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Library Research E-Textbook - Instructor Version: Field Research

Field Research: Introduction & Goals


Interviews and observations are two components of field research. This kind of research is different in that you generate it yourself, rather than just collecting the work that others have done. It's called "field research" because you go "out in the field" - away from your computer and the library - to conduct it.

When we talk about field research,what we're basically asking is for you to really pay attention to your surroundings. Sure, the wall is white, but what is the texture? What is it made of? Is there drippy paint or portions that have yellowed? How does it make you feel to look at this wall? Is it peaceful? Prison-like?

This is important because not all research is done by other people. Some research is not about looking to experts for information, but about observing and interacting with the world around you. 


By the end of this module, you should:

  • Understand the elements of a good interview, and how to conduct one
  • Understand and be able to conduct an observation


Interviews are important components of field research because a research can often get some of their best information simply by asking experts or by speaking with eyewitness observers. An interview is a conversation with a purpose; that being, to gather information from a person with first-hand knowledge-a primary source.

There is, however, an art to interviewing, and the following videos will show you examples of an ineffective interview versus an effective interview.

Field Observations

First-hand observations will often be a key component in your research project. Your task is to take it all in, recording what you observe while being as unobtrusive as possible. You will want to take notes for future reference: interesting facts, telling details and sensory impressions (sights, sounds and smells), all help when it comes time to reconstruct your observations on paper.

Instructor Notes

This tab does not exist in the student version of the E-Textbook.  This module was created as a general class assignment, especially if a course requires students to conduct some format of field research, including an interview or a field observation.

Activity Option 1

Free write for 10-15 minutes and answer these questions:

  • List three ways that you can improve your interviews, and why they are important.
  • List three things that are important do in an observation. Why?

Activity 1 could be done as free writing in class or as a ANGEL discussion board post, blog post, etc.

Please consider sharing your students' work with Rachel Santose ( for assessment purposes.