Teaching Interest

Design of Field Research Methods (DFRM)



Field research involves collecting original data (qualitative and/or quantitative) in field sites. This course combines informal lecture and discussion with practical exercises to build specific skills for conducting field research in organizations. Readings include books and papers about research methodology and articles that provide exemplars of field research. Specific topics covered include: the role of theory in field research, variance versus process models, collecting and analyzing different kinds of data (observation, interview, survey), levels of analysis, construct development and validity, blending qualitative and quantitative data (in a paper, a study, or a career), and writing up field research for publication.

A core aim of the course is to help students develop intuition about the contingent relationship between the nature of the research question and the field research methods used to answer it as a foundation for conducting original field research. Field research is presented as a learning process in which researchers are engaged in a dialogue initially with the phenomena they study and later with a specific audience for their ideas. Course requirements are designed to suit your interests and current stage of research involvement, with the ultimate purpose of advancing your particular research agenda. (See “Requirements” below.)  Previous course work in research methods is a prerequisite. Although it is not a focus of this course, students will be expected to understand basic principles of statistical analysis as a foundation for engaging in discussions about effective field research. This is a limited enrollment course. If this course is not part of your required curriculum, explain in an email to Lara Zimmerman (lzimmerman@hbs.edu) your motivation to enroll.

Module I of the course is a two-week introductory module on the nature of grounded and inductive theory building and how this kind of research differs from traditional deductive research methods.  Module II focuses on collecting field data and Module III on analyzing them.  Module IV concerns writing and reviewing field research for publication in refereed journals. 

See Spring 2014 Syllabus at left.