SDC-33306 Methodology for Field Research in the Social Sciences


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Independent study0
Course coordinator(s)dr. BJ Jansen
Lecturer(s)dr. BJ Jansen
dr. ir. MM van den Berg
Examiner(s)dr. ir. MM van den Berg
dr. BJ Jansen

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

YRM-21306 (Research Methodology in Human - Environment Interactions) or YRM-20306 (Research Methods in Environmental Science) or YRM-20806 (Research Design & Research Methods) or equivalent.


This MSc course offers students the possibility to acquaint themselves with social science field research methodology, in particular a range of qualitative and quantitative methods. The course focusses on issues of development and change. The problems of doing research in a situation outside one's own society are stressed. Through undertaking a small research project, students will have the opportunity to engage on a practical basis with research design, methods, techniques, data analysis, and reporting research.
Major attention is given to:
- implications of methodology and social theory for research;
- the definition and selection of appropriate units of analysis;
- the strengths and weaknesses of different methods for data collection;
- choice of appropriate sample: selection of cases/ informants/ respondents and sampling within cases;
- methods of recording data;
- different procedures for data analysis and processing;
- ethnographic writing;
- presenting and reporting field research;
- reflexivity and ethics of field research.
Workshops and (individual and group) exercises are scheduled as part of a small research project in order to facilitate an active learning process. The organization of the course will stimulate critical reflection on various approaches for data collection and analysis, and on the relationship between specific research problems and related methods.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- demonstrate a basic understanding of epistemological and methodological key issues and assess positions in debates thereof;
- assess the strengths and limitations of a range of (qualitative and quantitative) research methods and their complementarity in research contexts;
- design research using the range of qualitative and quantitative methods and techniques introduced in the course;
- systematically record, organise, code and analyse empirical field material;
- reflexively assess the usage of different research field methods, techniques and procedures of analysis;
- write a research report that builds on own findings.


This course requires a full-time commitment over a period of four weeks. The 6 ECTS for the course commit the student to a total of 168 hours (e.g. 42 hours a week). For this reason the programme of lectures, tutorials, reading material, and the research project (including related assignments and fieldwork) is scheduled to fill the entire day (mon-fri). There are different kinds of educational activities within this course.
1. Lectures
There are 12 lectures in these four weeks that introduce the students with the social science research methodology.
2. Tutorial's (8) and (group) Research Project.
There are eight tutorials within this course in which students are guided through a small (group) research project in which they are expected to practice with different (qualitative) methods and techniques. The objective of the workshops is to 1) practice several research methods, 2) to prepare specific field work exercises (and related assignments) and 3) to discuss the progress of the research project. The Chair Group SDC is responsible for the majority of the workshops (and the 'practical'), reflecting the course's emphasis on qualitative research.
3. SDC 'Practical' (1)
SDC organises a practical in which students are allowed to practice with qualitative data-analysis and ethnographic writing.
4. Individual Feedback
During the course students can upload documents on blackboard in order to get feedback on the progress they have made in their research project. Furthermore, students have the possibility to make an appointment with their tutorial supervisor in order to discuss their individual progress.
5. Self-study Literature
Students are expected to keep up with the course's literature.
During the course the students will work on a group research project - based on a variety of assignments and fieldwork exercises- that allows the student to practice with data collection and analysis on a practical basis, and stimulates a reflexive assessment thereof . This will eventually result in a group research report. The course ends with a written exam.


- written exam with open questions (40%);
- research project (60%);
The minimum mark of each component is 5.5. Workshop participation is compulsory.


Course guide and literature are available at the beginning of the course.

Compulsory for: MDRDevelopment and Rural InnovationMSc6WD
Restricted Optional for: MFNForest and Nature ConservationMScA: Policy and Society6WD
MFNForest and Nature ConservationMScB: Management6WD
MIDInternational Development StudiesMSc6WD