Homework: Field Notes

CS 4472/6470: The Design of Online Communities
Professor Amy Bruckman
Due:Thursday, February 18th, 2010
Format:Double spaced, 12 pt. font
Approximate Length:Two to four pages

Confirm with the TA that your IRB clearance is approved. Now you may begin your participant observation of your site. You must participate on the site as a regular participant for at least ten hours, in at least five or six separate sessions.

While you are participating, keep a pad of paper handy (or other window open), and jot down notes to remind yourself of things to write about later. Immediately after your session, expand those notes, writing down everything you can remember about your experiences.

What you did while you were online? What struck you as interesting? Did you gain any insight into the site's design? In what ways does the site function well, and in what ways poorly? Can you tie user behavior to specific design decisions made by the site designers?

Your notes should be in complete sentences, and correct English. However, they can be informal in style. You are "talking to yourself" in how you write this up. These notes are to help you write your paper later.

Remember all the things we learned in the ethics lectures. You must be open with people about who you are and what you are doing. If possible, note this fact in your online profile/descripton. You may not record otherwise ephemeral conversation without permission.

For this assignment, you will hand in your field notes based on one online session of approximately ninety minutes in length. Your notes should be approximately two to four pages in length.

Before you go online, schedule time for taking your notes later. People often find that for one hour online, they need to spend an hour taking notes. Pick a time when you have enough free time to take good notes immediately after. If you take notes right after, you will get much better notes than if you do it at a later time. Notes must be taken the same day.

You will need to complete at least five or more sessions like this with field notes to complete your final project assignment. You only need to hand in one set. This will give us an opportunity to give you feedback on how to take good fieldnotes.