Designing and conducting field research
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Designing and Conducting Field Research. Short Course #2 APSA 2011 Instructors: Diana Kapiszewski , UC Irvine Naomi Levy , Santa Clara University. Building on a course initially developed and taught by Melani Cammett (Brown University), Marc Morjé Howard (Georgetown University),

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Designing and conducting field research

Designing and Conducting Field Research

Short Course #2

APSA 2011

Instructors:

Diana Kapiszewski, UC Irvine

Naomi Levy, Santa Clara University

Building on a course initially developed and taught by

Melani Cammett (Brown University),

Marc Morjé Howard (Georgetown University),

Evan S. Lieberman (Princeton University),

Julia F. Lynch (University of Pennsylvania),

Lauren Morris MacLean (Indiana University),

Benjamin L. Read (UC Santa Cruz),

Scott Straus (University of Wisconsin, Madison) &

Sara Watson (Ohio State University)


Agenda

Agenda

Part I – Conceptualizing, Designing, and Preparing for Fieldwork (2:00-3:25)

Part II – Data Collection (3:25-4:10)

~ Break (4:10-4:20) ~

Part III – Interviewing (4:20-5:15)

Part IV – Organizing and Analyzing Data & Assessing Progress (5:15-6:00)

~ Break (6:00-6:10) ~

Workshop (6:10-7:00)


Where we are in the course

Where We Are in the Course

Part I – Conceptualizing, Designing, and Preparing for Fieldwork (2:00-3:25)

1. Borders and Varieties of Fieldwork

2. Research Design and Fieldwork

3. Preparing for Fieldwork

Part II – Data Collection (3:25-4:10)

* Break (4:10-4:20)

Part III – Interviewing (4:20-5:15)

Part IV – Organizing, Analyzing, Assessing (5:15-6:00)

* Break (6:00-6:10)

Workshop (6:10-7:00)


Fieldwork in political science what is it

Fieldwork in Political Science: What Is It?

  • Working definition for this course:

    • Leaving one’s home institution to collect data that significantly informs one’s research

  • Fieldwork is not delimited to one’s time in the field

  • Fieldwork is a very iterative process


Fieldwork in political science grounds for caution

Fieldwork in Political Science: Grounds for Caution

  • Costly in terms of time money

  • Roadblocks and challenges of all types

  • Most graduate programs provide little training

    • Read, read, read on your own!


Fieldwork in political science what does it look like

Fieldwork in Political Science: What Does it Look Like?

  • The pre-dissertation scoping trip

  • The “surgical strike” short trip

  • A series of short trips spread out in time

  • The brief shadow-case foray

  • Full-blown, “traditional” 1-2 year stay

  • The follow-up trip


Fieldwork in political science what does it look like cont d

Fieldwork in Political Science: What Does it Look Like (cont’d.)?

  • Selecting the topic

  • Reading existing literature

  • Defining the research question

  • Assessing feasibility

  • Completed proposal

  • Follow-up data-gathering

Loosely Structured: Open-Ended Research

Highly Structured: Narrowly Focused Research


Varieties of fieldwork trade offs

Long stays:

Pros

Experience another culture

In-depth research

Contacts/network

Ideas

More relaxed & fun

Cons

May be far away

Lack of urgency

“Too much” data

Shorter trips:

Pros

Efficiency

Forces you to take stock

Identify comparisons/ contrasts quicker

Less time away

Cons

Can be more costly

Scheduling difficulties

Not enough time

Varieties of Fieldwork: Trade-offs


Where we are in the course1

Where We Are in the Course

Part I – Conceptualizing, Designing, and Preparing for Fieldwork (2:00-3:25)

1. Borders and Varieties of Fieldwork

2. Research Design and Fieldwork

3. Preparing for Fieldwork

Part II – Data Collection (3:25-4:10)

* Break (4:10-4:20)

Part III – Interviewing (4:20-5:15)

Part IV – Organizing, Analyzing, Assessing (5:15-6:00)

* Break (6:00-6:10)

Workshop (6:10-7:00)


Design driven fieldwork and fieldwork driven design

Design-Driven Fieldwork and Fieldwork-Driven Design

  • Field work must fit your research design

  • Your design must accommodate field realities

  • Competing Imperatives

    • Your ideal research design

    • Practicality


Design driven fieldwork and fieldwork driven design1

Design-Driven Fieldwork and Fieldwork-Driven Design

  • Design “do-able” research

    • Think about your own limitations

  • Find a way

    • Think positively

  • Revise

    • Think in terms of variables


Fieldwork and the research design

Fieldwork and the Research Design

  • Nomothetic

    • Thinking in terms of variables

  • Idiographic

    • Thinking in terms of cases


Data matrix

Data Matrix


Case selection and sampling

Case Selection and Sampling

  • Selection decisions arise at many stages

    • Macro-level

      • Country cases

    • Meso-level

      • Regions or Towns

      • Time periods

      • Sectors, etc.

    • Micro-level

      • Individuals for interviews

      • Documents for content analysis


Small n

Small-N

  • Use case selection to provide causal leverage

  • Use a variable-centered approach

    • Hold rival explanatory variables constant

    • Allow your primary explanation to vary

  • Example: Dan Posner (2004)

    • Macro-level: Zambia & Malawi

    • Meso-level: Town selection held rival variables constant


Posner 2004 meso level selection

Posner (2004) Meso-level Selection


Large n

Large-N

  • Where possible, use random sampling

    • This increases the generalizability of your findings

    • Need a list of the universe of cases

    • Consider cluster sampling

  • Sometimes not possible or desirable

    • Special cases you want to include

    • Important variation you want to capture


Where we are in the course2

Where We Are in the Course

Part I – Conceptualizing, Designing, and Preparing for Fieldwork (2:00-3:25)

1. Borders and Varieties of Fieldwork

2. Research Design and Fieldwork

3. Preparing for Fieldwork

Part II – Data Collection (3:25-4:10)

* Break (4:10-4:20)

Part III – Interviewing (4:20-5:15)

Part IV – Organizing, Analyzing, Assessing (5:15-6:00)

* Break (6:00-6:10)

Workshop (6:10-7:00)


The months and weeks before administration

The Months and Weeks Before…Administration

  • Funding

    • Make a budget

    • Apply for lots of money

    • Timing

    • Sources

  • Dealing with your Institutional Review Board

    • This does not have to be difficult!

    • Follow the directions, adhere to deadlines

    • Find out about exemptions and consent


The months and weeks before intellectual prep

The Months and Weeks Before…Intellectual Prep

  • Dig into your topic

    • READ!!

    • Maximize creativity in terms of data sources!

  • Background research on your country/ies

    • News

    • Running lists


The months and weeks before more intellectual prep

The Months and Weeks Before…More Intellectual Prep

  • Begin to write documents

    • Ways to present your research

    • One-page description

    • Interview questions

    • Contact emails

  • Collect documents you’ll use in the field

  • Brush up on methods

  • Think about your foreign language skills


The months and weeks before reach out

The Months and Weeks Before…Reach Out!

  • Develop your network of scholars and contact them!

    • Contact grad students, professors

    • Network at conferences

    • Get on listserves

    • Contact NGOs, think tanks

    • Email in-country journalists

    • You are not a bother!


The months and weeks before and reach out some more

The Months and Weeks Before…And Reach Out Some More!

  • How about a host institution (research affiliation)

    • Plenty of benefits

    • But be aware of profile and reputation


Converting your research design into a to get list

Converting your Research Design into a “To Get” List


Sidenote on measurement

Sidenote on Measurement

  • How do you know variation when you see it?

    • Conceptual Definition

    • Operational Definition

  • Much of the measurement process happens on the fly in the field

  • Keep detailed notes on your measurement decisions


Converting your research design into a to get list1

Converting your Research Design into a “To Get” List


Example of to get list

Example of “To Get” List


About the to get list

About the “To Get” List

  • You can head to the field before you have your entire “to get” list filled out!

  • Not everything you will need “to get” in the field will be on your “to get” list

  • To get list

    • Helps make your project manageable

    • Is a measure of your progress

    • Is the link between all the millions of tasks you carry out in the field, and your larger project


Converting your research design into a to get list2

Converting your Research Design into a “To Get” List


Where we are in the course3

Where We Are in the Course

Part I – Conceptualizing, Designing, and Preparing for Fieldwork (2:00-3:25)

Part II – Data Collection(3:25-4:10)

1. Forms of Data Collection

2. Data Collection: Choices, Challenges, Assistants

* Break (4:10-4:20)

Part III – Interviewing (4:20-5:15)

Part IV – Organizing, Analyzing, Assessing (5:15-6:00)

* Break (6:00-6:10)

Workshop (6:10-7:00)


Non interactive data collection

Non-Interactive Data Collection

  • Observations

  • Following the local media

    • Newspapers, magazines, radio and TV

    • Books & articles

  • Obtaining Documents & Existing Datasets

    • Government agencies & Ministries

    • NGOs

  • Archival Work


Interactive data collection

Interactive Data Collection

  • Ethnography

  • Participant Observation

  • Large-scale surveys

  • Interviews

    • Oral Histories

  • Focus Groups


Choices in data collection

ChoicesinData Collection

  • Strengths and Weaknesses

    • Non-interactive

      • Documents don’t “react”

      • Documents and archives can be biased

    • Interactive

      • Respondents can provide first-hand account

      • Respondents might be inaccurate

  • Triangulate!


Triangulation

Triangulation


Where we are in the course4

Where We Are in the Course

Part I – Conceptualizing, Designing, and Preparing for Fieldwork (2:00-3:25)

Part II – Data Collection (3:25-4:10)

1. Forms of Data Collection

2. Data Collection: Choices, Challenges, and Assistants

* Break (4:10-4:20)

Part III – Interviewing (4:20-5:15)

Part IV – Organizing, Analyzing, Assessing (5:15-6:00)

* Break (6:00-6:10)

Workshop (6:10-7:00)


Data collection begins with questions

Data Collection Begins with Questions

  • Initial data collection task = brainstorming questions

  • Items on to-get list  questions

  • Those questions point you towards sources, or places to ask your questions

  • The more you know, the more and better questions you’ll have!


Sequencing and prioritizing

Sequencing and Prioritizing

  • Feeling overwhelmed?

  • Distinguish necessary from desirable data

    • Centrality to core hypotheses or key variables

  • Other factors to consider in ordering data collection

    • Overlapping strategies

    • Harder-to-get vs. easier-to-get data

    • “Low-risk” vs. “high-risk” contacts

    • Temporally-tied events

    • Depth vs. breadth


Anticipate data collection challenges

Anticipate Data Collection Challenges

  • Roadblocks to accessing elites, ordinary citizens, archives, datasets

    • Affiliate

    • Network – find a “connection”

    • Be professional

    • Reciprocate

    • Think empathetically

    • Consider the investment: time, effort, patience, $


Methods for capturing data

Methods for Capturing Data

  • Documents

    • Take notes

    • Reproduce

  • Interviews & Focus Groups

    • Field notes after the fact

    • Jotted notes during

    • Audio/Video tape

    • Combo

  • How do decide?

    • How much data do you want to capture?

    • How are you going to use the data?


Methods for capturing data cont d

Methods for Capturing Data (cont’d.)

  • Reproducing/Recording Pros

    • You aren’t just relying on your notes and memory

    • Capture verbatim quotes

    • Richer data

  • Reproducing/Recording Cons

    • Too much data

    • Costly

      • Equipment

      • Storage

      • Transportation

      • Transcription

    • Recording can make people nervous


Hiring research assistants i

Hiring Research Assistants (I)

  • Does It Make Sense?

  • Pros:

    • ‘Giving back’ to countries

    • Can be a great source of information

    • Building long-term relationships

  • Cons

    • Training = time consuming

    • May cause problems or quit or fail to follow instructions

    • May introduce bias


Hiring research assistants ii

Hiring Research Assistants (II)

  • Recruitment

    • How to find RAs

    • Interview

    • What are you offering?

    • Contract

  • How much and how to include RAs in your research


Where we are in the course5

Where We Are in the Course

Part I – Conceptualizing, Designing, and Preparing for Fieldwork (2:00-3:25)

Part II – Data Collection (3:25-4:10)

* Break (4:10-4:20)

Part III – Interviewing (4:20-5:15)

Part IV – Organizing, Analyzing, Assessing (5:15-6:00)

* Break (6:00-6:10)

Workshop (6:10-7:00)


Where we are in the course6

Where We Are in the Course

Part I – Conceptualizing, Designing, and Preparing for Fieldwork (2:00-3:25)

Part II – Data Collection (3:25-4:10)

* Break (4:10-4:20)

Part III – Interviewing (4:20-5:15)

1. Preparing and Writing Questions

2. Conducting the Interview/Follow-up

Part IV – Organizing, Analyzing, Assessing (5:15-6:00)

* Break (6:00-6:10)

Workshop (6:10-7:00)


Interviewing general guidelines

InterviewingGeneral Guidelines

Do your homework

Interview “those who study” before “those who do”

Varieties of interviews

Structured? Semi-structured? Informal chat?

Sampling redux

Scheduling interviews

Where to conduct the interview


Interviewing writing interview protocols i

Interviewing Writing Interview Protocols (I)

  • Language

  • Grand tour vs. open-ended vs. specific qstns.

  • What’s the goal of the interview? Will your questions produce useful data?

  • Theoretically motivated/in colloquial terms

  • What are you asking?!

  • Asking challenging questions

  • Weeding questions


Interviewing writing interview protocols ii

Interviewing Writing Interview Protocols (II)

  • Transitional language

  • Varieties of responses

  • Keep questions simple and direct

  • Get local input on your questions

  • Pretest

  • Crucial questions: how are you going to analyze and use the data?


Where we are in the course7

Where We Are in the Course

Part I – Conceptualizing, Designing, and Preparing for Fieldwork (2:00-3:25)

Part II – Data Collection (3:25-4:10)

* Break (4:10-4:20)

Part III – Interviewing (4:20-5:15)

1. Preparing and Writing Questions

2. Conducting the Interview/Follow-up

Part IV – Organizing, Analyzing, Assessing (5:15-6:00)

* Break (6:00-6:10)

Workshop (6:10-7:00)


Conducting the interview

Conducting the Interview

  • Introducing yourself and your research

  • Interacting with your respondent

    • Conversation vs. Interview

    • DOs and DON’Ts

  • Prioritize your questions

  • Know your protocol


Conducting the interview1

Conducting the Interview

  • Probes

    • follow-up questions that are used to deepen a response to a question

  • Types

    • Basic signals

    • Detail-oriented Questions

      • who, what, where, when, how

    • Elaboration Probes

      • “Tell me more”

    • Clarification Probes

      • “What do you mean?”


Conducting the interview2

Conducting the Interview

  • Using Silence

    • One of the most useful “probes”

    • Gives the subject the space to talk

    • Wait longer than is comfortable for you

    • Builds constructive tension

  • Taking notes

    • A form a body language

    • What to write

  • Wrapping up

    • Be thankful, be very very thankful!


After the interview

After the Interview

  • Write up your notes!!!

    • Worth being VERY disciplined about this!

    • Do it before you conduct another interview

    • Include a description of the person & location

    • Note the most important new information

    • Remember: writing notes is a form of data reduction

  • If you record, dealing with your recordings

    • Transcribe? “Listen through”? Put aside?

  • Send a thank you note!

  • Getting better


Where we are in the course8

Where We Are in the Course

Part I – Conceptualizing, Designing, and Preparing for Fieldwork (2:00-3:25)

Part II – Data Collection(3:25-4:10)

**Break (4:10-4:20)

Part III – Interviewing (4:20-5:15)

Part IV – Organizing and Analyzing Data & Assessing Progress (5:15-6:00)

1. Organizing and Analyzing Data

2. Assessing Progress and Wrapping Up

**Break (6:00-6:10)

Workshop (6:10-7:00)


Data organization questions to consider

Data Organization:Questions to Consider

  • You’re Project Manager of your study – organize and systematize from the start!

  • Why organize?

    • Helps you to see the progress you’ve made

    • Eases re-entry

  • What needs to be organized?

    • data

    • contacts

    • thoughts


Organizing your data

Organizing Your Data

Sources of Data

Interviews

Archives

Written Primary and

Secondary Sources

Datasets

Observations

Misc. Documents

Forms of Data

Notes, Tapes, Transcripts

Notes, Copies

Notes, Copies

Electronic Files, Printed Copies

Notes, Tapes

Notes, Copies


Establish a system for filing physical and electronic documents

Establish a System for Filing Physical and Electronic Documents


Organizing your contacts i

Organizing Your Contacts (I)

  • Develop a contact management system

    • What matters most is that it works for you.

  • General suggestions

    • Separate from your general address book.

    • Lots of fields

    • Set up to automate thank-you letters

    • Easy retrieval for follow-up, thank you notes, future projects

    • Make it the beginning of a database


Organizing your contacts ii chart for potential respondents

Organizing Your Contacts (II)Chart for Potential Respondents

Status:

X = need to find

X = found, need to get going

X = going

X = set and/or done

X = don’t do anything for now

X = give up/declined


Organizing your contacts iii interview clean up

Organizing Your Contacts (III)Interview Clean-up


Digesting your data

Digesting Your Data

  • Develop a strategy for keeping track of your thoughts

    • Make a habit of writing

    • Organize your thoughts

  • Begin your analysis while in the field

    • Periodically read through your documents and notes

    • Write tentative memos

  • Prepare your data for analysis

    • Think about your coding strategy

    • Import data into software programs


Where we are in the course9

Where We Are in the Course

Part I – Conceptualizing, Designing, and Preparing for Fieldwork (2:00-3:25)

Part II – Data Collection (3:25-4:10)

**Break (4:10-4:20)

Part III – Interviewing (4:20-5:15)

Part IV – Organizing and Analyzing Data & Assessing Progress (5:15-6:00)

1. Organizing and Analyzing Data

2. Assessing Progress and Wrapping Up

**Break (6:00-6:10)

Workshop (6:10-7:00)


Assessing your progress i

Assessing Your Progress (I)

  • Challenge: simultaneously thinking micro (trees) and thinking macro (forest)

  • Addressing overall progress entails getting some perspective on the forest

  • Where are you on the “to get” list?

    • How much data have you collected?

    • How many of the people you consider crucial have you spoken with?


Assessing your progress ii

Assessing Your Progress (II)

  • Research projects often seek to build toward a specific argument

    • Have evidence to support your hypotheses?

    • If new argument, data to support that?

    • Do you have evidence to address “alternative hypotheses”?

  • Get help to correct for “field goggles” -- to push larger questions to the forefront

    • Keep in touch!


Assessing your progress iii

Assessing Your Progress III

  • Different vehicles for telling your evolving story

    • Periodic written reports or memos to advisors

    • Write conference papers.

    • Present your work in-country informally

  • Upsides

    • Helps you do some early analysis

    • Gets you feedback on your analysis and story

    • Helps you see where you really are!


Making adjustments

Making Adjustments

  • It’s common for people to (want to) make some adjustments

  • Carefully consider any change to your project

    • Be patient and set some reasonable deadlines.

    • Carefully diagnose the problem.

    • Talk with others about your potential “fix”

    • Make sure your “fix” addresses the problem.


Tweaking your project

Tweaking Your Project

Data Matrix


Tweaking your project1

Tweaking Your Project

  • Micro-level Matrix -- Individuals


Tweaking your project2

Tweaking Your Project

  • Meso-level Matrix


Knowing when to wrap things up

Knowing When to Wrap Things Up

  • Develop some criteria to help you determine when you have “enough”

    • Check your “to get” list

    • What information is only available abroad?

  • Consider how much paper to cart home (or between countries)

  • Return trips are an option

    • Research sites won’t disappear

    • You will be able to hit the ground running


Preparing for life after field research while in the field

Preparing for “Life After Field Research” While in the Field

  • Consider reintegration strategies

    • Request office space from your home dept

    • Join a dissertation-writing group

    • To TA or not to TA?

  • Try to plan out your first month back

    • Unpack your boxes ASAP

    • Deal with unfinished field business

    • Data to transcribe, code, enter, or clean up

    • Reconnect with your advisors

  • Plan to go easy on yourself!


Where we are in the course10

Where We Are in the Course

Part I – Conceptualizing, Designing, and Preparing for Fieldwork (2:00-3:25)

Part II – Data Collection (3:25-4:10)

* Break (4:10-4:20)

Part III – Interviewing (4:20-5:15)

Part IV – Organizing, Analyzing, Assessing (5:15-6:00)

* Break (6:00-6:10)

Workshop (6:10-7:00)


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