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  1. #1
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    Formatting Observational Field Notes

    Good day!
    I am doing ethnography and using Atlas.ti to analyse my data - for both interviews and observations.
    Now I am wondering how I should format my field notes (observations/comments/reflections) to make sense when I code the data.
    But more importantly for when I export it on CD for the examiners.
    Is there a recommended format (style/paragraph indents/spaces/etc.) for field notes?
    Or can I just work with what/how I typed up in the field.

    I look forward to some advice.

    Thank you!
    Marenet
    Stellenbosch University
    South Africa

  2. #2
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    Dear Marenet,

    there are a few considerations regarding technical possibilities and analysis options. Regarding your field notes you need to think about how many documents based on which criteria you want to prepare. Filed notes per month? per region? etc. Separate it by observations, reflection, comments? Or keep observations and reflections together in one document. You are less flexible in terms of analysis if you import just one very long document for your field notes.

    When you transcribe your interviews, separate each speaker by one empty line. In case you do want to use auto coding at some point, this will facilitate to code only within speaker units.

    If a respondents talks for a long time, break this longer speech into paragraphs. The reference to coded segments are by paragraph - and if your paragraphs are very long, the reference will not be very precise (for reporting purposes). This also applies to your field notes.

    Work with real paragraph (this means hitting the Enter key). Do not use spacing to visually create space between different sections in your text. This is not something ATLAS.ti can pick up on.

    Regarding the preparation of your documents, in what units to divide them, take a look at this video. It shows the implications of what you can and can't do in terms of analysis depending on how you have set up your project. The video is based on version 7, but applies across all version.


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpk5...53OKd&index=13

    kind regards,

    Susanne
    Dr. Susanne Friese
    Qualitative Research & Consulting
    http://www.quarc.de

  3. #3
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    Thank you very much for your feedback, Dr Friese.

    My interviews are all separate documents and formatted according to the guidelines in your book (Version 7).
    But at the moment my field notes are divided for each of the research sites (one week per document). It contains the observations, comments and reflections together, since they are often closely related, i.e. the reflection is a response on the observation.
    But I will watch the video and see how it guides me further.
    I appreciate your help.

    Kind regards,
    Marenet

  4. #4
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    Dear Marenet,

    if you want to differentiate between observation, comments, reflection, you can have three codes of it_

    #comments
    #reflection
    #observation

    then you code each section according to what it is and code within the section (or the same section) what it is all about. This will allow you to retrieve themes by type (i.e. comment, reflection, observation) using the COOCCUR operator.

    e.g. theme x, but only in my observations

    if you use version 7, this would be the following query in the query tool

    theme X
    #oberservation
    COOCCUR

    or you can create a code-coccurence table where you add all Type codes in the columns and all theme codes in the rows. This allows you to quickly see which theme occurs in either observation / comment / or reflection (or maybe also in more than one).

    kind regards,

    Susanne
    Dr. Susanne Friese
    Qualitative Research & Consulting
    http://www.quarc.de

  5. #5
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    Thank you, again, Dr Friese, for your wonderful advice.
    This is going to help so much!

    Have a good weekend.
    Regards,
    Marenet

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