Conducting Field Research

Lectures, Conferences, Online Forums, and Other Public Discussions

Field research often involves attending a lecture, conference or other public discussion. College organizations frequently bring interesting speakers to campus: the science club might sponsor a nationally known marine biologist, for instance, or the film club might bring in the producer of a successful television program.

Likewise, bound by mutual affiliation, professionals and members of special-interest groups are brought together at regularly scheduled regional and national conferences across this country every day. Regardless of cost, you may want to attend one that addresses your particular research interests.

Health-care providers, legal experts, engineers, scientists and teachers attend them frequently in the course of their professional duties and to further they're careers. You can do the same. They can be a fertile source of fresh ideas and are often open to the public: sometimes admission is free or student discounts are available.

Regardless of cost, attending a professional conference affords an opportunity for taking notes at lectures given by experts and the chance to meet and talk with speakers and fellow attendees as well as to learn and practice the language of a discipline. In addition, you may be able to obtain a copy of the proceedings-usually a set of all the lectures delivered, sometimes with accompanying commentary.

Be on the lookout as well for online discussions such as Chat Room sessions sponsored by Yahoo or CNN Online-that are relevant to your research topic. You can participate in the discussion as an observer, or participate by posting questions. Remember to use your Chat Room program to record the session for later review. You can learn how to record a transcript by consulting the program's online help.

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