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Field Research: 5 Steps to Conducting it in Effective manner

What is Field Research?

There is data being collected all around the globe for different purposes of analysis and research work. This data collected can show us the trends in the area of research but if we need to dig deeper into the issue then this collected data is not enough! For a deeper analysis, which is usually qualitative in nature, we need to understand the environment around which the subject of research is associated. This is where field research comes into play. 

By definition, it is a qualitative way of data collection where the main motive is to observe, interact and understand the research subjects in their respective environment. For instance, in research conducted by a social scientist, subjects are interviewed or observed in order to understand their behavior in the social environment and their reaction to different kinds of situations and stimuli around them. 

It is usually based on cause-and-effect relationships due to the presence of multiple variables impacting the behavior of the subject in the study. The data collection is mostly done by forming a correlation rather than a cause-and-effect relationship. The difficulty here is with the small sample size as it makes it difficult to form any kind of relation between two or three variables.

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Types of Field Research

There are four different ways in which one can collect data for this type of research. This section will discuss all four types of field research and give you a clear understanding of the same.

Ethnography

In ethnographic field research, a whole community gets observed by the researchers, objectively. This type can be understood as an extended observation of social culture, perspective, and values of an entire social setting. For instance, research conducted on a particular tribe – their lifestyle, their way of operating, silently observing them from a distance or by living among them to see their day-to-day behavior towards different stimuli.

Qualitative interviews

In qualitative interviews, questions are directly asked of the subjects concerning the research. The questions are usually close-ended, and the conversation need not be formal. The question can be formal, informal, semi-structured, conversational, or a mix of it. This type of field research forms relational databases and is rich in quality data. The interview in field research need not be an individual session with each subject. It can be a focus group, text analysis, or a mix of these as well.

Direct Observation

In this type of field research, researchers observe their subjects from a distance in order to not intrude on their natural behavior. The outcome or the observation coming from this is in its most refined form as there is no interference with the subject or the subject’s natural environment. This field research type is not ideal for a private setting due to ethical issues but is widely used for researchers in public settings.

Participant Observation

In this, researchers become part of the subject’s environment without further obstruction. The researchers can work as both participants and observers. By being a part of the subject’s environment, the researcher holds the power (to a certain extent) to mold the conversation in a particular direction. The subjects in this type of field research remain unaware that one or some of them are researchers and share the information in the purest and rawest manner.

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The need to conduct Field Research

Field research is an extremely expensive, complex, invasive, and time-consuming research methodology. But even after this, it has been the most widely used research methodology in social science in the 20th century. One might think of it as a stupid idea to go for this as a method of data collection. In many cases, it might be true but there are reasons why field research was widely used. In this section, we will look at four major reasons why it is important.

  • When data collection is concerned, there are gaps in all the data collected in some way or the other. For instance, quantitative data only tells us about the trends, gain or loss, and other quantifiable information. While looking deeper, qualitative data gives us the story behind a particular trend, gain, or loss. But this does not end here. There are various factors involved that are cumulatively responsible for a reason for a particular trend, gain, or loss. Field research comes into the picture to eliminate the gaps in data and reduce them to the minimal level possible.
  •  The beginning of the process of data collection goes way back in history. Due to this, in today’s time, there is an adequate amount of data supporting a particular research objective but we cannot rely on that data because of its uncertainty if it is still applicable in today’s time. To verify the already collected data, this type of research proves to be a great help. 
  • The data collected in this type of research is in the rawest and purest form. Including such data in research work tends to increase the quality of data as well as the research as a whole. 
  • In most field research, researchers are required to go down and think in the direction of the subjects involved in the particular research. This gives a new direction or area of research that was never thought of by the researchers and can be taken up as another area of study.

Steps involved in conducting Field research

Though this type of research may seem like simply observing the subjects in one way or the other. But it’s not that simple. A few things must be taken care of before beginning the field research and post-that. Therefore, there are certain steps recorded in order to conduct field research. The steps involved are as follows:

  1. Identifying, defining, and locating the issue. Setting the clear objective for which field research needs to be conducted. 
  2. Gather a team of qualified researchers who specializes in the field of research for the particular objective. 
  3. Once the objective is defined and a team of qualified researchers has been formed. The next step is to identify the right method for the field research. 
  4. After selecting an appropriate method for field research, the next step is to visit the site and the subjects relating to the research. 
  5. The next step is collecting data, analyzing and forming constructive results out of it.

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FAQs

Is field research primary or secondary?

It is the primary way of data collection.

What is meant by field research?

It is a qualitative way of data collection where the main motive is to observe, interact and understand the research subjects in their respective environment.

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