What is Field Research1

What is Field Research?


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What is Field Research?

Field research is an approach to qualitative data collection that involves observing the behaviour of individuals, groups, or organizations in their natural settings. Although there are many different social research methods categorized under field research, it generally always begins in a specific setting relevant to the social context of the study. 


The objective of field research is to observe and analyse the behaviour of a subject in their natural setting. Field research is often tough to analyse because when studying variables in their natural environment, there may be many extraneous variables that could have an effect on the relationship being studied. This, in combination with the relatively small sample sizes used in field research, makes it hard to establish a cause-and-effect relationship. For this reason, most data collected in field research is used to establish correlation rather than a causation. 

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Why Conduct Field Research?

There are many different reasons to employ the use of field research, the most pivotal being that it allows researchers to access different types of information that may not be easily accessible to outsiders, and that may not be obtained through other methods of research. 


Additionally, it is a very useful method of investigation when trying to fill an information void relating to the research problem being investigated as it provides pivotal data on the social contexts being studied. Field research can help obtain data that cannot be observed through other methods of research and can provide an empirical basis to test a research question or hypothesis, opening new frontiers of knowledge. 

What are the Methods used to Conduct Field Research?

What is Field Research2
  • There are 5 common methods of field research, and they are:

    • Qualitative Interviews

    Qualitative interviews generally involve gathering information through one-on-one interviews that have open-ended and conversational communication. In open-ended questions, researchers pose questions without providing answer options, allowing respondents to present their answers in their own words. This method can be used to collect extensive data as it allows researchers to gain a perspective on “what” people think, as well as “why” they think so. 


    • Direct Observation

    In direct observation, researchers employ the observational method to study subjects in their natural environment without influencing the outcome of the study. This method is very useful in studies where contextual data is highly relevant to the outcome of the study. However, although this method provides a high degree of ecological validity, it also has a very low degree of experimental control resulting in low internal validity. 


    • Participant Observation

    In this method of field research, the researcher not only observes the subjects being studied but also immerses themself in the subject’s environment and actively engages in the same activities. Researchers will often take on the very role they are trying to study so that the research participants don’t feel like they’re being studied and are therefore less likely to modify their behaviour in front of the researcher. 


    • Ethnography

    Ethnographic research is conducted using direct observation to research participants in their natural environment. It is used when trying to understand the social dynamics and interactions of participants within a specific social or cultural context. It provides an in-depth insight into participants’ actions and views and how these relate to their social context. 


    • Case Study

    Case study research comprises an in-depth investigation of a specific phenomenon within a real-life setting. This method is also sometimes referred to as a “naturalistic” design in contrast to the “experimental” design of scientific experiments. There are three main types of case study research; intrinsic, instrumental, and collective. 

Advantages of Field Research

  • High External Validity: Data collected through field research often has high external validity as subjects are studied in their natural settings making the results of the study more generalizable to the real-world.
  • Comprehensive Data: Field research allows for the collection of detailed, accurate, and comprehensive data due to the proximity researchers have to subjects. 
  • Provides Social Context: Field research emphasizes the role and relevance of social context, allowing researchers to uncover social facts that participants may themselves have been unaware of. Therefore, It can be used to collect data that may not be obtainable through other methods of data collection such as interviews and questionnaires.
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Disadvantages of Field Research

  • Time Consuming: Field research is extremely time-consuming and can sometimes take years to conduct. This is significantly more time consuming than other methods of data collection such as interviews or questionnaires. 
  • Expensive: Field research is extremely expensive as it involves many different costs such as travel costs, field station fees, wages for field assistants, research equipment purchases, and more. 
  • High Risk of Researcher Bias: As researchers immerse themselves into the environment being studied, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to distance themselves from the study, creating a high risk of researcher bias. 


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Explore all the survey question types possible on Voxco

FAQs on Field Research

 Field research is a qualitative method of data collection that involves observing the behaviour of subjects in their natural settings. 

There are five distinct methods of field research:

  • Direct Observation
  • Particapant Observation
  • Case Study
  • Ethnography
  • Qualitative Interviews

Some advantages of field research are that the data collected using this method is comprehensive and has high external validity. Field research also provides a strong social context to the variables being studied.

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