WRITING ETHNOGRAPHIC FIELDNOTES PDF

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data. Emerson, Robert M. Writing ethnographic fieldnotes / Robert M. Emerson, Rachel I. Fretz, Linda L. Shaw. Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes – Robert M. Emerson Ethnographic field research involves the study of groups and people as they go about their everyday . participant observation and in how they go about representing in written form what and present processes of writing and analyzing ethnographic fieldnotes in.


Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes Pdf

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The Process of Writing Up Reflections: "Writing” and “Reading" Modes Emerson, Robert M. Writing ethnographic fieldnotes / Robert M. Emerson, Rachel . Request PDF on ResearchGate | Writing Ethnographic Field Notes | In this companion volume John van Maanen's Tales of the Field, three scholars reveal how. Writing ethnographic fieldnotes, by Emerson, Robert, Rachel Fretz and Linda Shaw. NOURA KAMAL. Institute for Social Anthropology, Austrian.

Further reduction occurs with the representation of a recorded slice of ernbodied discourse as sequential lines of text in a "transcript. A tran- script thus selects particular dirnensions and contents of discourse for in- clusion while ignoring others, for example, nonverbal cues to local rnean- ings such as eye gaze, gesture, and posture.

Researchers studying oral performances spend considerable eff ort in developing a notational systern to docurnent the verbal and at least sorne of the nonverbal communica- 1on; the quality of the transcribed "folklore text" is critica!

Emerson, Capítulo 1 “Writing Ethnographic fieldnotes...”.pdf

Fieldwork and ultimately the fieldnote are predicated on a view of social life as continuously created through people's efforts to find and confer meaning on their own and others' actions. Within this perspective, the interview and the recording have their uses. To the extent that participants are willing and able to describe these features of social life, an interview may prove a valuable tool.

Similarly, a video recording provides a valuable record of words actually uttered and gestures actually made. But the ethos of fieldwork holds that in order to fully understand and appreciate action from the perspective of participants, one must get close to and participate in a wide cross-section of their everyday activities over an extended period of time.

Ethnography, as Van Maanen ix insists, is "the peculiar practice of representing the social reality of others through the analysis of one's own experience in the world of these oth- ers. Thus fieldnotes inscribe the sometimes inchoate under- standings and insights the fieldworker acquires by intimately immersing herself in another world, by observing in the midst of mundane activities and jarring crises, by directly running up against the contingencies and constraints of the everyday life of another people.

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Indeed, it is exactly this deep immersion-and the sense of place that such immersion assumes an strengthens-that enables the ethnographer to inscribe the detailed, rontext semitivc, and locally informed ficldnotes that Geertz terms "thck description. Fieldnotes grow through gradual accretion, adding one day's writing to the next's. The ethnographer writes particular fieldnotes in ways that are not pre-determined or pre- specified; hence ficldnotes are not collections or samplcs in the way that audio re cordings can be, i.

Rather it is both intuitive, reflecting the eth- rapher's changing sense of what might possibly be made interesting or 11nportant to future readers, and empathetic, reflecting the ethnographer's 11 nse of what is interesting or important to the people he is observing.

Inseparability of "Methods" and "Findings" Modes of participating in and finding out about the daily lives of others make up key parts of ethnographic methods. These "methods" determine what the field researcher sees, experiences, and learns. But if substance "data," "findings;' "facts" are products of the methods used, substance cannot be considered independently of method; what the ethnographer finds out is inherently connected with how she finds it out.

As a result, these methods should not be ignored. Rather, they should comprise an important part of written fieldnotes.

It thus becomes critica! In this way the thn grapher's own actions, including his "personal" feelings and re- tions, are viewed as independent of and unrelated to the events and happenings involvtng others that constitute "findings" or "observations" when written down in fieldnotes.

Second, this separation assumes that "subjective" reactions and perceptions can and should be controlled by being segregated from "objective;' impersonal records.

And finally, such control is thought to be essential because personal and emotional experi- ences are devalued, comprising "contaminants" of objective data rather than avenues of insight into significant processes in the setting.

Linking method and substance in fieldnotes has a number of advan- tages: it encourages recognizing "findings" not as absolute and invari- ant but as contingent u pon the circumstances of their "discovery" by the ethnographer.

Moreover, the ethnographer is prevented, or at least dis- couraged, from too readily takinKone person's version ofwhat happened or what is important as the "complete" or "correct" version of these mat- ters.

Rather, "what happened" is one account, made by a particular per- son to a specific other at a particular time and place for particular put.

Writing Ethnographic Field Notes.pdf - Fieldnotes in...

In all these ways, linking method and substance builds sensitivity to the multiple, situational realities of those studied into the core of fieldwork practice. The Pursuit of Indigenous Meanings In contrast to styles of field research which focus on others' behavior without systematic regard for what such behavior means to those engaged in it, we see ethnography as committed to uncovering and depicting in- digenous meanings.

The object of participation is ultimately to get close to those studied as a way of understanding what their experiences and activities mean to them. To do so, they must learn to recognize and limit reliance upon preconceptions about members' lives and activi- ties.

They must become responsive to what others are concemed about, in their own terms. Thus, fieldnotes are written accounts that filter members' experi- ences and concems through the person and perspeccives of the ethnogra- pher; fieldnotes provide the ethnographer's, not the members', accounts of the latter's experiences, meanings, and concems. It might initially appear that forms of ethnography concemed with "polyvocality" Clifford and Marcus , or oral histories and femi- nist ethnographies Stacey which seek to let members "speak in their own voices," can avoid researcher mediation in its entirety.

But even in these instances, researchers continue to select what to observe, to pose questions, or to frame the nature and purpose of the interview more gen- erally, in ways which cannot avoid mediating effects see Milis Writing Fieldnotes Contemporaneously In contrast to views holding that fieldnotes are crutches at best and blind- ers at worst, we see fieldnotes as providing the primary means for deeper appreciation of how field researchers come to grasp and interpret the actions and concems of others.

In this respect, fieldnotes offer subtle and complex understandings of these others' lives, routines, and meanings. As argued earlier, the field researcher comes to understand others' ways by becoming part of their lives and by learning to interpret and experience events much as they do. It is critica! Long-term participacion dissolves the inicial percepcions that arise in adapting to and discovering what is significant to others; it blunts early sensitivities to subtle pattems and underlying ten- sions.

F1eld- note-; providc a cli'itinctive remurce for preserving experience closc to the moment of occurrence and, hence, for deepening reflecuon upon and understanding of those experiences. Similar considerationc; hold when examining the ethnographer's "findings" about those studied and their routine activities.

In immediately written fieldnotes, dis- tin tive qualities and features are sharply drawn and will elicit vivid mem- rie and images when the ethnographer rereads notes for coding and amlysis. Furthermore, the distinctive and unique features of such field- notes, brought forward into the final analysis, create texture and variation, a-voiding the flatness that comes from generality.

The Importance of Interactional Detail f ield researchers seek to get close to others in order to understand their vvays of life. To preserve and convey that closeness, they must describe situations and events of interest in detail. Of course, there can never be a. Nonetheless, most ethnographers attend to observed events in an intimate or "rnicroscopic" manner Geertz 23 and in writing fieldnotes seek to recount "what happened" in fine detail.

Beyond this general "rnicroscopic" commitment, however, our spe- cifl.

First, interactional detail helps one become setisitive to, trace, and analyze the interconnections between methods and substance. Since the fieldworker discovers things about others by inter- acting with them, it is important to observe and minutely record the se- quences and conditions marking such interactions.

Second, in preserving the details of interaction, the researcher is better able to identify and fol- lm. Attrnding to thc dctai ls of interaction cnhanccs t he possi bilities tor the researcher to see beyond fi xed, static to grasp the active " cloing" of social life. Its activity incorporates dual im- pulses. On the one hand, the ethnographer must make her way into new worlds and new relationships.

On the other hand, she must leam how to represent in written form what she has come to see and understand as the result of these experiences. It is easy to draw a sharp contrast between these activities, between doing fieldwork and writing fieldnotes.

Fieldnotes

After ali, while in the field, ethnog- raphers must frequently choose between "join ing conversations in unfa- miliar places" Lederman and withdrawing to sorne more private place to write about these conversations and witnessed events.

By locating "real ethnography" in the time spent talking with and listening to those studied, many ethnographers not only polarize but also discount writing notes as a central component of fieldwork. Writing accounts of what happened during face- to-face encounters with others in the field is very much part of the doing of ethnography; as Geertz emphasizes, "the ethnographer 'inscribes' social discourse; he writes it down" This process ofinscribing, of writ- ing fieldnotes, helps the field researcher to understand what he has been observing in the first place and, thus, enables him to participate in new ways, to hear with greater acuteness, and to observe with a new lens.

While ethnographers increasingly recognize the centrality of writing to their craft, they frequently differ on how to characterize that writing and its relation to ethnographic research.

Sorne anthropologists have crit- icized Geertz's notion of "inscription" as too mechanical and simplistic, as ignoring that the ethnographer writes not about a "passing event" but rather about "already formulated, fixed discourse or lore"; hence, inscrip- tion should more aptly be termed "transcription" Clifford Kk to J r;t Bo.

And sociologists, notably Richardson , describe the r f ethnographic writing as "narrating. Yet, each approach has implications for such conttmporaneous writing about events witnessed in the field. First translation entails reconfiguring one set of concepts and terms into another; that is, the ethnographer searches for comparable concepts and analogous tenns.

In a sense, while writing fieldnotes an ethnographer is always and translating into text what she sees, even when writing notes for hersel Of course, in composing the final ethnography, the writer not only translates con- cepts but also a whole way of life for a future audience who may not be familiar with the world she describes.

Second, narrating often aptly characterizes the process of writing a day's experiences into a fieldnote entry. However, not all life experiences are well represented as cohesive stories: a narrative could push open-ended or disjointed interactions into a coherent, interconnected sequence. Thus, while many fieldnotes tell about the day in a storytelling mode, recounting what happened in a chronological order, most entries lack any overall structure which ties the day's events into a story line with a point.

As a result, the storytelling of fieldnotes is generally fragmented and episodic. Finally, textualization clearly focuses on the broader transformation of experience into text, not only in final ethnographies, but especially so in writiilg fieldnotes. She was thurnbing through the Nacional Enquirer, and was clutching a coupon in her hand. She scanned a few pages of the paper, and then put it back in the rack.

He was lookmg at what w. He carne back over to his cart, but then a supermarket elllployee walked by,. The guy on line s. This is formula f cans of baby formulal That's poor peopl e's food. And see this [a copper pot scrubberj? They use that to smoke crack. The guy says, "I was just wondering. That's very indi tiv f this area. M anwhile the man with the bread has paid. Man with bread leaves, guy in front of me is being checked out now. He says to the cashier, "What's the matter, end of your shift?

No sense of humor left? Jacob complies, but shows no other sign tliat he's heard the man. Guy is waiting for transaction to be completed. He's sitting on the railing, and he is singing the words to the Muzak tune that's playing. Something by Peabo Bryson. Guy's transaction is done. He says thank you to the bagger, and the bagger tells him to have a good day. Cashier says, "How are you doing? In these notes the observer initially writes himself into a prominent role in the line, but then he moves hirnself offstage by spotlighting another character who says and does a nurnber of flamboyant things as he waits and then gets checked out.

This express line becornes a mini-community, first rnarked by ongoing exchanges between those in line, then drawing in a passing store ernployee, and culminating in interactions between this character and the checker and bagger. Writing fieldnote descriptions, then, is not so rnuch a rnatter of pas- sively copying down "facts" about "what happened.

As a result , similar even the "same" events can be described for different purposes, with diffcrcnt scns1tiv1ties and concerns.

In this respect, it is important to recognize that fieldnotes involve in- scriptions of social life and social discourse. Such mscript1ons inevitably reduce the welter and confusion of the social world to written words that can be reviewed, studied, and thought about time and time again. As Geertz has characterized this core ethnographic process: "The cthnographer 'inscribes' social discourse; he writes it down.

But more significantly, descriptive fieldnotes also inevitably present or frame objects in particular ways, "missing" other ways that events might have been presented or frarned. And these presentations reflect and incor- porate sensitivities, meanings, and understandings the field researcher has gleaned from having been close to and participated in the described events. There are other ways of reducing social discourse to written form.

Survey questionnaires, for example, record "responses" to pre-fixed questions, sornetirnes reducing these answers to numbers, sornetirnes pre- serving sornething of the respondents' own words. Audio and video recordings, which seemingly catch and preserve almost everything oc- curring within an interaction, actually capture but a slice of ongoing social life.

What is recorded in the first place depends upon when, where, and how the equiprnent is positioned and activated, what it can pick up me- chanically, and how those who are recorded react to its presence. Further reduction occurs with the representation of a recorded slice of ernbodied discourse as sequential lines of text in a "transcript. A tran- script thus selects particular dirnensions and contents of discourse for in- clusion while ignoring others, for example, nonverbal cues to local rnean- ings such as eye gaze, gesture, and posture.

Researchers studying oral performances spend considerable eff ort in developing a notational systern to docurnent the verbal and at least sorne of the nonverbal communica- 1on; the quality of the transcribed "folklore text" is critica!

Fieldwork and ultimately the fieldnote are predicated on a view of social life as continuously created through people's efforts to find and confer meaning on their own and others' actions. Within this perspective, the interview and the recording have their uses. To the extent that participants are willing and able to describe these features of social life, an interview may prove a valuable tool.

Similarly, a video recording provides a valuable record of words actually uttered and gestures actually made. But the ethos of fieldwork holds that in order to fully understand and appreciate action from the perspective of participants, one must get close to and participate in a wide cross-section of their everyday activities over an extended period of time. Ethnography, as Van Maanen ix insists, is "the peculiar practice of representing the social reality of others through the analysis of one's own experience in the world of these oth- ers.

Thus fieldnotes inscribe the sometimes inchoate under- standings and insights the fieldworker acquires by intimately immersing herself in another world, by observing in the midst of mundane activities and jarring crises, by directly running up against the contingencies and constraints of the everyday life of another people.

Indeed, it is exactly this deep immersion-and the sense of place that such immersion assumes an strengthens-that enables the ethnographer to inscribe the detailed, rontext semitivc, and locally informed ficldnotes that Geertz terms "thck description. Fieldnotes grow through gradual accretion, adding one day's writing to the next's. The ethnographer writes particular fieldnotes in ways that are not pre-determined or pre- specified; hence ficldnotes are not collections or samplcs in the way that audio re cordings can be, i.

Rather it is both intuitive, reflecting the eth- rapher's changing sense of what might possibly be made interesting or 11nportant to future readers, and empathetic, reflecting the ethnographer's 11 nse of what is interesting or important to the people he is observing.

Inseparability of "Methods" and "Findings" Modes of participating in and finding out about the daily lives of others make up key parts of ethnographic methods. These "methods" determine what the field researcher sees, experiences, and learns. But if substance "data," "findings;' "facts" are products of the methods used, substance cannot be considered independently of method; what the ethnographer finds out is inherently connected with how she finds it out.

As a result, these methods should not be ignored. Rather, they should comprise an important part of written fieldnotes. It thus becomes critica! In this way the thn grapher's own actions, including his "personal" feelings and re- tions, are viewed as independent of and unrelated to the events and happenings involvtng others that constitute "findings" or "observations" when written down in fieldnotes.

Second, this separation assumes that "subjective" reactions and perceptions can and should be controlled by being segregated from "objective;' impersonal records. And finally, such control is thought to be essential because personal and emotional experi- ences are devalued, comprising "contaminants" of objective data rather than avenues of insight into significant processes in the setting.

Linking method and substance in fieldnotes has a number of advan- tages: it encourages recognizing "findings" not as absolute and invari- ant but as contingent u pon the circumstances of their "discovery" by the ethnographer. Moreover, the ethnographer is prevented, or at least dis- couraged, from too readily takinKone person's version ofwhat happened or what is important as the "complete" or "correct" version of these mat- ters.

Rather, "what happened" is one account, made by a particular per- son to a specific other at a particular time and place for particular put. In all these ways, linking method and substance builds sensitivity to the multiple, situational realities of those studied into the core of fieldwork practice. The Pursuit of Indigenous Meanings In contrast to styles of field research which focus on others' behavior without systematic regard for what such behavior means to those engaged in it, we see ethnography as committed to uncovering and depicting in- digenous meanings.

The object of participation is ultimately to get close to those studied as a way of understanding what their experiences and activities mean to them. To do so, they must learn to recognize and limit reliance upon preconceptions about members' lives and activi- ties. They must become responsive to what others are concemed about, in their own terms. Thus, fieldnotes are written accounts that filter members' experi- ences and concems through the person and perspeccives of the ethnogra- pher; fieldnotes provide the ethnographer's, not the members', accounts of the latter's experiences, meanings, and concems.

It might initially appear that forms of ethnography concemed with "polyvocality" Clifford and Marcus , or oral histories and femi- nist ethnographies Stacey which seek to let members "speak in their own voices," can avoid researcher mediation in its entirety.

But even in these instances, researchers continue to select what to observe, to pose questions, or to frame the nature and purpose of the interview more gen- erally, in ways which cannot avoid mediating effects see Milis Writing Fieldnotes Contemporaneously In contrast to views holding that fieldnotes are crutches at best and blind- ers at worst, we see fieldnotes as providing the primary means for deeper appreciation of how field researchers come to grasp and interpret the actions and concems of others.

In this respect, fieldnotes offer subtle and complex understandings of these others' lives, routines, and meanings. As argued earlier, the field researcher comes to understand others' ways by becoming part of their lives and by learning to interpret and experience events much as they do. It is critica!But, second, the ethnographer writes down in regular, systematic ways what she observes and learns while participating in the daily rounds of the lives of others.

The guy says, "I was just wondering. Survey questionnaires, for example, record "responses" to pre-fixed questions, sornetirnes reducing these answers to numbers, sornetirnes pre- serving sornething of the respondents' own words.

By locating "real ethnography" in the time spent talking with and listening to those studied, many ethnographers not only polarize but also discount writing notes as a central component of fieldwork. A lot of people had made small downloads today. Wallerstein, N.

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