Analytic Iteration in Field Research

Diana Kapiszewski

Analytic iteration – cycling among collecting data, analyzing data, and refining critical aspects of research design – is central to all types of fieldwork-based empirical inquiry in social science, from field experiments to ethnography, and across the epistemological spectrum.  

Drawing on an original survey and more than 60 interviews with political science faculty, Kapiszewski – in a paper co-authored with Lauren M. MacLean and Benjamin L. Read – challenges disciplinary norms that suggest the research process should be highly linear, and demonstrates how analytic iteration enhances the rigor of fieldwork. Fieldwork-based research often examines areas for which theory or empirical knowledge is underdeveloped, and requires reacting as the research environment evolves, making in-course research redesign necessary for fieldwork to contribute to our understanding of politics. In particular, iteration offers significant inferential benefits such as guarding against confirmation bias. This revaluation of iteration has significant implications for preparing for, conducting, and evaluating fieldwork, and for broader disciplinary norms and institutions.

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Diana Kapiszewski

Diana Kapiszewski is the Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor in the Department of Government at Georgetown University. Her research interests include public law, comparative politics, and research methods. Her current work examines judicial politics and the uses of law in Latin America, and includes projects that analyze institutions of electoral governance and informal workers’ use of legal strategies in the region...
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