Schedule and reading
One-week intensive workshop at the University of Oslo
Place: Eilert Sundt Building B, room 830
Each morning session during this one-week intensive workshop starts with a lecture followed by structured class discussion. The afternoon session is divided into two sections, where the first is a research lab, where each participant relates the topics of discussion to their own project through exercises, individual and group assignments, and writing entries into their individual research journals. The second component is a presentation of the research memorandums prepared by the participants, followed by a constructive discussion where all participants take part.
Monday 3 December: Preparing for the field
The morning session focuses on preparing for fieldwork: identifying relevant kinds of data and developing strategies for collection and interpretation. This preparatory work ranges from concept formation, case selection and operationalization of research questions, to practical and ethical considerations associated with collecting and using different kinds of data.
Participants will discuss different strategies for data collection and use with reference to examples of qualitative research as well as their own projects. Topics for discussion include:
What data do you plan to get in the field and how to you plan to get it?
- What purpose will the qualitative material you collect have in your research design?
- How do you operationalize and measure your key concepts using qualitative data?
- What preparatory work can you complete before you go to the field?
- How do you factor production transparency into your preparations?
Afternoon research lab: participants explore relevant preparation for their own fieldwork including logistical concerns, choice of recording devices, and potentially software for storing and organizing qualitative materials.
Bevir, Mark, and Asaf Kedar. “Concept Formation in Political Science: An Anti-Naturalist
Critique of Qualitative Methodology.” Perspectives on Politics 6, no. 3 (2008): 503–517
Brady, Henry E., and David Collier, eds. Rethinking social inquiry: Diverse tools, shared standards. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2010, pages 132- 140
Gerring, J. (1999). What makes a concept good? A criterial framework for understanding concept formation in the social sciences. Polity, pages 357–393.
Thomas Hegghammer, Jihadi Culture: The Art and Social Practices of Militant Islamists, Cambridge University Press, 2017 (Introduction).
King, G., Keohane, R. O., and Verba, S. (1994). Designing social inquiry: scientific inference in qualitative research. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J (chapter 1).
Mahoney, J. (2000). Strategies of causal inference in small-n analysis. Sociological Methods
& Research, 28(4):387–424.
Tuesday 4 December: Conducting field research
The morning session focuses on experiences related to conducting fieldwork, including how to sample respondents for and conduct interviews, how to set up focus groups, conduct participant observation, and archival research. We will also discuss principles and practices of how to select interview respondent and reflect on choices about which data to collect.
Topics for discussion include:
- How do you deal with not getting the results or information you were after, or getting other kinds of information than you had expected?
- What kinds of challenges are associated with capturing and/or recording printed, audiovisual, and/or other forms of sources in the field?
- What ethical and scholarly considerations inform your strategies of collection, preservation and future use of materials collected during fieldwork?
- How do you secure informed consent from participants and interviewees from participating in your data collection?
Afternoon research lab: participants conduct an interview in the classroom.
Diana Kapiszewski, Lauren M. MacLean, Benjamin L. Read, Field Research in Political
Science: Practices and Principles. Cambridge University Press, 2015. Chapters 3 and 4.
Scoggins, S. E. (2014). Navigating fieldwork as an outsider: Observations from interviewing police officers in China. PS: Political Science & Politics, 47(02):394–397.
Francesca R. Jensenius (2014). “The Fieldwork of Quantitative Data Collection,” PS:
Political Science and Politics, vol. 47, no. 2, pp. 402 – 404.
Leech, B. L. (2002). Asking questions: techniques for semistructured interviews. Political Science & Politics, 35(04):665–668.
Peabody, R. L., Hammond, S. W., Torcom, J., Brown, L. P., Thompson, C., and Kolodny, R. (1990). Interviewing political elites. PS: Political Science & Politics, 23(03):451–455.
Fujii, L. A. (2010). Shades of truth and lies: Interpreting testimonies of war and violence. Journal of Peace Research, 47(2):231–241.
Wednesday 5 December: Reflecting on your role in the field
The morning session explores ethical and conceptual challenges associated with conducting qualitative fieldwork. These include ethical considerations, biases, and observer effects. We discuss instances of observer effects in social scientific research, and strategies scholars have adopted to address these challenges. We also explore examples of biases in qualitative field research, and strategies for managing these risks in data collection and interpretation.
Topics for discussion include:
- How can researchers address the risk of bias and observer effects as they prepare for and conduct data collection in the field?
- How do these risks affect data gathering and interpretation carried out by individual researchers versus teams of researchers?
- How can researchers work to ensure that they produce valid translations of printed and other sources collected in other languages? If you work with a translator or a multi-lingual team, what procedures help to ensure consistent transcription and/or translation?
Afternoon research lab: observation exercise and reflections on field notes.
Collier, D. and Mahoney, J. (1996). Insights and pitfalls: Selection bias in qualitative research. World Politics, 49(01):56–91.
Alice Goffman, On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City (Fieldwork Encounters and Discoveries) University of Chicago Press, 2014.
The Norwegian National Research Ethics Committees (2016): Guidelines for Research Ethics in the Social Sciences, Humanities, Law and Theology
Guidelines for Research Ethics in the Social Sciences, Humanities, Law and Theology
Elisabeth Wood. “Field Methods.” In Charles Boix and Susan Stokes (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Politics. 2007.
Woliver, L. R. (2002). Ethical dilemmas in personal interviewing. Political Science & Politics, 35(04): 677–678.
Thursday 6 December: Accessing data in contested environments
The morning session explores the distinct challenges associated with carrying out qualitative fieldwork in contested environments, ranging from conflict zones to illicit networks and working inside authoritarian regimes. These challenges range from personal risk for the researcher as well as participants in the fieldwork process to problems of limited access (or conditional access) by researchers working in these settings.
Participants will discuss these challenges by referring to examples of qualitative research carried out in such environments, as well as developing strategies for addressing similar challenges in their own research projects.
Topics for discussion include:
- How do you address the challenge of limited access (or conditional access) to source materials in contested environments?
- What are the consequences of limited access for selection bias, robustness of findings, and what you can infer (if anything) from this data?
- What guidelines inform your research strategies in environments where the collection of data could have negative consequences for your future access and for your participants?
- How do you cope with incompatible evidence, particularly if the data is demonstrably incomplete?
- What challenges emerge from accessing “rescued” or “reconstructed” archives, e.g. the collection of captured documents from Iraq based in the United States?
Afternoon research lab: practical exercise with archival material.
Aisha Ahmad, The security bazaar: business interests and Islamist power in civil war Somalia, International Security, 39 (3), 89-117.
Målfrid Braut-Hegghammer, Unclear Physics: Why Iraq and Libya failed to acquire nuclear weapons, Cornell University Press, 2016, chapter 3.
Wood, E. J. (2007). Field research during war: Ethical dilemmas. In New Perspectives in
Political Ethnography, pages 205–223. Springer.
Timur Kuran, Private Truths, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification (Harvard University Press).
Friday 7 December: Processing & integrating field data
The final morning session explores three themes:
- Qualitative fieldwork as raw material for creating new datasets: producing visualizations of qualitative data, and building digital archives of printed and audiovisual materials.
- How can we work to achieve greater transparency in qualitative research? What practices in collection (production) and processing (analytics) of field data are suited for such efforts?
- How can participants best integrate data gathered from fieldwork? What are the relative costs and benefits of multi-method approaches versus a single-method approach?
Afternoon research lab: write entry in individual research journals weighing the costs and benefits of adopting a single method versus multi-method approach for your project. What are the key tradeoffs, and perceived benefits? Or write up and present a “data appendix” about your planned qualitative research that would satisfy the new transparency standards, be useful for readers, and at the same time be ethical and respectful.
Coppedge, M. (1999). Thickening thin concepts and theories: combining large n and small
in comparative politics. Comparative Politics, pages 465–476.
Box-Steffensmeier, Brady, Collier, Collier, and Elman (2008). Qualitative and multimethod
research: Organizations, publication, and reflections on integration.
Chauchard, S. (2014). Can Descriptive Representation Change Beliefs about a Stigmatized Group? Evidence from Rural India. American Political Science Review, 108:403–422.
Paluck, E. L. (2010). The promising integration of qualitative methods and field experiments. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 628(1):59–71.
Symposium: Transparency in Qualitative and Multi-Method Research. Qualitative & Multi-Method Research, Spring 2015, Vol. 13, No. 1