Capturing everything in the field can be a daunting task. But there are some basic tips that will help make the process smoother:
- Write notes as soon as possible to avoid information being lost.
- Capture major themes and broad ideas within 24 hours and share them with your team.
- Write down all personal details about the setting (number of people, location, use of space, gender dynamics, product use, etc.).
- Note direct quotes as well as your impressions.
- Note moments that produced changes in the context of discussion.
- A change in story setting, topic or temporal shift.
- Note moments that produced emotional responses.
- Note or draw expressions, body language, and non-verbal communication.
Remember, the camcorder is only one of the tools you bring to the field. Field guides, notebooks, sketchpads and cameras are all part of the toolkit, but more importantly, so are you.
For better or worse, the interview is where we receive a large percentage of your information on subjects or groups. The ability to conduct a successful and insightful interview will determine the depth of information you will be able to collect and the and the validity of that information. KEEP IN MIND:
- Reading off a line of questions will create a barrier between the researcher and the subject as well as produce a stale wooden rapport.
- Ask open-ended questions rather than simple yes/no queries. Don’t lead the subject.
- Questions should be clear and phrased in contextually intelligible and appropriate language.
- It’s an interview, not an interrogation. Relax, forget about getting “the” answer an establish rapport.
- Get to know the subject(s). Ask them questions about the house, family, life, etc. It’s important for them to trust the relationship and to be open.
- Add depth with follow-up questions.
- Have the subject actively demonstrate their points if possible. “My truck makes a sound.” = Get in the truck and check it out .
What you do and how you interact with your subject(s) is just as important as what you say. Body-language and signage by your subject(s) is also important. Make sure to pay attention to the details even if you’re making notes. Remember:
- Remove coat (coats and objects are interpreted as barriers).
- Mind that your notes or camera are not directly between you and the subject.
- Maneuver subject(s) into a seated position not facing an immediate point of egress.
- The subject should feel secure, but not enclosed.
- Be aware of your body language and inflection.
- Be observant of the body language, gesture-calls, posture, eye movement etc. of the subject(s).
- Silence is your friend.
- Nodding but not saying anything will produce silence, which the subject will often try to fill by continuing deeper into a line of explanation or discovery. However, don’t spend your whole time nodding – let’s face it, it gets creapy.
Humans are masters of lying and self-deception. We want others to believe us good, fair, responsible and logical, and we yearn to see ourselves this way. Sometimes this is overt and conscious, other times it’s a matter of the subconscious directing our actions and words.
When our actions appear selfish, prejudiced or in opposition to cultural norms, we engage a host of strategies to justify our behavior with rational excuses. “I bought that gigantic SUV because I have I have kids.” “I bought myself these extra jeans because no one helps around the house and I deserve it.” “I buy Maxim for the articles.” People restructure situations, from actions to words, to view their behavior in a more positive light.
So what do we do about it?
- Listen for cadence and the amount of run-on language when people are answering specific questions. While there are simply people who talk (and talk and talk), people are trained to take turns in language. When a person talks more than he or she normally does, assuming you don’t intentionally give signals cuing them to speak, it is often a sign of avoidance and lying.
- Body language signs of lying give a person away easily primarily because lying is not a natural thing. We respond with hard-wired responses that are subconscious and therefore hard to fake. Or to hide. The simplest thing is to tell the truth and the body knows this. Avoiding eye contact, hand wringing and face touching are signs that consciously or subconsciously, the person isn’t telling the truth.
- Recognize that lying isn’t necessarily intentional or negative. Ethnographers do not assume that people are lying during an interview, but that their perceptions and ideals may not correspond to the realities of their daily life. People often “weed out” information that they believe is extraneous, may be embarrassing or that they simply forgot. And that is data.