3.2.9 Practical aspects

  • Try to be “invisible” as an observator. Adapt to the setting in which you will do the observations, in terms of dress code, the way of behaving, and what is expected from you by the other actors in the setting.
  • Start with short observations to explore the field and to get yourself used to your role as observer.
  • First you should get an idea of “the normal” way of life in a setting, before you are able to identify unusual or abnormal situations.
  • Circumstances may make it difficult or unacceptable to make fieldnotes, hence the researcher has to write down his observations afterwards. This can lead to a memory bias.
  • Field notes should not contain interpretations, but merely descriptions.
  • There is also the practical problem of how, especially in large and busy social settings, like an emergency department, to inform and obtain consent from everyone who might ‘enter’ the field of observation84.
  • Note that once inside the setting it might be difficult to get out again: Ending the fieldwork should not happen abruptly. The researcher must take time to “ease out”. In the ‘easing out’ phase the researcher is more and more absent from the setting. This means more time to analyse the data. When present in the setting, the researcher can confront his preliminary analysis with new observations in the setting10. In the literature the advice is to keep in contact with the setting until the final report is written87.