Institute for Language Sciences Labs


Preparing a trip abroad

Last updated on 30 September 2013 by Martijn van der Klis

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Sometimes it may be necessary to go to another location for your survey, for example to make audio or video recordings of people. Perhaps you even have to go abroad. This document is intended to give you some practical guidelines for doing field research in another country, like in the bush bush in Africa.

For research outside our own building, we have several portable recorders and other equipment available. You can borrow such devices at Janskerkhof 13a room 0.09. The more specific your wishes are, the more important it is to discuss with the technical staff in an early stage what you need.


It is very frustrating when everything is working properly, but you can’t record anything, because you ran out of

  • Batteries.
    To recharge your batteries, you can buy small solar panel battery chargers. They work pretty well, especially when you have lots of sun light, like in tropical areas. (Be aware, that in rain forests, it can be pretty dark!). A disadvantage of solar panel devices, is that they only operate at day time. This seems quite obvious, but the consequence might be, that you need one or more extra sets of batteries, because one set is in use, while the other set is being recharged.
  • Tapes/SD-cards
  • Backup media (cd-roms, dvd-roms, SD-cards, et cetera)

Backup devices

Try to have a backup device for all equipment you are taking with you. Don’t take the risk of standing somewhere in the middle of nowhere, not being able to do anything useful, because something broke down. Sometimes this may not be possible, because the equipment is too expensive. But at least try what is possible!

Check your cables

Avoid connectors, especially converters of 3.5mm jack plugs.


Test the whole process, including starting up, recording data, saving the results, making a backup, reading back the backup. If you expect to be dealing with big files or large quantities of data, test data of the size you expect to be dealing with.

Make an audio test recording. Play it back and listen carefully if you hear disturbing sounds in the background: flushing toilets, crying babies, refrigerators, trafic sound, airco’s, elevators, playing radio’s, heavy machines (electric drills, excavators), wind, etc.

To prevent wind sound, you should use a proper wind cap. You should ask for it when you pick up your equipment.


If you have the opportunity, give all the crew members some time to familiarize with their part of the equipment.

Check while recording

Head phones! Input volume! Pretend clipping.