Field Notes and Structured Interviews in Education Research

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If field notes are accurate, detailed, relevant, descriptive and reflective at the same time, then they may be very advantageous as compared to audio or video recording transcriptions. The reflective part of field notes can inform us if the event was exclusive, extraordinary or frequent. That is, the researcher can very well tell us about the statistics regarding how distinctive the event was. He can tell this as he must have spent much time in the field as a scrutinizer recording specification of events. This task is not performed by audio and videotape recordings. Field notes can provide an overall view of the setting and the system depending on how deeply the researcher has observed. Video recordings can only give us a confined view of the scene due to the limitations of the camera lens range, states Fetterman (1998). It would take too much budget and human resources to arrange for multiple cameras. The range of human eyesight is always wider than that of the camera lens. Field notes do not require any special recording equipment with the need for attendants and trained professionals and this lessens down the research budget. Audio and video recordings require more resources and hence are at a loose edge this way. Field notes are at a disadvantage because audio and, especially, video recordings give us a complete picture of the whole setting under observation, people involved, activities taking place and the nature of these activities (Dufon 2002: 43). Field notes might give an unclear picture of the setting or the system because it requires great expertise in language and descriptive and reflective writing to make the field notes a crystal clear sense of the observation.