The Field Study

  • Marieke Louis
  • Lucile Maertens
  • Marie Saiget
Part of the The Sciences Po Series in International Relations and Political Economy book series (SPIRP)


Drawing upon the work of anthropologists and sociologists, scholars in political science and international relations (IR) increasingly rely on ethnographic methods. Based on multiple fieldwork experiences, within secretariats of international organizations and on the field of international interventions, this chapter addresses the relevance of such methods and the challenges of their concrete application in IR. It provides a series of concrete practical tricks to anticipate, prepare and conduct a fieldwork. It considers the different types of participation a researcher can adopt and stresses the various dimensions of observation. Finally, it draws attention to the daily challenges of ethnographic methods and suggests solutions to overcome issues of confidentiality and to deal with the effects of immersion. Ethnographic methods are relevant to cover a wide variety of fields and objects and therefore, as the chapter shows, are appropriate to the study of IR. More precisely, this chapter suggests different ways to adapt ethnographic methods to the specificities of international configurations. Doing fieldwork is required not only to study the relationships that structure the processes of internationalization and globalization but also to test the relevance of academic and indigenous categories produced to understand these configurations.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marieke Louis
    • 1
  • Lucile Maertens
    • 2
  • Marie Saiget
    • 3
  1. 1.Sciences Po GrenobleSaint-Martin-d’HèresFrance
  2. 2.Institute of Political, Historical and International StudiesUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  3. 3.Sciences Po Paris, Centre for International Studies (CERI)ParisFrance

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