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Notes on Writing Field Notes

Just some notes on our recent reading of Emerson’s Writing Field Notes for my own reference (and for anyone else who needs a refresher … )


writing as a construction, a version of the world according to the writer

filter vs mirror

stylistic  narrative conventions

selective and partial

asides, commentaries

forget and simplify


dictation vs writing

internal editor

stream-of-conscious fashion

what to include and what to leave out

include tangential activities and comments “minor”

description, dialogue, characterization

adjectives and adverbs – color, shape, size, sound, timbre, volume, smell, fragrance, gestures, movements, posture, facial expressions (kinetic)

stereotypes – gender, age, race, physical appearance

visual cliches

avoids evaluative verbs and adjectives

tone of voice, attitude of writer – in word choice

direct-indirect quotes

sketches – brief segments, still life

episodes – continuous action or motion

asides – brief, reflective bits of analytic writing that clarify explain, interpret, or raise questions about some specific happening or process described in a field note. – tentative hunches

commentary – more elaborate reflection, a series of stories portraying slices of life in vivid detail

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