7 junio, 2024

Field research: characteristics, design, techniques, examples

A field research A field study is a type of research in which data about a particular event are acquired or measured where it occurs. In other words, the researcher travels to the place where the phenomenon he wishes to study occurs, with the purpose of collecting useful information for his investigation.

Examples of field research would be biologists taking data at a zoo, sociologists taking data on actual social interactions, or meteorologists taking data on the weather in a city.

On the one hand, with field research, data can be collected with the aim of expanding knowledge to carry out a study. On the other hand, the information obtained can be used for practical purposes, making diagnoses and proposing changes to modify some type of undesired situation.

Likewise, field research gives the researcher the possibility of having a broader understanding of the data obtained, since they will know first-hand the real conditions through which said information was obtained, being able to modify or review it if any type of doubt arises. .


Field research characteristics

Some of the most important characteristics of a field investigation are the following:


Field investigations are carried out in the place where the event that is going to be studied by the researcher occurs, having to go there to capture the necessary data.

original sources

The researcher has the possibility of collecting the data directly in the place of the events, which gives him greater control both in the essence and in the quantity of the same.

Data collection

Obtaining the necessary data to carry out the research can be done through observation, interaction with the study subjects (using surveys or interviews), and also by referring to existing information.

Time and costs

Because for this type of investigation it is necessary to collect data at the scene, the time and costs of the same can be high.

Field Research Design

The design of a field investigation is the manner or method by which the researcher will carry out the investigation. It refers to the preparation of a research plan, in which the techniques and instruments used to obtain the desired information are defined.

Depending on the type of research that needs to be carried out, there are different models of research design, some of these are:

Pre-experimental designs

In this type of design, the researcher has no control over the variables that affect the study, so data is collected before and after these variables are applied. Finally, the data obtained are compared.

Quasi-experimental designs

In quasi-experimental designs, the researcher has control over one of the variables that affect the group to be studied.

Unlike the experimental designs, in the quasi-experimental the researcher conducts the study on previously formed groups. It is for this reason that the results obtained in this type of design can become less reliable.

experimental designs

In this type of design, the researcher has control over all the variables involved in the field investigation. In this way, by introducing variables or causes, he can see the reactions of the studied subjects.

In addition, they have the free formation or selection of groups for their subsequent study, under the conditions that they consider necessary.

Field Investigation Techniques

Field research techniques are the techniques by which the researcher will collect the data he needs for his research. It is the way in which information will be obtained or captured at the scene of the events.

Due to the great diversity of phenomena or events that can be studied using field research, there are different types of techniques that allow the collection of information, which are based on the type of data that must be obtained.

Next, the different techniques used to carry out a field investigation are exposed.

field experiments

The use of field experiments makes it possible to observe how the behaviors of the subjects studied develop in their natural habitat, by introducing a variable foreign to it, enabling the researcher to obtain first-hand data, by closely observing the reactions he is trying to investigate. .

However, if the subjects notice that they are being studied, it is possible that they change their naturalness in the behavior, thus losing the objectivity of the study.

The data collected through the use of field experiments are of the quantitative type.


The observation technique can be applied in two different ways, one of them is passive, where the researcher limits himself to observing the study subjects from the outside, and the other is a participant, getting involved in the study group and sharing with others. These are your experiences.

Depending on the technique used to carry out the research, the type of data to be collected varies. In the case of passive observation, the data collected will be quantitative, and in participant observation, qualitative.


The survey technique is carried out through the use of a questionnaire, a fact that allows reaching a large number of people at the same time, without the obligation to come into contact with them, since it can be delivered by any means, both digital and physical.


In the interview, the researcher meets the study subject personally, asking questions to obtain information. Thanks to this, the type of information obtained is very detailed, since the researcher can delve into the questions that he believes are necessary to obtain the information.

For its execution there are two forms of interviews, the structured interview, which consists of a previously prepared question guide, and the unstructured interview, where the interviewer asks questions to arrive at the information he needs, as he talks with the interviewer. subject.

life stories

This type of technique is used to obtain information about the way in which a community lived, in a certain period of time. To carry it out, you can use stories and stories obtained from different people, or also from historical archives found in the media, newspapers or letters, among others.

Discussion groups

When a focus group technique is used, the information obtained is qualitative. In addition, it can be used as a complement to the interview, allowing to obtain data about the social structure or the type of ideological current that the group of people studied possesses.


The instruments are the tools that are used in a field investigation, with the objective of capturing information, classifying it and even making it more understandable for subsequent analysis.

Therefore, the instruments are divided into three large groups:

ordering instruments

Sorting instruments are used, as their name suggests, to order the data obtained in an investigation, where the way in which they are ordered depends on the type of instrument used.

Some examples of ordering instruments are the following:

records. Guides. files. catalogues. payroll Field diaries. listings. Indexes.

qualifying instruments

Classifying instruments are used to form data groups, which share certain previously determined characteristics, such as time, magnitude, place or behavior, among others.

Some examples of qualifying instruments are the following:

diagrams. samples. Paintings. Tabulations. Statistical representations. graphics. Ballots.

Diagrammatic or cartographic instruments

This type of instrument makes it possible to observe the data with the naked eye, since they are represented by symbols, images or maps. It is for this reason that they are used mostly when working in rural areas, market studies or censuses, among others.

Some examples of these instruments are:

Territorial letters. Blueprints. schemes. diagrams. Maps. Descriptive letters.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Field Research

As with most investigations, field research has a number of advantages and disadvantages. Some of the most important are listed below.


Thanks to the fact that in most cases the information is taken in the place where the events to be investigated naturally occur, the researcher will obtain data without any kind of adulteration, and will have a better knowledge of the applied variables.

In addition, it allows the researcher to obtain a greater degree of understanding of the real situation that he wishes to study.


One of the most important disadvantages of this type of research has to do with the high economic cost of conducting field research, since the researcher has to travel to the study site several times.

Another drawback is the time it takes, since to get a good amount of data you need to observe, survey or interview several people for a few days.

Field Research Examples

Some examples of field investigations may be the following:

The zoonosis of SARS-CoV-2

From research carried out in China, it is known that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was transmitted through zoonoses from bats. For this, the researchers had to carry out a field investigation taking data from bats from Chinese caves and others from Southeast Asia.

Research with stranded whales

In order to find out what causes the whales to become stranded, it is necessary to go to the beaches where the event occurs and collect data.

Intel and consumption in Europe

In 2002, Intel, through its subsidiary People and Practices Research and under the leadership of anthropologist Genevieve Bell, was looking for an efficient way to market in Europe.

They visited 45 homes in small, medium, and large cities in 5 European countries over 6 years, concluding that it was not possible to speak of a single Europe and that each country has its idiosyncrasies.

However, the field research managed to collect enough data for more effective marketing in each country of the Old Continent.

Invasion of animals during confinement, Spain

In 2020, many cities in Spain, reported as animals from the countryside and rural areas, they entered the city, being totally unusual. Wild boars in Madrid or Barcelona, ​​goats in Albacete, roe deer in Valladolid and even a bear in a town in Asturias.

This phenomenon occurred during the time of…

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