Time in the field with participants is precious (in both the “rare” and “expensive” interpretations of the word). So it makes good sense to put some structure into how you record and structure information. Here are a few note-taking tips worth considering:
Identify the Big Buckets
A good group planning conversation can ensure that research teams have a shared idea of what to focus on when in the field. It’s important to understand the broad areas that need to be covered in the interviews, so developing a framework to help organize thoughts and observations is key.
Build a Custom Notebook
Creating a customized field notebook specific to your research and field environment helps provide consistency across the research team. In addition to giving some structure for the field interactions, this format is also useful in providing uniformity among team notes and makes sharing observations easier in debriefs and analysis sessions.
Review and Rework
Taking notes is really just the first step. After a session in the field, it is helpful to go back through your notes, expanding the short scribbles into fuller content and highlighting recurring themes and patterns. This is also a good time to link the content to pictures or videos you collected while in the field.
See our post on the Anatomy of a Field Note here.