How to Write a Field Report
Field reports are widely used throughout social sciences. They contain important observations of the researcher who is interested in particular phenomena, processes, behaviors, and so forth. It is true that social sciences are based upon theoretical reflections and conceptions, hence, it is not possible for a researcher to merely observe without having any theoretical framework for his/her examinations. Nevertheless, to have a theoretical conception is never enough: one should be also able to prove his/her conception, and even to modify it according to his/her own observations related to the conception in question.
The instructions given below will be related to how to write a field report in a proper manner. Please keep in mind that every academic field has its peculiar principles and requirements, therefore, you need to get more information about your task from your instructor or classmates.
How to write a field report – 5 essential steps
1. Formulate your research problem
Your research problem is formulated as a sentence, usually in the form of a question, such as: “What is the function which the ritual X performs in the community Y?” Of course, the sentence could be much longer, or have several separated parts (i.e. consist of several questions interconnected with each other). In all cases, without a well-defined research problem you cannot do a good field report. Your observations should be focused on a given problem, otherwise, you will write a narrative rather than a field report.
2. Elaborate theoretical framework
You need to read a lot about your research problem - what other specialists maintain, how they carry out their research, what pieces of advice you can take from them. After having read the required literature, you should formulate the following points:
- Thesis - the point which you will maintain and will try to prove through observations.
- Arguments - you can refer to data or statistics, or another kind of information in order to prove your thesis. Remember: by doing your own research, you will add new arguments, so take this into consideration!
- Validity of your thesis - you should show under what circumstances your thesis could not be applied (i.e., there can be a specific factor which will lead to different results than the ones you expect).
3. Specify your methodology and scope of work
You should elaborate a plan with particular steps for performing. In short, it should comprise the place of your field study (observation), the time period (from-to), methods used (different types of activities for observation, according to you academic field).
4. Do your field research
Your field research can be done at once, but it could also have several stages; for example, you can visit the given place and observe the particular community (or a group) several times. Of course, the latter option is the better one, but sometimes college students do not have so much time to do it.
You should adhere to your initial plan and methodology. Carry out your observations, interviews, video records, and so forth, according to your plan and your research problem. Do not do anything which is not directly related to your task! Take notes and write down your feelings and impressions.
5. Write your field report
Your report should include all points given above - theoretical framework, plan for doing research, and observations. Be consistent and logical in your writing: connect each paragraph with each other, but divide the text into sections (introduction, thesis, methodology, etc.).
In your writing you can incorporate your impressions, feelings, emotions. Unlike an academic research paper, a field report could also include personal feelings. Of course, you should relate them to your research problem.
As it can be seen, writing a field report requires not only good observation skills, but also comprehensive knowledge and excellent methodology.
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