Key Dates

Bring your fieldnotes to EVERY class session in case we want to refer to them.

Your fieldnotes will be turned in for my review on TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 7, TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 28, AND TUESDAY, MARCH 21, and for my final review on MONDAY, MAY 8. Also, fieldnotes will be submitted for peer review on TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 14.

Fieldnotes Materials

  • 1 or 1-1/2 inch three-ring binder
  • Log of hours
  • Typed, double-space fieldnotes with a 2 inch left hand margin and 1 inch margin on the top, bottom, and righthand margin
  • Fieldnote entries for every time you are at your internship

Journal Format

Place the Log of Hours before your fieldnotes. Whenever you work at your internship site, record the date and times on this sheet.

Your typed, double-spaced fieldnotes come after your Log of Hours and constitute the bulk of materials in your three-ring binder.

Journal Recording

Since we are all subject to forgetting what we have observed, fieldnotes should be written IMMEDIATELY AFTER the completion of your workday at your internship site. Any delay will result in the loss of key information and insights. Thus, set aside a block of time to get your observations immediately recorded.

Journal Content

Your journal will contain what I am calling Descriptive fieldnotes and Analytic fieldnotes. Now what do I mean?

Descriptive fieldnotes. You will write descriptive fieldnotes every time you work at your internship site. Each new entry will start with the following information:

  • Date
  • Time begin – time end
  • Location of work (list all sites if they vary)

After providing this basic information, write a clear and comprehensive description of what took place and what you observed during this internship session. As a participant observer, you will keep close track of the social and physical environments in which you find yourself. At minimum, you must answer the basic questions of: who, what, where, when, how, and why. You also want to document the physical set up, verbal behaviors, and nonverbal behaviors among the people with whom you are interacting as these factors may become relevant in your later sociological analysis.

As you gain greater familiarity with the people and the functioning of your internship site and as you further develop your observational skills, you will add more specific information to your descriptive fieldnotes about, for example, how the organization functions, how people interact, how the administrator operates as a rational authority figure, and how the bureaucracy limits employees’ abilities to help their clients. These latter types of observations are moving you in the direction of what will later form the sociological thesis for your analytic paper. In the main, your fieldnotes become a place where you record what has happened (descriptive fieldnotes), what you feel and think about what has happened (analytic fieldnotes), and why you hypothesize it has happened (analytic fieldnotes).

Analytic fieldnotes. The analytic fieldnotes will appear in parentheses scattered throughout your entries. It is here that you will jot down sociological concepts, ideas, or theories as phrases or more extended analyses that come to mind as you try to understand the descriptive fieldnotes that you are in the process of writing. For example, you may have just finished a section of your fieldnotes that remind you of Goffman’s ideas about impression management or stigma. Put these analytic thoughts in parentheses. Also, you may have some initial hypotheses to explain people’s behavior before you have begun the formal process of coding. Place these ideas in parentheses as well.

It is also in the analytic fieldnotes that you may want to record some editorial comments about your observations or commit to paper some thoughts or feelings that you have about what has occurred. Since these are your personal comments, they should remain separate from the description of events, interactions, etc. Therefore, putting your remarks in parentheses is an ideal way to note the fact that your supervisor seems out of sorts today and that you have concerns about the impact on her/his mood on interaction with clients.

For your information, sociological insights will probably not come until you have been at your internship site for several weeks. Realistically, you need data for analysis. Once you have identified certain sociological themes, such as anomie, alienation, dramaturgy, role-taking, or social exchange, your descriptive fieldnotes will focus on supplying data to support or refute your initial hypotheses. Thus, your descriptive fieldnotes become less general and more specific.


Coding will become an extension of some of your analytic fieldnotes. It involves a process, to which you will be introduced in the future, that enables you to identify line-by-line or section-by-section the main ideas or concepts characterizing what you have written. We will have a reading and do some practice coding in an attempt to familiarize you with this procedure.

Willamette University

Writing Center

900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.

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