Budgeting for Equipment

Robin Shoaps, March 2007

Writing a Budget

Don’t think in terms of “what’s the minimum I need in order to do myproject”—think about your ideal situation. My Wenner-Gren dissertation budget wasvery bare-bones—apparently too much so, they asked me to revise it before I got thegrant. I ended up spending $8000 on equipment alone and used every bit of it!

Annotate your budget with short descriptions of what the equipment will be used for(otherwise “4 microphones” sounds like an unnecessary or unmotivated expense) and beas specific with brands and model numbers as possible.

Make sure everything you might need is in the budget. So in addition to the equipmentmentioned above, think about recording media (you want at least a hundred hours ofblank audio if you will be using multiple recorders, and at least 70 hours of blankvideo—your consultants will want you to be “videographer in residence” so manyrecording hours may go to beauty pageants, school talent shows, birthday parties, etc.),cables (extension cables for mics; extra USB or firewire cables); a headphone amplifier;multiple sets of high quality and earbud headphones (for checking recording levels andfor transcription); MiniDV to VHS deck; batteries; cases for mics and recorders; externalhard drive for back-up; and software.

All of these costs need to go into your budget. Putthem in specifically—“miscellaneous” categories are to be avoided/or kept very smalland cheap. They are the red-flag of an inexperienced researcher and poorly designedproject. A final note on cables and adaptors—plan on spending nearly $100 on a “grabbag” of cables, particularly if you’ll be working with video. You will want to be able toplay video on a TV, through a VCR or VHS handycam (to dub recordings for consultants)and through a laptop—all of which may have different inputs, etc.

Having budgeted for all of these needs indexes feasibility and a well-plannedproject—two major considerations for granting agencies. Furthermore, endangeredlanguage documentation has raised the bar in terms of funders’ awareness of recordingequipment and practices. Similarly, we at the U of C are several years behind in preparingstudents in the nitty-gritty of interactional analysis research so being vague on themethodological and technological specifics just won’t cut it anymore.

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