Stepping Outside for Field Research: Seeking the Story

Sponsored by Georgetown University Press

Recorded on 02/24/2020
Posted in The Authority File

Episode 113

The definition of field research is “to collect qualitative data.” Though a rather scientific description, David Danelo, Director of Field Research for the Foreign Policy Research Institute, argues that at the heart of all field research is a story. While writing his latest book, The Field Researcher’s Handbook: A Guide to the Art and Science of Professional Fieldwork, Danelo wanted to emphasize how storytelling is the ultimate goal of research. “Story is about relating change, and so when we’re talking about the experience of field research, we’re talking about the experience of change.” 

In the final episode of this four-part series, Danelo, a former US Marine Corps infantry officer, also talks the more personal side of field research. He explains how going from a life in the military, something “very focused on delivering solutions that were more martial and violent and definitive,” to a profession based in empathy, compassion, and most importantly, listening, has affected him as a person: “It’s really just a chance to listen to people talk about things that matter to them … a chance to connect in a new way with our common humanity.”


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: