RI-SP098 | Spring | 3 ECTS

Designing & Conducting Field Research

We are living in an era when many information resources are readily accessible in digital formats. Still, conducting studies in the social sciences often requires field research 'going out into the world to acquire relevant data and materials that contribute to the development of knowledge. This course offers an intensive primer on undertaking field research, structured around a series of questions that scholars face. First, should I engage in field research? Understanding why and when field research can be worthwhile to a study is a foundation to going down this path and making appropriate decisions about objectives, design, process, and applications. Second, what sort of field research should I undertake? Choices must be made to maximize the value of the research, taking into account the needs of a study balanced against the available time, money, contacts, infrastructure, and other assets. Third, how do I implement field research? We will consider general logistics, as well as steps specific to particular methods with an emphasis on individual-level data collection (surveys, interviews, focus groups). Fourth, what must I overcome in order to conduct field research successfully? Doing this work can present many challenges (e.g., relocation, culture shock, personal safety, ethics, climate, communications, information security, devils and volcanoes) to navigate. Fifth, what happens when the field research is completed? Transitioning to using everything gathered through field research and dealing with anything that was left behind, forgotten, or overlooked is just as vital to the enterprise. The assignments will entail working through incremental tasks, leading to a plan for a field research activity, facilitated through hands-on activities in class, including workshop sessions. The course welcomes students from all disciplines who have interests in original data collection in locations anywhere from nearby to far afield.