As part of researching issues in your professional context, you will conduct a 45-minute to 1-hour observation of a site relevant to your professional context.

An important component of your observation is taking detailed field notes using the "Field Notes Sheet" provided as a downloadable link. You should transcribe your handwritten field notes using the same format as soon as possible after conducting the observation so that you do not forget significant details.

Please see "Example Field Notes Transcript" node for more information on writing up your observation.

criteria for your site selection

Because your observation is intended to provide you with further insight into relationships within your professional context, you should choose your site purposefully. Use the following criteria to determine which site, organization, or event you will observe:

Accessibility in terms of geography.

Accessibility in terms of scheduling for the project.

Relevance to your professional context.

Relevance to the data you have collected thus far.

considerations for your role as an observer

Before conducting your observation, you must consider what your how your role as an observer will affect your observation. Use the following questions as guides to consider your role:

How familiar are you with this site?

Are you regular participant or relative outsider?

Why have you chosen to observe this site rather than other possible sites?

What relationships and activities do you expect to see when you visit this site?

How do your experiences within your field shape your expectations?

How does the research you have conducted for this project shape your expectations?

considerations for observation

The observation allows you to research the dynamic relationships in your field as they function within a particular site, event, or organization. Such research can provide examples for your analysis of issues within your professional context. Before conducting your observation, use the following considerations to frame your data collection.

geography of the space

The layout of a particular site limits the possibilities for ways in which its space can be used. Consider not only the architecture of the particular site but also map this site in relationship to other spaces within your professional context.

relations among persons and objects

The site you will observe contains particular people and particular objects which have dynamic relationships with one another. Consider how these inhabitants are positioned in relation to one another and how their use of certain objects effects and reveals those positionings.

resource expenditures

Within your selected site, consider the ways in which resources are allocated. Decisions are made about how money is spent and how objects are valued differently. Look for cues that reveal relationships between the status and authority of certain persons and their access to and control over certain materials and resources.

atmosphere or tone

The site that you select already is defined as "professional," but professional has different meanings in different settings. Thus, consider how professional is defined within this particular site. Look for cues that reveal the both the general atmosphere as well as subtle changes within that atmosphere.

field notes

Using the "Field Notes Sheet" form provided, record as much detail as you possibly can during the time of your observation. During your visit, you should be writing continuously and making note of everything that you see and hear. In the "Details" column of the sheet, record information about the geography of the space, relations among persons and objects, resource expenditures, and atmosphere or tone of the site. In the "Reflections" column of the sheet, note how particular details relate to the issues for analysis.

As soon as possible after completing your observation, type-up a transcript of your notes using the "Field Notes" sheet. Take this as an opportunity to add additional details you were not able to record. Also, elaborate on your reflections, strengthening connections between the details you observed and issues in your professional context.

Remember to use the downloadable Word form to complete your field notes transcript.


Consult the calendar for observation and field notes scheduling and deadlines.

Other Analyzing Professional Contexts Project Links:
Formatting Reference | Project 2 Overview | Interview | Example Interview | Example Field Notes | Data Coding | Example Data Coding | Contextual Analysis Plan & Report

421 syllabus | 421 calendar