Conducting Field Research in Political Science: Interviewing and Mixed Methods Approaches

Melani Cammett, Harvard University


This course focuses on the process of conducting field research from start to finish, with an emphasis on designing and carrying out mixed methods research that includes interviewing. The goal is to help guide researchers in preparing for and carrying out diverse forms of data collection in the field and to identify approaches to managing and analyzing data once collected. The bulk of the course centers on the design and execution of interview-based research and situates it within broader research projects. Key topics covered include strategies for preparing for and carrying out productive field research, which explicitly links research design to data collection in the field; varieties of interviews; the construction of different kinds of interview protocols; varied sampling strategies for interviewing; strategies for designing and conducting interviews on sensitive topics; organizing and analyzing interview-based data and aligning it with other forms of data collection; ethical considerations; and an overall assessment of the pros and cons of multi-methods research involving interviews.


This course runs January 22-26, 2018.

TEACHING FELLOW  Natalia Suzuki, University of São Paulo


1.      Preparing for field research: Research designs to data collection in the field; designing and adapting “to-get lists”
2.      Interviewing in political science: Diverse types and roles of interviews in to research designs; elite and non-elite interviews;
3.      Designing interview protocols: Varieties of interviews and how to prepare for them
4.      Sampling strategies in interview-based research
5.      Strategies for conducting interviews on sensitive topics: Designing questionnaires on sensitive topics; carrying out interviews on sensitive topics; matched proxy interviewing
6.      Organizing and analyzing interview data: NVivo and other software options; intergrating data from interviews with other data collection approaches
7.      Ethical issues
8.      Back to research designs: The strengths and limits of interviews, multi-methods research



There are no prerequisites for this course. However, some experience with field research is a plus. Participants should be prepared either to develop a new or improve an existing research proposal or to discuss a current research project that involves interview-based research and to describe the role of interviews in an actual or hypothetical multi-methods research design. Each day, participants should be prepared to assess and report progress on their own projects with respect to the particular topic of the session. To ensure progress, participants will be required to present written and oral developments of their research design each day.