Research Writing

Types of field work/definition/Importance/methods/Steps to carry out

Field work

The fieldwork is a fundamental stage in the development of research because it allows to know and evaluate firsthand what happens in a given environment and test the hypotheses with reality. Types of field work

Therefore, in this article we have compiled everything you need to know to successfully implement the fieldwork of your next investigation.

What is field work?

Field work is a method of observation and data collection on people, cultures and natural environments. 

Generally, field work is carried out in the nature of our everyday surroundings and not in the semi-controlled environments of a laboratory or classroom. This allows researchers to collect data on dynamic places and the people who are there. 

The work is used to a greater extent in the area of ​​the social sciences, such as anthropology and the health professions, since in these fields it is vital to create a bridge between theory and practice. The natural sciences, such as biology or chemistry, focus on the physical characteristics of nature and natural environments. 

In addition to academic research , fieldwork is also widely used in market research for the collection of primary sources.

Importance of field work

Fieldwork is important as it allows students and researchers to observe how scientific theories interact with real life . It also brings important local perspectives, helping to contextualize conflicts within broader social and cultural realities. Types of field work

This forces researchers to question their preconceptions and theoretical assumptions when faced with the reality of the field. In this, researchers have the opportunity to diversify their sources and primary data . You can also better appreciate and absorb the context of a place or culture. 

One of the most important aspects of fieldwork is that it reveals the human dimension in relation to the unique cultural and social environment in which it inhabits, as well as the geography and climate that create the contours within which human beings live and they act, without which one can only have a partial understanding of the human ecosystem.

Types of field work

Here are the most common fieldwork methods in both social research and market research:

Qualitative observation

The qualitative observation method is considered the least invasive method, in which the researcher is minimally integrated into the society he studies and collects data through verbal communication, while trying not to intrude on the culture.

  • Participant observation

Participant observation is a fieldwork method that is applied mainly in anthropology and requires the researcher to develop an intimate relationship between himself and the culture studied. This method requires the researcher to participate in a social event that is part of a specific culture. 

  • Non-participant observation

Unlike participant observation, non-participant observation is a method that consists of collecting data by entering a community, but with limited interaction with people. Types of field work

The researcher can be thought of as a “fly on the wall.” It is an ethical approach that researchers often use to examine the details of how subjects interact with each other and with the environment around them.

Ethnographic study

The ethnographic study is a method that seeks to collect cultural data that take the form of directly observable material elements, individual behaviors, actions, ideas and dispositions that only exist in people’s heads. 

From the perspective of the concept of culture, researchers must first treat all of these elements as symbols within a coherent system and must record observations paying attention to the cultural context and meanings assigned by practitioners of culture.

Comparative method

The comparative analysis method is a way of allowing systematic comparison of information and data from multiple sources. 

It consists of an approach based on testing multiple hypotheses on various topics, for example, the co-evolution of cultures, the adaptation of cultural practices to the environment, and kinship terms in local languages ​​around the world. 

In anthropology, the use of this form of information gathering aims to compare globalization, which uses a version of this method called multisituation ethnography using participant observation collected in many different social settings. Types of field work

Survey method

In the field work, the participants can answer surveys , using previously prepared questionnaires in order to obtain relevant data on the research topic. 

After the participants answer the questions, the researchers perform a processing and analysis of the answers given to obtain certain conclusions. For the survey to be reliable and valid it is important that the questions are well constructed and written in a way that is clear and easy to understand.

Case study method

The case study method involves an in-depth investigation of an individual or group of individuals and is generally done to study rare phenomena and develop testable hypotheses. 

It is important to note that case studies should not be used to determine cause and effect, and they have limited use for making accurate predictions.

The case studies raise two serious problems: expectancy effects and outliers. Expectation effects include the underlying biases of the experimenter that can affect the actions taken during the investigation. These biases can lead to misrepresentation of the participants’ descriptions. 

On the other hand, the description of atypical individuals can lead to poor generalizations and detract from external validity. Types of field work

Steps to carry out field work

Here are some of the key steps in conducting a field investigation:

  1. Recruit a team of researchers specialized in field work to develop the process.
  2. Choose the appropriate fieldwork method for the research topic in question, taking into consideration factors such as the type and objectives of the study, the duration and the budget.
  3. Visit the study site to have a first approach to the main themes that take place there.
  4. Analyze the data collected during the field phase based on a well-developed analysis methodology.
  5. Communicate in a constructive way the results of the fieldwork, either through a research work or a newspaper article, etc.

Advantages of field research

Some of the advantages of conducting field work in an investigation are:

  • Can provide detailed data : Researchers can observe their subjects in their own environment and describe them extensively.
  • Discover new social facts: Fieldwork can be used to discover social facts that are not easily discernible and that research participants may also be unaware of.
  • Variables are not manipulated : Since field research methods are carried out in natural real-world settings, variables are presented naturally and uniquely. 

Disadvantages of field research

Although field work can provide valuable knowledge, it can also represent some disadvantages for a researcher:

  • Studies are expensive, time-consuming, and can take years to complete.
  • It is very difficult for the researcher to distance himself from a bias in the research study.
  • The notes have to be exactly what the researcher says, but the nomenclature is very difficult to follow.

Tools for field work

Some of the tools that are commonly used in field work are: Types of field work

Field diary

Field notebooks are widely used in anthropology and social sciences for the description of everything that the researcher manages to capture during the qualitative observation process.

Photography, video and audio

The use of photographic and audiovisual cameras has spread widely as a method of recording qualitative observation in field work, as well as audio recorders for recording interviews.

In audiovisual anthropology, for example, written ethnography is replaced by documentaries of the individuals or groups studied.

Offline survey app

Since field work can be carried out anywhere in the world, and in many cases in environments without internet access, one of the most widely used tools today are offline survey apps, which allow surveys to be applied on mobile devices and later synchronize them on an online platform.

In this way, a large amount of field data can be collected without the need for large amounts of paper, the risk of information loss, and human resource hours spent on data processing. Types of field work

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