As I’ve mentioned, verbal field notes have made my research process simpler, both in interviewing and observing. A protocol involving verbal field notes is not without its challenges, as this pilot stage of my project has taught me. What have I learned so far?
- Transcribe immediately. After every observation/interview, I budget the appropriate amount of time for transcription of verbal field notes. Waiting until later loses some of the ‘freshness’ of the experience.
Say time stamps every 2-5 minutes. Repeating the time stamps found in the chat transcript makes it a heck of a lot easier when transcribing. This avoids having to fish through the transcript to find the part that the audio field notes are referring to.
Pause audio recording. During chat sessions, there are routinely ‘silent’ periods where the other person is typing and I have nothing to comment on (this is especially true during interviews). Pausing creates a much more efficient audio transcript for transcription.
Remember to talk. As obvious as it may seem, this has been my main problem. The pilot observations/interviews I’ve conducted have helped get me into the ‘practice’ of keeping up a somewhat constant verbal accounting of what is happening. At first, ‘talking’ seemed to pull me away from the immersive experience of feeling totally ‘in-world’ within SL. With practice, however, I’m able to verbally record my thoughts while still remaining present in my in-world experience.
- Include both action & reflection notes. It’s easiest to just describe the action. But an ethnographic approach calls for fieldnotes of both activity and the researcher’s reflective process and thoughts. Visualizing a table split between “Activity” and “Reflection” helped so much that I created one. While I don’t use it for recording, I do place it next to the computer as a reminder — this seems to work well for me.
Have a pen at the ready. Even though I’ve set up my data collection tools (saved chat transcripts, video capture & verbal field notes) to be all-digital-all-the-time, I’ve also found that I want to jot things down. When this first happened, it was during a critical moment when I did not want to leave the computer, but I had no pen/paper available.