Chapter 12: Field Research: A Qualitative Research Technique

12.2 Field Research: When is it Appropriate?

Field research is well equipped to answer “how” questions. Whereas survey researchers often aim to answer “why” questions, field researchers ask how the processes they study occur, how the people they spend time with in the field interact, and how events unfold. Table 12.1 “Field Research Examples” presents a few examples of the kinds of questions field researchers have asked in past projects along with a brief summary of where and what role those researchers took in the field. The examples presented in Table 12.1 “Field Research Examples” by no means represent an exhaustive list of the variations of questions field researchers have asked, or of the range of field research projects that have been conducted over the years, but they do provide a snapshot of the kinds of work win which sociological field researchers engage.

Table 12.1 Field research examples

Question Researcher Role Author (Year)
What are the prospects for cross-cultural, interdisciplinary and methodologically plural approach to well-being? Over 2 years (August to November 2010 & 2012) of interviews in Chiawa, Zambia White & Jha (2018)
What are the novel and innovative solutions to critical limitations in existing police research? Undefined Birch, Vickers, Kennedy & Galovic (2017)
What visions of the law do policewomen and popular legal advocates mobilize when they construct their responses to victims? How is evidence constructed in each specific setting? Between 2012 and 2013 Lorenzo, R. A. Lins, B. A. (2018)


How do firefighters perceive their risk as part of the “cancer”? “Over several months …” Harrrison, et al. (2017)
What is the nature of the encounters police have with persons affected by mental illness, and the ways in which such encounters are resolved by policy? Eighteen months Wood, Watson, Fulambarker (2017)
Are students engaging in social medial and other non-study behaviours more often than they are studying? “Several weeks in one semester” at two universities. Paretta & Catalano (2013)

Note: Many of the above studies had more than one research question. Only one research question per study has been listed for demonstration purposes.