Doing sociolinguistic research relies on recording and observing how people use language differently in different situations and for different reasons. Fieldnotes can be extremely helpful in this regard if they are recorded properly and prepared carefully. All field notes generally consist of two parts:
Note that field notes should be fleshed out as soon as possible after an observation is completed. Your initial notes may be recorded in cryptic form and, unless additional detail is added as soon as possible after the observation, important facts and opportunities for fully interpreting the data may be lost.
Characteristics of Field Notes
General Guidelines for the Descriptive Content
The descriptive content of your notes can vary in detail depending upon what needs to be emphasized in order to address the research problem. However, in most observations, your notes should include at least some of the following elements:
General Guidelines for the Reflective Content
You are the instrument of data gathering and interpretation. Therefore, reflective content can include any of the following elements intended to contextualize what you have observed based on your perspective and your own personal, cultural, and situational experiences.
Emerson, Robert M. et al. Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes. 2nd ed. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2011; Ethnography, Observational Research, and Narrative Inquiry
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