Bogdan, Robert C. and Biklen, Sari Knopp (1982). Qualitative Research for Education, Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Spradley, James P., (1980). Participant Observation, Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

Questions for Consideration

  1. What are the purposes of field notes?
  2. What should be included in field notes?
  3. How can you learn to take detailed field notes, especially while continuing your practices as an educator?
  4. Why is it so important to use detailed and specific language rather than summaries in your own words of what you see and hear?
  5. What are the differences between descriptive and reflective field notes? Why are both types of field notes needed?
  6. What are the different types of descriptive field notes? What do you think about using them?
  7. What are the different types of reflective field notes? What do you think about using them?
  8. What types of field notes have you already begun taking?
  9. Now that you have explored the notion of recording more specifically, how do field notes complement the other activities in the holomovement view of the qualitative process outlined in Chapter One?

Suggested Activities

  1. If you haven't already, set up a field notes book (on paper or in a computer file) in which to keep descriptive and reflective field notes.
  2. After your first day of writing field notes, expand them. Read through them. Find an example of vivid description in which you used specific, concrete language. Can you also find an example of a vague, general description? What can you do next time to avoid the latter?
  3. Find a condensed account of a conversation you heard during your study. Write an expanded version, trying to recreate that conversation in full. Compare the two versions. Do you have any reflective notes to add to the descriptive account (personal reactions, biases, analysis ideas, methodological ideas for following up on the conversation to get more information)?
  4. Try to label the types of notes you made. What coding system is evolving for you? Does it include all the kinds of notes described in this chapter? If it is different, why are you using your system? Justify it.
  5. What questions did this chapter raise for you? List these in your field notes (the audit trail section if you have one designated would be ideal).

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