Thursday, September 6, 2012

Fieldwork Supplies List

Last year I attended the Institute for Qualitative and Multi-Method Research at Syracuse University. I went to panels on fieldwork in order to prepare me for the ethnographic and participant observation research that I will be conducting in Ukraine this year. At these workshops we learned how to organize our work and data which might seem very obvious but was really something I had never thought of before. Performing qualitative research with interviews and participant observation results in a lot of data, I mean pages and pages of interview transcripts and field notes. During the institute they taught us how to organize things and not get lost in our fieldwork. Sometimes while performing research it is easy to forget the end goal or what exactly it is you are looking for in your research. They urged us to create To Get Lists which help shape research in the field. In the spirit of the To Get List, I thought it would be prudent to offer my own field work supplies To Get List which will help me get everything I need before I leave to perform my research this year. Here are my must have items for conducting fieldwork:

1.) Tape recorder- This doesn't have to be fancy but just make sure it has a good microphone for interviews that take place in cafes or when the window is open on a noisy street. I also bought a microphone that plugs into my tape recorder but some researchers have cautioned against it because it can inhibit subjects responses since they are constantly reminded they are being taped.

2.) Transcription software- Even though I am conducting my interviews in a foreign language (Russian and Latvian). It is still nice to have software designed to transcribe interviews because it allows the transcriber to seamlessly move forwards and backwards on the tape.
3.) Portable scanner- I bought a handheld one and it works great for scanning in documents on the fly. I had a friend recommend I buy a flatbed scanner when I arrived at my destination because they work much better but I enjoy the handheld one and it works for my purposes and also allows me to fill out and scan all of reporting documents for my fellowship!

4.) Dictionary- This is a must have for conducting research in a foreign language unless you are a native speaker because you will always run into words you do not know. I bought an e-dictionary which I can access through my computer and it saved me about 10 pounds of weight in my luggage. It also takes less time to look up words than a traditional paper dictionary which makes it more efficient as well.

5.) Kindle- I was a skeptic about e-readers but after scanning 33 chapters to bring with me for my dissertation research I am a convert! Lugging two suitcases across the ocean will be bad enough, I can't even imagine what they would weigh if I had to bring all of those books along. Of course I will never give up having paper copies of my books but it is great to know that I will still be able to write, for example my theory chapter of my dissertation, even though I am in the field. Now if only they would make a kindle version of my favorite Russian dictionary!

6.) Camera- Some archives allow you to use cameras instead of scanners (which are sometime banned) or making copies of chapters so I would recommend picking up a simple camera as well. Plus it will allow you to include some interesting photos in future research presentations!


  1. What kind of scanner did you get? I think a smartphone might serve a lot of these purposes these days (or even a tablet - kindle, scanner, camera all in one)

  2. I bought a Vupoint Magic Wand Portable Scanner in purple! Yes, I agree that a camera would serve a similar purpose. For me it has been nice having the scanner to scan receipts for fellowship reimbursements and archive materials where they wouldn't let me use a camera. For some reason scanners were allowed but cameras were not!


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