5. The researcher in the field (b) Fieldnotes

Fieldnotes are an important supplement to your primary raw data, such as interview recordings.

Fieldnotes help you to record your observations and thoughts while you are in the field.

You need to take extensive fieldnotes every day and you should plan to type them up every night. Record both what you can see and make sense of as well as what puzzles and upsets you: both of these will inform your eventual analysis. You will use your fieldnotes primarily to help you remember details of a situation that you wish to describe, reflect on, or analyse. Fieldnotes can also indicate how your thoughts have changed over time. These notes will help you build detailed observations from the ground up.

There is more than one kind of note in the field, including:

  • Mental notes, or head notes: things that you keep in your head to write down later
  • Jotted notes: phrases, quotes, key words, etc. that will be a guide that you will fill in later
  • Full field notes: detailed notes, that will still need to be tidied up, with details to be filled in and expanded upon later.

Next, let us examine how fieldwork is conducted when using the method of in-depth interviews.


Peake, L. 2018. Presentation at the ‘Workshop in Urban Feminist Research: Ethnographic Research Tools’, Ramallah, Palestine, July 2018.