Field Research Design

Periode 1+2
Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen
dr. G. Sinatti
dr. G. Sinatti
dr. G. Sinatti
prof. dr. M.P.J. van de Port
Werkgroep, Hoorcollege

Doel vak

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.

By the end of the course, students will have achieved the following
learning objectives:

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.

Inhoud vak

During the first part of this course and building on the theoretical
basis gained in the parallel course Theoretical Orientation on Mobility
Part 1, 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 the parallel course Theoretical Orientation on
Mobility Part 2.
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.




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.

Aanbevolen voorkennis

Students also need to participate in the parallel courses Theoretical
Orientation on Mobility 1 and 2 (S_TOM). Completion of this course is an
entry requirement for Field Research.


Mandatory course for students in the Master’s in Social and Cultural


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!

Overige informatie

Students also need to participate in the parallel courses Theoretical
Orientation on Mobility 1 and 2 (S_TOM). Completion of this course is an
entry requirement for Field Research.

© Copyright Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
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