Field Work

Field work, also known as field research or field studies, is the collection of data outside a library, workplace, or laboratory setting. The methods and approaches used in field work may vary from discipline to discipline. For example, biologists who do field research might simply observe animals interacting with their habitat, whereas social scientists doing field research might observe or interview people in their natural environments in order to learn their social structures, languages, and folklore.

Field work involves a range of well-defined, although variable, methods which include:

  • Informal interviews
  • Direct observation
  • Participation in the life of the group
  • Collective discussions
  • Analyses of personal documents produced within the group, self-analysis
  • Results from activities undertaken off- or online
  • Life-histories

Even though the method usually is characterized as qualitative research, it may and most often than not, does include quantitative dimensions.

Field research has quite a long history. Cultural anthropologists have used field research for a long time to study other cultures. Even though the cultures don’t have to be different, this has been the case in the past with the study of different cultures, and even in sociology, the cultural differences have been ones of class. 

When conducting field work, keeping a record is essential to the process. They are an essential part of the ethnographic record in order to make observations that will later be written up. 

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