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Using An Ipod for Field Research: Database

Updated on January 11, 2011

I probably held out longer than any other person when it came to the ipod craze.  Yes for years I had seen people carrying them around with the little white headphones as I held out waiting for an improved product.  Don't get me wrong, I found the ipod very slick, unrivaled, and entertaining...but that's just it.  An ipod was built for entertainment.  I have a very modest entertainment budget and couldn't justify the price just so I could listen to music.  As time has gone on the name of the game has changed.  Ipods are abandoning the click wheel for touch screen, music is becoming secondary for ipods with the advent of the most popular word of 2010: apps.  So this summer I bought an Ipod Touch.  But this time, it wasn't for entertainment.  I bought this baby for field research.

Old School

When conducting field research you have to have a way of organizing your findings.  You need to keep notes of what your learning so you have something to process when you come back from the field.  In the old days this meant using an ancient form of preserving words through a process called...what was it called?  Oh yeah, writing.  They used a device that would make markings called a pen or pencil and they would make these markings on these strange white things they called paper.

Obviously I'm being ridiculous but what I'm trying to do is illustrate that pen and paper, while time tested, is becoming obsolete.  When it comes to field research there is a reason its becoming obsolete.  Typically field research is conducted in places where paper doesn't hold up well.  If you are in the rain forest documenting new amphibian species then your paper can become moldy.  If you are in the desert observing cacti, your pen can stop working because of dust.  If you are going for a month, paper begins to compete for space in your pack.

The ipod touch is changing the game and in this hub I want to talk to you about apps for storing information in your Ipod Touch.


I really like this app and I'll tell you why.  Simply open this app and start a new little entry.  There will then be a place to take a picture and enter what it is, where you were, and when it was.  That's extremely useful!  There is also a spot for entering as much notes as you want.  So envision an ornithologist using this app.  Let's say he is in the rain forest of Papua New Guinea and encounters a bird he's never seen before.  Start a new entry.  Quick take a picture of the bird.  Enter the what when and where.  And then in the notes field enter all the ornithologist helper information you can think of regarding this bird (approx size, weight, coloring, calls etc.).  It is then stored on your ipod.  The best part?  It's free!  Check it out for yourself

As an anthropologist I intend to use it for events I see take place.  For example, if I see a ritual take place right before someone plants a garden I can take a picture and enter the what when where along with my notes and questions to follow up on.  Very handy.


This is just a basic database program.  You can create a photo database, or just enter a bunch of notes on a subject.  You can also store voice memos and organize them into a database.  Depending on what you are doing Evernote could be extremely useful.  Check it out for yourself  One complaint I have with it is it does require you sign up for an account on their website (which is free) and then when it gets a chance it will store your data on their database.  This isn't a big deal, but I just prefer apps that are 100% on my Ipod and don't need to communicate with the mother ship.  But overall good app and oh yeah free.


For those who want to keep it simple, there is the app that comes preloaded on your Ipod Touch called Notes.  Notes is an app that is similar to Microsoft Notepad.  It's just a simple write down stuff app.  Thats it.  It doesn't do anything except make notes.  For some, thats all they want, therefore this would be all you need.

With notes the thing that makes it hard is organization.  It takes the first line of your note and makes it the title.  To help with organization make the first line with a number (for example a 1 for your first entry) and then title it.  Skip two lines and then start entering.  That way notes will help you organize your stuff better.

Anything Else?

What did I miss?  If you have come across a good app for writing stuff down and making notes, let me know in the comment section.


What Do You Use Your Ipod Touch For Primarily?

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