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Dictionary

FIELD NOTES

Richard Thorpe

Field notes are contemporaneous notes of observations or conversation taken during the conduct of qualitative research. Depending on the circumstances, the notes taken can be full (e.g. verbatim transcripts of conversations taken by hand or recorded by a tape recorder) or brief notations that can be elaborated on later. Bryman and Bell (2003) identify three classifications of field notes based on suggestions by Lofland and Lofland (1995) and Sanjek (1990). These are: mental notes when it may be inappropriate to take notes; jotted or scratch notes, taken at the time of observation [non-participant observation; participant observation] or discussion and consisting of highlights that can be remembered for later development; and full field notes written up as promptly and as fully as possible. Keeping good systematic field notes is an essential part of undertaking qualitative research as observations and interviews are only useful to the extent that they can be remembered ...

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