Chapter 4

§4.1 Preparation. I’m not a big fan of endless lists, colour-coding, or anything like that, but I do recommend some way of keeping track of the tasks you need to do in the field, if only because there is so much to do. It’s very easy to lose track of urgent items. You could use a “task” program, keep a list in a file in your database, or use a notebook. I currently use, though there are plenty of other programs that do a similar job.

There’s a formal elicitation plan in the sample Hungarian data. To be honest, I’m never this organised in the field. I usually just write down a heap of prompts (organised by topic) and get through as many as possible, which varies a lot depending on digressions, interruptions, who is around when we start work, etc. I’ll mark the items I want to do in a session with post-it notes. It has the advantage of flexibility, though it does have disadvantages in coverage.

A comment re pens, etc. The cheaper the pens and paper the better they seem to resist water damage. I’ve never done any experiments on this but it’s my impression after many trips where I’ve returned with wet pieces of paper from boat trips, leaking ceilings or coffee/water spills, that the 50c bic pens do a much better job of not fading or running than the fancy $5+ pens.

§4.2.1 Backups: Use name-brand CDs and DVDs rather than noname brands: they are slightly higher quality, have a lower failure rate and are probably a bit more durable.

I’ve heard of several hard drive failure stories that resulted in extensive data loss (and have had a couple of near-misses myself). Don’t just use one type of backup media! Also, remember never to store your backups in the same place. It’s very easy to do this accidentally, for example by piling up a bunch of DVDs with your computer for a week before sending them off.

§4.2.2 On labelling: I use a system that involves my initials (CB), a language abbreviation (e.g. YN for Yan-nhaŋu), the session number and the track number. This is a compromise after many years of multiple audio formats (analogue casette, mini-disc, DAT and Compact Flash) and a recording collection that includes items from many different collectors. (I don’t use standard abbreviations because not all the languages I’ve worked on have ISO-639 codes, and I don’t use dates because I have recordings where the date isn’t known.) If I were starting with a numbering system now, I’d use one based on collection or date.

§4.3 Software. See here for my recommendations. I highly recommend using software that will run without an internet connection.

Test your computer before you leave. Once you’re in the field, don’t change settings or uninstall programs unless you absolutely have to. You don’t want to do anything that is likely to make your system unstable or stop programs working where you can’t fix them.

§4.4 Metadata

A useful resource is See also the links page.

Some metadata lists useful for linguistics:

(Links open in a new window)

§4.6 Archiving