Flick, Uwe The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Data Collection. Field reports are most often assigned in disciplines of the applied social sciences where it is important to build a bridge of relevancy between the theoretical concepts learned in the classroom and the practice of actually doing the guidelines for writing a psychology research paper you are being taught to do. Professors will assign a field report with the intention of improving your understanding of key theoretical concepts through a method of careful and structured observation of, and reflection about, people, places, or phenomena existing in their natural settings.
Systematically observe and accurately record the varying aspects of a situation. Always approach your field study with a detailed protocol about what you will observe, where you should conduct your observations, and the method by which you will collect and record your data. Always look for the meaning underlying the actions you observe. Ask yourself: What’s going on here? What does this observed activity mean? What else does this relate to?
Note that this is an on-going process of reflection and analysis taking place for the duration of your field research. Keep the report’s aims in mind while you are observing. Enter the observation site with a clear plan about what you are intending to observe and record while, at the same time, being prepared to adapt to changing circumstances as they may arise. Consciously observe, record, and analyze what you hear and see in the context of a theoretical framework. This is what separates data gatherings from simple reporting. This is the most commonly used and easiest method of recording your observations.
Tips for taking notes include: organizing some shorthand symbols beforehand so that recording basic or repeated actions does not impede your ability to observe, using many small paragraphs, which reflect changes in activities, who is talking, etc. With the advent of smart phones, high quality photographs can be taken of the objects, events, and people observed during a field study. Photographs can help capture an important moment in time as well as document details about the space where your observation takes place. Taking a photograph can save you time in documenting the details of a space that would otherwise require extensive note taking.