A Guide to Field Notes for Qualitative Research: Context and Conversation

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Abstract

Field notes are widely recommended in qualitative research as a means of documenting needed contextual information. With growing use of data sharing, secondary analysis, and metasynthesis, field notes ensure rich context persists beyond the original research team. However, while widely regarded as essential, there is not a guide to field note collection within the literature to guide researchers. Using the qualitative literature and previous research experience, we provide a concise guide to collection, incorporation, and dissemination of field notes. We provide a description of field note content for contextualization of an entire study as well as individual interviews and focus groups. In addition, we provide two “sketch note” guides, one for study context and one for individual interviews or focus groups for use in the field. Our guides are congruent with many qualitative and mixed methodologies and ensure contextual information is collected, stored, and disseminated as an essential component of ethical, rigorous qualitative research.

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