Participant observation and field notes

This web page from the Ethnographic Action Research (EAR) Training Handbook provides guidance on using participant observation as a research method. The page provides links to resources that help the user develop basic questions in order to challenge perceptions and also create detailed field notes of observations.  


"Participant observation is the central research method of ethnography. It requires a researcher to engage with people in as many different situations as possible to look at what people actually do as well as what they say they do (as in interviews or documents) in their everyday lives. EAR researchers use field notes to document all of this; they are a key resource for EAR research. They also provide opportunities to reflect on research ideas, findings and insights for the duration of the research.

Everyone, including us, will often say one thing about their behaviour, but do something different. This is a part of human nature. We must therefore listen to what people say, but also observe what they do in order to get a complete picture of how culture works.

The basic idea of ethnographic fieldwork is that 'everything is data' and should be recorded in field notes. Even the most apparently trivial detail can help develop understanding - like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle."


Finding a Voice, Ethnographic Action Research (EAR) Training Handbook, Retrieved from:

'Participant observation and field notes' is referenced in: