On Tuesday, March 4, my Research Methods for Writers class took place in our university student center. In an effort to make my role as a researcher apparent, I will periodically post about my research practices and methodology.
Before going out in the field to do some observational research, my classmates and I spent some time reviewing how to take ethnographic field notes by discussing in small groups the first three chapters of Writing Ethnographic Field Notes by Emerson, Fretz, and Shaw. My group decided that the following information was significant to composing field notes while observing action in the student center:
- Bits of talk/action
- Sensory Details
- Avoiding generalizing characterization
- Expressions of people in setting
- Own feelings/impressions
We then divided the building into the following different areas of research:
- Pit/Starbucks coffee stand
- Prof’s Place
- Market Basket Convenience Store
- Laundry Room
- Food court
- Student Info Desk
- Ball Room
I was tasked with the space by the downstairs entrance and the food court. I took 11 pages of jottings in my small Field Notes notebook. To practice writing field notes, I have been tasked with turning 2 to 3 pages of these jottings into full, legible, descriptive field notes.
There are three sets of glass doors to enter the student center from the ground floor. If I were entering through the doors, a wet floor sign and then the stairs to the pit area would be directly in front of me. However, I am sitting in alcove that is both to the left of and underneath the stairs.So the wet floor sign and the stairs are a bit behind me and to my right. The small alcove, composed of two walls and a single support beam, is crowded with furniture. There are nine round tables with faux-wood tops, and four chairs encircle each table. The chairs have rounded metal backs and different patterns on their thin cushions. Two of the chairs at each table have brown cushions, and two have striped cushions. In addition to the furniture, there are three, rectangular trash cans/recycle bins and four large, lit vending machines. In the corner of the space hangs on old, rounded screen TV (it’s rare to see these, especially on a campus like this which works to stay up-to-date technologically).
The floor is made up of bumpy bricks of brown faux-stone. The walls are a muddied gold color (it seems as though the designer was working to capture some school spirit through the color choices). There are six, rectangular fluorescent lights embedded into the ceiling of this small space.
Across from this alcove is what seems to be a quick service snack stand with a bulbous glass case containing a few pre-made sandwiches wrapped in plastic. Behind the case are two African-American workers wearing all black uniforms and black baseball caps. They lean on a counter, a counter that is also home to a soda fountain. Next to the snack stand are the open glass doors to the cafeteria-style food court. These glass doors, unlike the main entrance doors which are framed by black metal, are framed in a bright silver metal. There is a sign with information in front of the doors.
Four tables in the alcove are currently occupied, one of which is occupied by me. Two young men (later teens to early 20’s), both dressed in plaid button down shirts (though one is red plaid and the other is black plaid) sit at table that is two to left of me if I were to draw a diagonal line. An open silver Macbook is positioned on the table between them. Sitting down, they are close to the same height, though the blonde in the black plaid shirt is leaning toward the computer a little more (he must be taller if he were standing). Four tables away, by the back wall, sit another two young men (these two are early to mid 20’s). Both of these men are on the heavier side and wear gray t-shirts. Each of these men hs a laptop open in front of him and is clicking on a mouse and typing on keys with fervor. The one closest to me looks up to the one sitting with his back to the far wall and says, “I got the drag for us.” They high five and talk rapidly.
I turn slightly in my seat so that I can see the doors to the entrance behind me and watch the students that are entering and exit. Every entrance or exit made is by a pair of two people or a group of three. All people who entered and exited while I was watching, with the exception of one group, were wearing black coats. All of the females who entered, in addition to black coats, wore either a hood or carried an umbrella. All young women also had on boots, though some were combat-style, some were rain boots, and some were Ugg style. Many of the jackets had the “North Face Fleece” emblem on the left chest of the coat. The biggest group that exited while I was observing was a group of six young men all around 18 or so. None of the group member were wearing coats. All were close to the same height. They emerged from Prof’s Place, and each was carrying a white bag. Five were walking fairly closely, with a step or less between them. The last was about three steps behind and was texting on a cell phone.
These field notes came from four pages of jottings [Images 1, 2, and 5] from the gallery at the top of the post. When looking at the images in the galleryt, count clockwise to determine the image number.