SAGE Journal Articles
SAGE journal articles and other additional readings have been carefully selected by the author to accompany each chapter. Click on the following links. Please note these will open in a new window.
Click to download all excerpts from Anthony Kwame Harrison’s field notes and reflections.
Field notes are widely recommended in qualitative research as a means of documenting needed contextual information. With growing use of data sharing, secondary analysis, and metasynthesis, field notes ensure rich context persists beyond the original research team. However, although widely regarded as essential, there is not a guide to field note collection within the literature to guide researchers. Using the qualitative literature and previous research experience, we provide a concise guide to collection, incorporation, and dissemination of field notes. We provide a description of field note content for contextualization of an entire study as well as individual interviews and focus groups. In addition, we provide two “sketch note” guides, one for study context and one for individual interviews or focus groups for use in the field. Our guides are congruent with many qualitative and mixed methodologies and ensure contextual information is collected, stored, and disseminated as an essential component of ethical, rigorous qualitative research.
Taking field notes (or otherwise documenting observation) is at the very core of ethnographic research. However, relatively speaking, this task has hardly been covered in the research methods literature. With this as a point of departure, this article draws on an analysis of 247 short field notes taken in various situations by student observers. It aims to explore the immediate act of taking field notes while doing observation. By inductive analysis, 10 different ‘modes’ of observation are drawn from the field notes. This analysis demonstrates on one hand that fresh observers are capable of quickly grasping important aspects of observed interaction and on the other hand that principles of field note taking and researcher positioning need to be addressed further.
Fieldnotes are a vital part of ethnographic research, yet little attention has been paid to the practical details of note-taking. Exactly how does an ethnographer decide what to write about? This article uses fieldnotes from various sources to show that, irrespective of any formal strategies for note-taking, researchers’ tacit knowledge and expectations often play a major role in determining which observations are worthy of annotation. A greater understanding of these dynamics could complement existing trends in reflexive ethnography by increasing insight into the note-taking process.