The Field Studies course is designed to combine work in the public/non-profit sector and qualitative ethnographic research. Field Studies is a three-series course which introduces the theories, principles and methods of conducting qualitative research (participant observation) in Social Sciences by placing students in non-profit community agencies for two-quarters. Its intent is to provide students with a community service experience while enhancing their research skills. The course acquaints students with general issues involved in conducting research, including ethics, validity, and reliability. Research methods covered in this course include literature review, research design, data collection, and data analysis. By the end of the academic term, students will generate and develop research interests and produce an original research paper.

The fall quarter provides students with a strong foundation on field placement, the conceptualization of a research topic, and research design. Winter quarter provides a thorough exposure to various qualitative research methods for successful ethnographic research. Spring quarter requires majors to data analyze and complete the year-long research project.


A prominent component of your Instructor’s personal theory of instruction is the belief that students learn primarily from what they DO and not from what they are TOLD. In keeping with this belief, considerable emphasis in Social Science 193 series will be placed on group activities and student problem solving. Although classroom activities will include some lectures and demonstrations, each class session will involve student discussion, group projects, and other hands-on activities. The course will take a seminar format, primarily reciprocal and cooperative learning for synthesis and analysis.

  • To help students prepare for a good field practicum (academically and professionally)
  • To assist students in identifying good community agencies that facilitate field studies
  • To learn about service learning/civic engagement, non-profit agencies, & field studies opportunities
  • To understand the nature and purpose of qualitative research & how it relates to field studies
  • To understand the basic concepts and procedures involved in reviewing Social Science literature
  • To have the ability to find, select, read, and interpret research articles relating to personal and/or professional interests
  • To develop a proposal addressing a social issue in a local marginalized community
  • To provide time for reflection on the field experience to help students understand and retain the course material while applying it to real-world social problems

Fall Quarter

During the fall quarter, students will conduct initial exploratory research that includes:

  • Identifying a social/community issue of interest.
  • Identifying multiple public and community agencies working to address the identified social/community issue.
  • Mission, vision, values, population served, services provided, sources of funding, opportunities for volunteers/interns
  • Conducting a literature review addressing the social/community issue in general (big picture.)
  • Seeking and acquiring a field placement at a public or community service agency serving the social/community issue of interest.
  • Working with the service provider to identify the research question(s) to be explored.
  • Conducting a literature review to narrow the focus of the identified research question(s).
  • Developing a research proposal that will guide their research during the winter and spring quarters.

Winter Quarter

During the winter quarter, Field Studies in Public and Community Service offers an opportunity to participate directly in an ongoing scientific research project while pursuing studies in Social Science theory, method, and data collection. Specific research methods covered in this course (193ABC) will include literature review, research design, data collection, and data analysis. The core of the experience is to gain knowledge and skills in participant observations, structured and semi-structured interviews, and focus groups. Students attain the opportunity to keep a field binder collecting real data and compiling important weekly to identify main themes of social phenomena and developing findings. Most importantly, this quarter is dedicated to refining the researcher’s data collection skills for the application of their study.

Spring Quarter

The focus of the spring quarter is to refine the students’ analytical skills in the research process. More specifically, students will analyze (by enumeration, coding, cut and paste) collected data (gathered during Winter and Spring quarters), expand their theoretical knowledge, revisit theoretical models based on their observations, identify the specific emergent themes in their observations, and explain their findings. Students will generate research implications and provide the agency directives for future practice based on the research findings. Each student will further develop their research skills and revise their original research paper developed during Fall and Winter quarters.