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Indiana University Cultural Approach to Interpersonal Communication Fieldnotes

Indiana University Cultural Approach to Interpersonal Communication Fieldnotes


Fieldnotes on Social Interaction

Introduction: Begin your fieldnotes by introducing the context of the interaction you observed. Mention the location, time, and the participants involved in the interaction. Provide a brief overview of the setting and the purpose of the interaction.

Speaking Model: Identify the primary speakers and their roles in the interaction. Describe their communication styles, such as tone, volume, body language, and use of language. This can include whether they were formal, informal, assertive, or passive in their communication.

Jottings: Document specific moments from the interaction that stood out to you. These could be instances of interruption, joking, insults, swearing, conversational signals, or any other patterns you’ve chosen to focus on. Note down verbatim or paraphrased examples of what was said or done during these moments.

Analysis: Refer to relevant readings from your textbook to help analyze the observed patterns. Explain why these patterns are significant and what they suggest about the social dynamics at play. For instance, if you observed interruptions, you might discuss how they reflect power dynamics within the conversation. If you noticed joking and humor, consider how it contributes to identity construction and rapport building.

Connection to Readings: Incorporate direct quotations or concepts from the textbook to support your analysis. For example, if you’re discussing power dynamics, you could reference a passage from the textbook that discusses power and influence in communication.

Conclusion: Summarize your observations and analysis, highlighting the key takeaways from the interaction. Reflect on how the patterns you observed relate to the social business of the participants, their expression of identities and values, and their cultivation of power.

References: Include a list of references, citing the textbook and any other sources you used in your analysis.

Here’s an example of how you might structure a fieldnote based on your observations and analysis:

Fieldnotes on a Family Gathering

Introduction: This fieldnote documents a family gathering at a park on a sunny Saturday afternoon. The participants include grandparents, parents, and children who have come together for a picnic.

Speaking Model: The primary speakers in this interaction are the parents, John and Maria, who take on leadership roles in organizing and directing the activities. They communicate assertively but warmly, using a combination of verbal instructions and nonverbal cues to guide the group.


  • Moment 1: John interrupts Maria to suggest a game, showing his authority within the family.
  • Moment 2: Maria uses humor to diffuse tension when the children argue over snacks.
  • Moment 3: The grandparents share stories, using nostalgic language to connect with their cultural heritage.

Analysis: In line with Monaghan, Goodman, and Robinson’s concept of power dynamics in communication, John’s interruptions demonstrate his role as the dominant figure in decision-making. Maria’s use of humor aligns with the textbook’s discussion of humor as a bonding mechanism within families. The grandparents’ storytelling reflects the transmission of cultural values across generations.

Connection to Readings: As Monaghan et al. (2012) note, interruptions often reflect power imbalances in communication. In this case, John’s interruptions indicate his position as a family leader. Additionally, the textbook discusses the role of humor in building family cohesion, as seen in Maria’s use of humor to defuse conflict (Monaghan et al., 2012, p. XX).

Conclusion: This fieldnote highlights how power dynamics, humor, and cultural values manifest in family interactions. It underscores the importance of understanding these patterns to analyze the social business of the participants and how they express their identities and values within the family unit.

References: Monaghan, L., Goodman, M., & Robinson, J. (2012). “Interpersonal Communication: A Cultural Approach, 2nd edition.” Wiley-Blackwell.

Indiana University Cultural Approach to Interpersonal Communication Fieldnotes





Your 2 to 3 page fieldnotes should provide a thick description of the interaction similar to the one you wrote for the greetings assignment. Remember to focus on why things are happening as well as what is happening. What are the patterns you decided to focus on in your transcription (interruption, joking, insults, swearing, conversational signals, etc.)? What do you think those patterns suggest about the social business of the participants, how they express their identities and values or cultivate power? Refer to at least one article we have read in the textbook and use direct quotations from your transcript.

Please make sure you include the following: The speaking model, jottings, cite readings( use examples from Interpersonal Communication: A Cultural Approach, 2nd, edited by Monaghan, Goodman, and Robinson, Wiley-Blackwell 2012.  

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