Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes, Second Edition (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing)

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In Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes, Robert M. Emerson, Rachel I. Fretz, and Linda L. Shaw present a series of guidelines, suggestions, and practical advice for creating useful fieldnotes in a variety of settings, demystifying a process that is often assumed to be intuitive and impossible to teach. Using actual unfinished notes as examples, the authors illustrate options for composing, reviewing, and working fieldnotes into finished texts. They discuss different organizational and descriptive strategies and show how transforming direct observations into vivid descriptions results not simply from good memory but from learning to envision scenes as written. A good ethnographer, they demonstrate, must learn to remember dialogue and movement like an actor, to see colors and shapes like a painter, and to sense moods and rhythms like a poet.

This new edition reflects the extensive feedback the authors have received from students and instructors since the first edition was published in 1995. As a result, they have updated the race, class, and gender section, created new sections on coding programs and revising first drafts, and provided new examples of working notes. An essential tool for budding social scientists, the second edition of Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes will be invaluable for a new generation of researchers entering the field.

Product Details

  • Series: Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; Second Edition edition (December 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226206831
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226206837
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds

Customer Reviews

A "how-to" manual for turning observation into publication

49 people found this helpful.
 on August 6, 2001
By Amy Schondelmeyer
Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes was written to fill a gap in ethnographic methods training – students are seldom guided through the process of turning notes jotted down as they do observation into publishable ethnographic documents. Not laden with academic jargon, the easy flowing text makes this book readily accessible to the undergraduate student – but the content is such that even an experienced ethnographer can benefit.

An Excellent Resource

16 people found this helpful.
 on July 21, 2006
By Grant H. Potts
Emerson, Fretz, and Shaw have put together not only an excellent handbook for writing ethnographic fieldnotes, but an insightful study of the practical issues confronting anyone doing interpretative writing about culture.

Useful for students of ethnography

20 people found this helpful.
 on December 26, 2000
By Stephen Boyanton
“Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes” is the only title I have seen specifically looking at the process of how one goes about collecting and writing ethnograhpic data. The book begins with theoretical issues, then moves into jotting, full fieldnotes, and finally discusses how to analyze fieldnotes and write a full ethnography. In general it is an excellent treatment of the subject and provides very practical advice which is well-illustrated by samples collected by the authors and their students. The authros show a marked preferrence for interpretive and processual anthropology (there are frequent referrences to Clifford Geertz among others) so researchers and students with strong comittments to other approaches might not find it as useful as I did. If the book suffers from any shortcoming it is that at points the explanations become too wordy bogging the reader down somewhat. While this book would not be of much interest to the non-professional reader, I highly recommend it to anyone who is studying, practicing, or teaching ethnographic method. I found it very useful and practical.

Little in size, Great the message

9 people found this helpful.
 on September 15, 2005
By Eunmee
I had checked out several research methodology books to find out ‘how’ to keep fieldnotes. I had been looking for very ‘practical’ and ‘down to earth’ reference which can offer me the real examples and approaches of fieldsnotes. Although there were good research methodology books, I could hardly find the reference for ‘fieldnotes’.

Not just for anthropologists

7 people found this helpful.
 on March 20, 2009
By E. M. Van Court
I’m fully prepared for outrage from people in the social sciences, but… The title caught my eye for two reasons. First, I recently read a protracted rant by an anthropologist, and was interested in gaining a better understanding of his context. Second, I am a fan of Kipling’s “Kim”, and wanted a clearer understanding of an occult (to me) discipline practiced in colonial India of the Victorian era; ethnography. I was impressed by the depth of the writing and the broad utility of the concepts presented, and I achieved my primary goals of a better understanding of cultural anthropology and ethnography.

Noteworthy Resource

4 people found this helpful.
 on March 4, 2008
By grasshopper4
It’s interesting that books on fieldwork tend to exclude extended discussions of note-taking as a part of fieldwork. The focus of many guides on fieldwork methods usually is on completing audio or video interviews and on the use of photography in fieldwork. This book fills this gap in research methodology. The writers show good, practical techniques for taking notes during ethnographic and oral history field research. More importantly, they convincingly demonstrate how creating good fieldnotes is essential to completing good ethnographic studies. Each section of the book blends practical ideas with theoretical generalizations in ways that not only show readers how to complete field research, but the discussion also reveals why these techniques are useful. The chapter that provides ways to turn fieldnotes into written ethnographies is an especially helpful discussion of a challenging task. In this particular chapter, and in the book in general, readers can find ideas that can also be applied to the use of other field-generated resources such as structured audio/video interviews and photo sessions. This book is also valuable as a resource for understanding and examining various written ethnographic studies. In this respect, the insights offered by Emerson, Fretz, and Shaw give readers good ideas for evaluating written ethnographies and useful perspectives for understanding the process of completing ethnographically-grounded research and how ethnographic study contributes to the representation of culture.

Must have

4 people found this helpful.
 on September 21, 2012
By Amazon Customer
This book is a guide that works with the beginning ethnographer to build their research skills. The authors employ techniques to ensure the reader isn’t only learning the method, but also helpful tips for coping with difficulties. I found their reassurance that doing ethnography is a craft to be personalized and modifying very refreshing for a how-to book.

Excelent book for beguiners in ethnographic research

3 people found this helpful.
 on February 15, 2013
By Bkart
This book provides practical and useful tools to develop ethnography, especially for beguiners. The authors analyze not only experienced researchers work, but also they give real examples from graduate and undergraduate students field notes.

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