Stepping Outside for Field Research: “I Had to Gain a Sense of How I Was Coming Across”

Sponsored by Georgetown University Press

Recorded on 02/10/2020
Posted in The Authority File

Episode 111

As a former Marine Corps infantry officer, David Danelo knows that a researcher’s unique background and life experiences shape their perspective and can bias them even before they get out in the field. Not being aware of biases and how they could impact perspective is a major liability for a researcher. Danelo, Director of Field Research for the Foreign Policy Research Institute, believes self-awareness is crucial, as a researcher can naturally elicit trust or build rapport with particular groups of people based on their life experience. The key, Danelo claims, is that you aren’t “going to change who you are, but you can use who you are to your maximum advantage in collecting data.” 

In this week’s episode, Danelo unpacks his latest book, The Field Researcher’s Handbook: A Guide to the Art and Science of Professional Fieldwork, explaining how the true art of data collection, he believes, “is just knowing yourself well enough to understand what your skill sets are and how they relate in the field.”


About the guest:

David Danelo
Director of Field Research
Foreign Policy Research Institute

David J. Danelo is the Director of Field Research for the Foreign Policy Research Institute and an adjunct professor at the University of Texas at El Paso’s National Security Studies Institute. He teaches and conducts field research, consults on international border management and geopolitical risk, and writes about intersections between policy, security, and culture. Danelo graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1998 and was a US Marine Corps infantry officer for seven years. From 2011-2012, he was the Executive Director, Policy and Planning, US Customs and Border Protection. His books Blood Stripes: The Grunt’s View of the War in Iraq, The Border: Exploring the U.S.-Mexican Divide, and The Return: A Field Manual for Life After Combat have been assigned as required reading for policy professionals and his guide, The Field Researcher’s Handbook: A Guide to the Art and Science of Professional Fieldwork, is a university textbook. He is based in West Texas and travels often.


Listen to the rest of the series: