What Is Fieldwork: Definition And Characteristics?

What Is Fieldwork: Definition and Characteristics
What Is Fieldwork: Definition and Characteristics

If you are a university student and you are doing research work or an academic project, or you are just looking for this information, you have come to the right place! In this post, we will take the doubt out of your mind about what is fieldwork and we will explain it in detail below.

So, what is fieldwork?

Within a research project, fieldwork is the part where the theory studied is taken to the environment where it is applied. Depending on the discipline you are working in, it may be the work that will be applied “in the field”. It is a certain place where you are transported to apply some method of data collection.

Fieldwork is one of the main methods of sociological research. It offers the possibility of access to social life. The information collected in this way is more extensive and complex than that obtained through a questionnaire survey. If you have trouble understanding how to use fieldwork, you can buy research papers by turning to professionals.

The objective of fieldwork in research

The purpose of fieldwork is to get to know the reality and environment of the object of study. The researcher in a certain way appropriates the social environment and can analyze in the first person the social phenomena occurring in the study population.

Fieldwork has come to be cataloged as “powerful” research. It allows us to truly discover what people do.

Fieldwork in research, how is it done?

Fieldwork research is a qualitative method of data collection that aims to observe, interact with and understand people while they are in a natural environment.

This type of research comprises a wide variety of social research methods involving direct observation, analysis of documents and other information, limited participation, interaction, surveys, informal interviews, etc.  As mentioned above, this research method is qualitative, but often applies aspects of quantitative research.

How to apply fieldwork?

First, you should define and formulate the general and specific objectives that will be the guide to start your work. Then it is important to determine the data collection strategy, to be able to define the setting in which you are going to work and the role you will assume in the research.

Access to the fieldwork must be negotiated, you must have permission from the group and, above all, you must understand their social organization and its characteristics.

Research methods

To use fieldwork, you need to be aware that there are a variety of research methods. There are two dominant methodologies in fieldwork practice, scientific and traditional, and each has different objectives. The traditional approach aims at developing content knowledge.

Therefore, the scientific approach collects data and tests the hypothesis. Field research expands learning opportunities and promotes the use of learning objectives in planning fieldwork. Using scientific methodology, learning that takes place in the field becomes as rigorous as learning in the classroom, speaking from a planning perspective.

Here are the 5 methods of fieldwork:

Direct observation

You must collect data using the observation method or the subject in his or her natural environment. In this method, you do not interfere in any way with behavior or outcome.

The advantage of direct observation is that it provides contextual data about situations, people, environments, and interactions. This research method is usually used in a public setting or environment rather than a private one because it poses an ethical dilemma.

Participant observation

As a researcher, you will be deeply involved in this field study method not only as an observer but also as a participant. This method is also conducted in a natural setting, but the difference is that you will have to participate in the discussions as well as determine their direction.

In this method, the researchers live in a comfortable environment with the participants so that they feel free and open up more deeply.


Ethnography is the observation of research, social perspectives, and cultural values based on a holistic social environment. Ethnography objectively observes whole communities. For example, if a researcher wants to understand how a particular tribe lives, they may choose to observe them or live among them, but observe in silence to understand their daily behavior.

Qualitative Interviews

Qualitative interviews consist of closed-ended questions that are asked directly to the research subjects. Qualitative interviews can be: conversational and informal, standardized and open-ended, semi-structured, or a combination of all three.

The data collected in the interviews are of great value to the researcher, who can categorize them. This method can use a combination of individual interviews, text analysis, and focus groups.

Case Study

A case study is an in-depth analysis of a person, event, or situation. It may seem like a complicated method, but this form is one of the easiest because it involves an in-depth understanding and immersion in data collection methods and data inference.

Characteristics of fieldwork

Here are three characteristics of fieldwork:

  • It allows for a combination of methods depending on the situations that arise during the study.
  • It is flexible, allowing it to be adapted to what is being studied. It can be modified once the study has begun for a deeper understanding of the subject/subject.
  • Fieldwork tends to be holistic because it is constantly trying to understand the totality of the phenomenon. It seeks to understand the social environment and phenomenon; it does not seek to predict the phenomenon or the environment.

Remember, these characteristics of fieldwork are consistent with a qualitative approach. This would not be possible with a quantitative approach to research.

Final words

Keep in mind that this approach requires certain characteristics to be met:

  • The study must be supported by previous data so that you can plan the study and then process the information obtained.
  • The data collected are obtained through the various methods already mentioned above.
  • The study should be conducted in the location where the problem being analyzed occurs.

During the fieldwork, you are expected to prepare an interpretation of the data obtained following the chosen theoretical framework.