Field Research Design


Course Objective

The course is designed to support students in defining and designing
their research plan. They relate their own research to the anthropology
of mobility, diversity and development, as central themes of the
Master’s program. They also connect their research (questions) to
relevant qualitative data collection methods. By the end of the course,
they will have written a full-fledged research plan and made practical
arrangements ahead of conducting field research.

Learning outcomes:

Knowledge and understanding. The student has acquired knowledge and
understanding of:
(1) qualitative social science methodology, in particular advanced
methods of ethnographic research;
(2) the chances and limitations of the application of anthropological
views, theories and concepts in dealing with societal or organizational

Application. The student has acquired the competences to:
(3) analyse, summarise, and synthesise complex societal issues from a
theoretical perspective and relate them to scientific and societal
(4) formulate a scientific definition of a social problem and to make an
analysis of a concrete societal issue on the basis of anthropological
literature and raw empirical data collected;

Making judgements. The student is able to demonstrate:
(5) critical engagement with various scientific theories and relevant
concepts, to compare them and to connect them to concrete societal
(6) critical reflection on the professional ethics and responsibilities
of anthropologists in wider academic and non-academic contexts;
(7) a critical and reflexive attitude with regards to research plans,
and results.

Communication. The student is able to:
(8) translate anthropological issues and debates at a high level of
conceptual abstraction into terms understandable by a wider public;
(9) make use of a variety of communication methods to share their
knowledge with an academic and non-academic audience.

Learning skills. The student has acquired the skills to:
(10) learn, collaborate and communicate in an intercultural context; be
highly sensitive to cultural and other types of differences.
(11) assess the scientific work of peers and to provide academically
sound and constructive feedback.

Course Content

During the first part of this course and building on the theoretical
basis gained in the parallel course Theoretical Orientation on Mobility,
students select a theme and topic for their individual research
project, a geographical region, and conduct literature-based research.

Through weekly assignments, in-class exercises, peer review and (group)
discussions, the course supports students in selecting a research topic,
further developing an initial idea and learning from/inspiring each
other. In order to optimize results students are encouraged to
participate in or link up with research projects and themes of staff
members. At the end of the first part of the course,
students’ progress is assessed through so-called Explorative Paper
(6,000 words).

During the second part of the course, students are guided in developing
an analytical research question, informed by their previous and
continuing literature search and supported by further thematic
specialization in one of the parallel elective courses "City, Space and
Politics", "Development, Global Inequality and Sustainability",
"Mobility, Diversity and Equality" or "Changing Organizational Culture".

As their research project becomes more defined, students also become
acquainted with doing ethnography. This is achieved through hands-on
assignments in which methods are applied in practice.
They are trained in qualitative data collection methods such as open
interviews and participant observation; they take part in intensive
workshops on writing field notes and on visual/digital research methods;
they are also sensitized to ethical and reflexive issues in doing
fieldwork. In this period, students also arrange practicalities for
their field research.

By the end of the course students will have written a Research Plan
(8,000 words) containing a well-argued research problem; a critical
discussion of relevant literature about the selected theme and region;
an operationalization of the research question; a short description of
the intended research methods; a brief reflection on research ethics
pertaining to the intended research; a small report of practical
preparations for the fieldwork. The plan is integrated with an annotated
bibliography on the topic and geographic area.

Teaching Methods


Method of Assessment

The final grade is based on the explorative paper (30%) and the research
plan (70%). A ‘fail’ for the explorative paper may be compensated. All
methodological assignments for the course also need to be assessed with
a pass.


Sunstein, B.S. & Chiseri-Strater, E. (2012). FieldWorking. Reading and
Writing Research. 4th edition. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin's
[the 2007 edition is accepted as well]. Available at VU bookshop at €

Additional elective literature depending on topic of research and
theoretical approach.

Target Audience

Students in the Master Social and Cultural Anthropology.

Custom Course Registration

In this course you can not enroll yourself for the tutorials, but you will be assigned by the course coordinator. You will find to which tutorial you are assigned in your personal schedule in VUnet. Note: You do still have to register for the course!

Recommended background knowledge

Students also need to participate in the parallel course Theoretical
Orientation on Mobility. Completion of this course is an
entry requirement for Field Research.

General Information

Course Code S_FRD
Credits 12 EC
Period P1+2
Course Level 400
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences
Course Coordinator dr. G. Sinatti
Examiner dr. G. Sinatti
Teaching Staff dr. G. Sinatti
dr. E.W. Bal

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Teaching Methods Study Group*, Lecture

*You cannot select a group yourself for this teaching method, you will be placed in a group.