Written by: Gioel Gioacchino; Edited By: Denisse Albornoz 

Taking field notes is the bread and butter of good research. This is a field note technique to reflect on the different masks we wear in our interactions. You’ll write letters to friends, family and colleagues as a way to reflect over the research experience through different voices.

Our experience using this technique

The name ‘One, No One and One Hundred Thousand’ is inspired by a famous italian novel in which a character becomes aware that there are many versions of himself, and has a sort of existential freakout. Gioel is experimenting with it as a PhD field note technique.

Research and Development

What are we trying to understand about the community?
With this technique you are trying to reflect about your role and positionality in the research process. How do I see the world? How do I perceive the experiences I am having?
Why is it important for the community’s development?
This exercise reminds you that there is not one single reality.
At what stage(s) of the research cycle is this method used?
Data Collection, Data Analysis


What do I need?
Some time, pen and paper. Or a keyboard.
Inspiration. And a friend to write to.
How long does it take?
Block at least one hour for writing. Take another 30 minute to review and edit.
  1. Think of a friend, family member, colleague or co-participant
  2. Write a line or two about who they are. (e.g. Laura is 30 and she is British. She works at Youth Business International in London. We are colleagues, but we also became good friends in the process.)
  3. Write your letter
  4. Make sure to write down the date, time, and place of the story you are about to tell .
  5. Be specific about the facts, numbers, and details of what happens in your story
  6. Write about your sensory experience (What did you see, hear, feel, smell, taste?)
  7. Comment on your perception, keeping in mind your are writing to your friend –  as a target audience.

Benefits and Challenges  

What are the benefits of using this technique?
– It allows you to keep good ethnographic notes
– It will help you reflect over cultural differences
– It pushes you to reflect on how your experience would be perceived by different people – it expands the way you understand your experience
– It makes you reflect on what you have seen and experienced – it adds meaning to it, while making you realize that the meaning you assign to a situation and experience is relative
– It makes you reflect over ethical dilemmas in the field.
What are the challenges of using this technique?
For it to be useful, it should be done regularly. If you systematically write letters, you can use the material of the letters as data.


How to adapt the technique
This reflection can help you think of an ethical situation with different eyes, and different perspectives. Why was it ethically challenging? What are you thinking of doing?
Tips and Traps :

Try to write the letter as soon as you are done with an experience. You will forget lots of important details if you don’t write them right away! If you cannot write the letter right away, jotting down brief words or phrases while at the field site will help you remember more details.

Pick 3 people that you respect, ideally from diverse background in terms of age, gender, origin, etc).

Notice the different tone and language you use to share the story. How do you expect them to respond to the situation?

This reflection should help you think of the ethical situation with different eyes, and different perspectives. Why was it ethically challenging? What are you thinking of doing?

Learn More…

Audio visual material

Here is where the technique is being piloted: https://gioelgio.wordpress.com/

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