Designing and Conducting Field Research
Wednesday, September 2, 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
Hilton Franciscan C
This short course addresses a variety of field methods and data-collection techniques. The course is based on the premise that designing research (and field research), collecting data, and analyzing data are overlapping and inter-dependent processes that begin before a scholar enters the field, continue while she is there, and extend beyond her return. We explore how research design and fieldwork interact, preparing for field research, and multiple data-collection techniques — both more interactive (surveys, experiments, interviewing, oral histories, focus groups, participant observation, and ethnography) and less interactive (observation, archival research, and collecting documents and statistics). Throughout, we provide scholars with strategies to help them anticipate and address challenges involved in designing and conducting field research, for instance, (1) converting their research design into a “to get” list; (2) accessing elusive data and data sources; (3) evaluating data’s evidentiary value; (4) organizing and managing data; and (5) analyzing data both in and out of the field. Although fieldwork is usually associated with “studying politics abroad,” we discuss techniques that may be applied inside and outside the U.S. The course includes several hands-on activities. Participants will also be directed to useful document templates, such as spreadsheets for organizing fieldwork, sample correspondence, etc.. The course is valuable for students planning dissertation projects, for scholars who would like to develop or improve their data-collection and analysis skills, and for those who teach classes on research methods.