Field Note Anatomy

When the quality of your research hinges on what you see and hear, it’s important to have a reliable system for recording your notes. Here are a few tips to help keep things organized.

Make a Template
Create a note template specifically for your project with identification fields to establish location, time and participant information. A few details at the top will save you and your team time when reviewing notes later.

Define a Structure
You’ll want to use the majority of your space to document observations, capture lists and record quotes. It’s a good idea to record these items in consistent places across your interviews.

Use the Margins
Make use of the margins to capture an idea or interpretation when it sparks. Often times you’ll have a stronger connection to the concept later when it’s next to the observational notes that prompted it.

Practice helps, too, of course. Whatever techniques you choose to adopt, it’s most important to establish consistent routines that help you capture the right level of detail every time you are in the field.