Analytic Notes

You will write up fewer analytic notes than any other kind. This is where you lay out your ideas about how you think the culture you are studying is organized. Analytic notes can be about relatively minor things. When I finally figured out the rules for showing up on time for evening functions in Greece, that was worth an analytic note. And when I understood the rules that governed the naming of children, that was worth an analytic note, too.

As I said in chapter 2, in the section on theory, it took me almost a year to figure out why the casualty rate among Kalymnian sponge divers was going up, while the worldwide demand for natural sponges was going down. When it finally made sense, I sat down and wrote a long, long analytic field note about it. After thinking about the problem for many years, I finally understood why bilingual education in Mexico does not result in the preservation of Indian languages (it’s a long story,see Bernard 1992). As the ideas developed, I wrote them up in a series of notes.

Analytic notes are the product of a lot of time and effort and may go on for several pages. They are often the basis for published papers or for chapters in dissertations and books. They will be the product of your understanding and that will come about through your organizing and working with descriptive and methodological notes over a period of time. Don’t expect to write a great many analytic notes, but write them all your life, even (especially) after you are out of the field.

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