Sunday, 11 March 2018

Thumbs up for Analytic Memos

Dear Colleagues,

Just a short break from thesis writing to stress how much I have benefitted from adopting a simple, yet profoundly important, stage in the process of critically interpreting and analysis data generated from fieldwork.

The analytic memo (AM) is the simplest device: constantly write short sharp, precise notes to yourself as you review what you have found as you sift through your data, and in particular document those moments, events etc. which are what you feel critical stages in developing an argument, theory etc.

We were introduced to the AM early on in the professional doctorate programme, but as with most part-time programmes you forget a lot, and don't adopt everything which is suggested as making your life easy. As I was fortunate to have a sabbatical from Ruskin College at the time of coding/analysing my data, I had the chance to review those early notes from sessions on how to make this process as easy as possible, but also how to yield the greatest insight from what you've gathered.

There is plenty of material out there on the role of the AM (some links below) and of course the standard textbooks like Alan Bryman's Social Research Methods, provide a solid introduction. What I would say though is, don't get bogged down in thinking there is a right/wrong way to do write these.

My pointers would be:
Write them often and in clear as language as possible. You'll be reading them months/years later and you might not remember certain acronyms, phrases etc you use at the time.
Accurately record date, time etc.
Write statements on why you feel the need to write what you are writing e.g. you have been tired and missed earlier connections between findings.
Don't feel that you are writing comments that will prove unhelpful later - you can decide later on what's helpful/useful or not, but best to have too much to sift through than too little.
Keep the notes regularly backed up. I used Cloud options, but would also email myself a copy of each set of AM at the end of each day.

There is loads of useful material, and sample AM out there:

Right then, back to my writing. It's good to get these thoughts out of your head and posted. Hope they are useful.

In Solidarity


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