Field Notes Assignment, Research Methods


This assignment will give you minimal first hand experience in field research. Conduct 3 hours of field observation. Observe on 3 different days with each observation period at least 45 minutes long. A key to success is to think about the site you select, put effort and involvement into observation, take detailed and in-depth notes, and seriously reflect about the experience.


PART I: Read Chapter 13 in your text.


PART II: Locate a setting and gain access. Write a 1-2 paragraph explanation of why the site was chosen, whether the first site was selected, and if not why. Also discuss any access problems encountered. Characteristics of a good site for observation include:

       it has 1-2 small to moderate sized rooms

       it has 5-25 people

       there are few college students there

       it is a new and unknown place, you should feel a little uncomfortable

       people at the site talk to each other and have interacted with each other in the past.


Better settings are:

Small churches Court Rooms

Health Clubs Bowling Alleys

Small local bars or restaurants work settings

barber/beauty shops small banks


Worse settings are:

large supermarkets shopping malls

large waiting areas almost any place on a college campus


Describe the setting in 1-2 pages. Be explicit and describe the color, size, appearance, odors, sounds, etc

PART III: Conduct field observation and apply techniques described in the textbook. Observe very closely, and take only very few jotted notes in the field, write up extensive field notes shortly after leaving the field. Separate the field notes into three sections:

1) Direct Observation

2) Interpretation

3) Analytic notes/personal journal


Always include the date, time and name of the observer at the top of each page of field notes and attached the jotted notes to the field notes they correspond to.

PART IV: Conduct a short (10 minute) unstructured interview with an informant.




       Be specific. Do not say, Most people wore blue jeans. Instead say, I saw five people in blue jeans, and two people whose pants I could not see


       Be clear. Do not say, It was intense or nice. Describe what you actually saw/heard in precise terms.

       Do not make unfounded assumptions. For example, do not say a group of 10 college students arrived together, say a group of 10 people who were 18-22 years old arrived together at about 10:15. Only call individuals college students if you have specific information suggesting that, and then specify what it is (she is in my history class).


       Be explicit. Assume you are writing for a reader who knows nothing about the social or physical setting.