top of page
  • 作家相片Ziying Ye

A Vocabulary for Fieldnotes - Roger Sanjeck



FIELDNOTES – The Making of Anthropology

Roger Sanjek

A Vocabulary for Fieldnotes


“My own published work shows, that I let this kind of work take precedence over pratically everything else, knowing it is the foundation of all future researches. Without it… deeper studies… will be all but impossible. Besides this we must furnish... the indispendable material for future linguistic studies.” [Stocking 1974: 112-23]

What's the rule of furnishing recorded texts into displaced and created text? How can one eliminate the possibility of purposely position the informant into local society, while futher studies all depend on those text?


“Letters written and recieved in the field have a very special significance. Immersing oneself in life in the field is good, but one must be careful not to drown… Letters can be a way of occasionally righting the balance as, for an hour or two, one relates oneself to people who are part of one’s other world and tries to make a little more real for them this world witch absorbs one, waking and sleeping” (Mead 1977:7)


The quote above gives me a new vision of letters. It could be an informal description of fieldnotes with personal account. It may not as cathartical as a personal diary when one write to his or her family and friends, but it's a communication rather than a soliloquy. Having a conversation occasionally with people outside field is important. Letters written and recieved can be kept as part of the fieldnotes, an immutable record from past observation and feeling which helps one to recall and re-create.


1. What are fieldnotes?

  1. Immutable records from past observation.

  2. Stimulate re-creation, renewal of things past.

  3. Different interpretations from audiences.

  4. Interact with the Ethnographer’s headnotes

  5. Physically – a variety of objects (papers, photos, notes on readings, letters… even ethnographer self).

*Ethnographer- the study of human culture group.

- Identify materials in the field into written documents.

*Headnotes - Always evolve and change over time. (Memories)

2. The field of Writing

  1. Lederman: “need not involve any traveling” to be “in the field”, but “simply involves a shifting of attention and of sociable connection within one’s own habitual milieus.” P95

3. Scratch Notes

  1. “First step from field perception to paper” p95

  2. “Sometimes produced in the view of informants”, “out of sight”

  3. “Mnemonic word or phrase jot down to fix an observation or to recall” p96

  4. “Inscribing scratch notes, usually on a small pad contemporaneous with or soon after the events observed or words heard, is anthropological fieldwork.” P96

4. Scratch Notes to Fieldnotes

  1. Second stage descriptive fieldnotes.

  2. Must be timely to preserve the “warmth” of scratch notes. P97

  3. “We suspect that both humanistic and scientific anthropologists keep their journals in roughly comparable ways… Open discussion of our fieldnotes... might reveal more similarities between varieties of anthropologists, illuminating the bases that link us as a unified profession.” p98

5. Fieldnote Records

  1. Data – organizable sociological and demographic materials

  2. “Some are envisioned in “research designs” before fieldwork, and others are developed as the research progresses.” p102

  3. Balance record-oriented research with wide-ranging ethnographic filednotes, The Johnsons - “‘cultural context checklist’ as a medium for constantly reintroducing holistic concern into fieldwork routines.” p103

6. Text

  1. Produced by “transcription”, “involves an encounter between informant and ethnographer away from ongoing social action and conversation.” p104

  2. Helen Codere - 3 social contexts of transcription:

    1. a text reproduced away from its nomal context of recital.

    2. a text recorded in the context of its social production.

    3. a text created at the prompting of the ethnographer and not recoverable

  3. Recorded ongoing Texts:

    1. partake of both onscription and transcription.

    2. Charles Briggs’ caution: imposition of first and third mode, favor the second mode. p106

  4. Displaced and Created Texts:

    1. Boas: “the aim of enthrography was to disclose inner thoughts and mental life of the people.” Texts were a mean to present. p105

    2. Life histores: Those texts purposely position the informant within her or his local society. A self-edited form. p106

  5. Uncertainty of ownership between sponser and author of informant-produced texts. p108

7. Journals and Diaries

  1. “written products of fieldwork that serve indexical or cathartic purpose for ethnographers.” p108

  2. Journals: reactions to ethnographies read or reconsidered in the field; Diaries: publishing a ‘personal account’ of fieldwork. p108

8. Letters, Reports, Papers

  1. Letter:

    1. A report on psychological state and reations, mostly to family and friends. Not cathartically as personal diaries, but a way to balance as relates to one’s otehr world. p111,112

    2. Informal description and synthese of fieldnotes, construct a peraonal account of fieldwork.

  2. Reports and Papers:

    1. Mostly directed outsied the filed.

    2. May produce reponses useful in later ethnographic writing. (Rethink basic problems, relook at materials, elicit valuble criticism and comments) p113

    3. Professional papers are occasionally written from the field.

9. Tape Transcript

  1. Dictating filednotes is rarely used. (suspicious practice, cases of conflict)

  2. More detail, but more time to transcrib.

24 次查看0 則留言


bottom of page