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

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.

Nanci Arvizu, Writing and Reviews Editor

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3 Comments

  1. A “how-to” manual for turning observation into publication 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. 

  2. An Excellent Resource 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. 

  3. Useful for students of ethnography “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…

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