How to Write Good Field Notes - Senstone

How to Write Good Field Notes

30 Jan, 2024

If your job involves any amount of field work, knowing how to take field notes is a must. Unfortunately, Field Notes 101 was never on the curriculum, so everyone I’ve ever met just wings it.

 

And I’m not opposed to winging it, don’t get me wrong; but.

 

The problem is that eventually people start making identical mistakes which could be easily avoided.

 

Carefully storing The Very Important Journal in a zip-lock bag is for weirdos, nobody does that. (Until you lose half your work to some water.)

 

Why would I remember where I put my notes from 2016? (Until you need them ASAP; they are across the map. Bonus: the ink has faded to a ghost of its former self.)

 

Who needs my tattered notebook? (Until your whole suitcase goes missing.)

 

All of the above have an obvious solution:

TAKE DIGITAL NOTES

 

Personally, I would suggest voice notes. The reason is very practical: typing is slow. It requires you to look at the screen and keeps your hands busy. Scripter here is a good way to make sure you record accurate voice-to-text notes. It works offline, too, which is a plus.

 

Digital field notes have another advantage: you can use hashtags and keywords to sort them by topic. Create a short list of your keywords to keep the system efficient. It functions much, much better than a physical notebook.

 

Sketching by hand is great, but you should always take photos of your sketches after you’re done. You can store them online for extra assurance, and Google Drive is your friend.

 

(Same goes for videos. You should always keep the backup copies in the cloud.)

 

Scan your old field notes and save them both locally and online. Do not store journals in a humid place like the basement. Avoid direct natural light.

 

And if you are not sure how to take field notes like a pro, there are always your colleagues. Do not hesitate to pick their brains on the subject even you think they might not like it. You might be surprised by how much people enjoy sharing note-taking techniques, life hacks, and general advice.

 

Finally, consider buying a water- and fade-resistant ballpoint pen for your writing. As I mentioned before, it really pays off in the long run.

 

More like this:

icon plus

Sign up to our Newsletter!

Subscribe