Field Methods and Fieldwork (15 ECTS)

Course description

This course builds on previous courses, especially ‘Advanced Research Methods in the Social Sciences’. This course takes these ‘methods’ into actual ‘techniques’ in the field.

Data are conceived, identified, gathered, structured, and analysed in complex situations. The main objective of this module is to equip the students to navigate and collect data in real world situations. Students should gain knowledge about:

  • the range of techniques employed to collect social scientific data; and
  • how methodological choices affect the production of knowledge.

In addition to readings and lectures, students will learn through developing and undertaking a short research project in the field. In doing so, they will experience the difficulties, trade-offs and limitations of different data collection methods.

In order to get as close as possible to a realistic experience of real world data collection, the module is explicitly interdisciplinary and problem based. The course will present a theme, decided by the study leaders, within which teams of students will choose a specific research question. The centerpiece of the module is a 2 week field course, inserted between 3 weeks of preparation and a 3 weeks report writing and final evaluation.

After completing this course students should be able to:

  • describe and define central concepts encountered in academic debates around data collection in the social sciences;
  • show an understanding of a range of qualitative and quantitative field data collection methods;
  • design a research plan for field study, incorporating selection of relevant methods;
  • critically analyze the validity of different data collection research methods;
  • collect and process relevant information in the field;
  • judge the reliability of collected data as well as the significance of obtained results;
  • discuss and compare data obtained by various methods in interdisciplinary fieldwork;
  • use and interpret data to shed light on complex topics; and
  • concisely communicate research findings.

Course structure

The course will be undertaken on a full-time basis over 8 weeks. This will involve 3 weeks of preparation methods training and research preparation; 2 weeks of field work; and 3 weeks of report writing and a final evaluation. Throughout the course, students will work in groups to design, undertake and report on their own piece of field research.

The location and theme of the fieldwork will vary on an annual basis. Locations and themes will be chosen to represent the breadth of the scope of the overall education. There will therefore be field courses in African and Asian contexts, as well as in global policymaking hubs. Where possible, field courses will be carried out in collaboration with partner universities and external stakeholders in each location.

In recent years the field work has been undertaken in Tanzania but we expect the next year´s field courses will go to Nepal.