I admit that there is no perfect process for doing ethnographic fieldwork. And, trying to find a computer program or application that is robust enough to handle all the varied tasks necessary in fieldwork, I don’t really think exists (although there are many out there that claim to be the definitive research tool for qualitative or quantitative research). In the years that I have been doing fieldwork, I have figured out a method that sort of works for me but perhaps would not be as efficient for another ethnographer.

One very important part of the path of fieldwork analysis is figuring out just what works for you. Collecting data from the field, whether working with a team or doing all the work yourself, you still have to organize, analyze, code (in some cases), categorize, and develop your process (some times it can be quite ad hoc) to pull everything together. What about the tools and how are they used?

Personally, I use a bevy of different tools when conducting participant observation, interviews, organizing, analyzing, and writing.  Here’s just a few:

  1. Participant Observation (participation in actual events)
  2. Structured and Unstructured Interviews (interviewing informants, friends, acquaintances, professionals, students)
  3. Magazine Articles, Newspaper Articles, Internet Articles (extracting articles relevant to research topic)
  4. Statistical Charts from IBGE (download and analyze statistics relative to research topic)
  5. Audio recordings, Photographs, and Videos (non-disruptive way to take notes of interviews, mental notes; take photos of people and places; make simple videos)
  6. Microsoft OneNote Word processor (a place to collect and type out notes, chapters, themes, edits, collaborators, research and ethnographic methodology)
  7. Evernote Quick Notes and Smartphone Notes App (place to write daily field notes, and record mental notes, passing ideas, quick observations)
  8. WEFT QDA Database Analysis Program (an app to scan numerous document sources at the same time querying on certain keywords or phrases)
  9. Epi-Info 7 Program (mostly to create demographic forms and surveys but it has many more uses)
  10. EndNotes and Mendeley for Bibliographies and Citations (maintain bibliography references and citations)
  11. Zotero for Internet Searching (used mostly for cataloging research materials found on the internet)


What fieldwork tools do you use? What works for you? Tell us your comments or contribute your process to the discussion?


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