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 home >> educational resources >> getting started >> publications >> maritime folklife >> part 2

Documenting Maritime Folklife: An Introductory Guide

Part 2: How to Document

How to document:


Every researcher should maintain a field notebook. Fieldnotes are a record of the researcher's activities in the field and should be written up before the end of every day. They should include such things as general observations about the progress of fieldwork, impressions of persons who have been interviewed, summaries of conversations, descriptions of settings, and drawings and diagrams of buildings and other artifacts. They should also include information such as lighting conditions during photography and sources of extraneous sounds picked up by a tape recorder that is useful for the interpretation of project documents.1 Maintaining a field notebook or fieldnote files in a portable computer are excellent ways of preserving small bits of data which, although they may seem insignificant at the time of entry, will take on importance after fieldwork is completed. At the very least, fieldnotes provide a useful chronology of the fieldworker's activities. At best, they are the intellectual core of a project's documentation, preserving the observations and ruminations of the fieldworker as the project unfolds.


1. In keeping with earlier remarks about research ethics, fieldworkers should ensure the confidentiality of fieldnotes that relate to highly sensitive information provided by informants, and notes which contain the fieldworker's candid observations about individuals in the study area. One technique is to record confidential information in a log separate from the main fieldnotes.


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   May 15, 2015
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