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Field Research

James A. Anderson


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Field research is a somewhat dated term that is used to describe research conducted under the naturally occurring contingencies of unmanipulated or naturally manipulated contexts. In this usage it is contrasted with laboratory research, which is to be conducted under highly controlled circumstances and in fully manipulated contexts. In this contrast, field research is considered to provide relevance to everyday life, and laboratory research rigor to the conclusions drawn. In the traditions of law-seeking sciences, laboratory research returns findings of the highest generalizability and, therefore, of greater value. This attribution, of course, politicizes the relationship between different →  Research Methods and the sciences that depend on them. Setting the political issue aside for the moment, old-school field researchers catalogue objects, places, and spaces, do content analysis (→  Content Analysis, Qualitative ; Content Analysis, Quantitative ), perform →  Surveys , do →  case studies , hold →  interviews , conduct focus groups, do protocol analysis, perform nonparticipative →  observation of naturally occurring behavior, or use similar research methodologies. The cataloguing of objects, places, and spaces generally has to do with their role in some activity. Objects might be a tool, a ceremonial element, or ritual implement; a place might be a geographical or architectural ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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