Field Sketching

While a picture may be worth a thousand words an equally valuable piece of information is the field sketch. With the advent of video and the use of cameras in the field, it has largely been abandoned, but sketching is a marvelous tool for noting important features, especially when the camera is not an option. It’s exactly what the name suggests, a free hand sketch drawn at the setting, the people, etc. Its purpose is to portray the physical elements of the environment and to establish the precise location and relationship of objects, people and physical features.

Start with an obvious feature and work either clockwise or counterclockwise, or from one end to another, so that nothing is overlooked. Being systematic in the approach helps focus the eye so fewer.

If sketching a room, start from the point of entry. Sketches are more easily understood by others if the point of entry to the area or room is at the bottom of the page. In a free corner of the sketch be sure to include information as to the date, time, place, the context of the interview.  Note the names of the persons measuring and sketching the context.

Sketches are usually not a reproduction of a scene – it’s simply not realistic to capture everything in the time you have. They are used to highlight important features. Remember that field sketches should usually take just a few minutes, as it is only another tool to use in field work. Typical sketch components:

  • perspective (N,S,E,W: side, top, oblique view)
  • scale
  • location and date of sketch
  • label key features (tables, vehicles, etc.)
  • label or briefly describe key processes
  • key participants
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