TFSH — Table Of Contents Heat Map!

Jan Chipchase
The Field Study Handbook
7 min readMar 26, 2017


I’d like to try a little experiment, and I need your help. Takes 5 minutes.

Publishing a book is kinda daunting. Not least is trying to figure out what resonates with the audience. Please browse the Table of Contents below and highlight and/or comment on what interests you most. Sign in and you’ll get to see what others are interested in too.

(You can now buy the Handbook here.)

The Field Study Handbook, a how-to, why-to guide to running international field research. It is for written for researchers, designers, strategists, and anyone who is tasked with understanding their international customers and users. Onwards with highlighting…


Chapter 1. Introduction

Why field research. Why now. The cost of not knowing. The perils of data abundance. Sustainable data. The nine principles of field research. How we get there.

Chapter 2. Models Of Research

The six types of field study. The starting hypothesis. The stages of understanding. Becoming common sense. The primary languages of the field researcher. Understanding qual, quant and data analytics. Pitching projects and writing the proposal. Budgeting. The ownership of data, observations, insights and ideas. The corporate patent process. Paperwork. Defining deliverables. Managing expectations. The learning curve. When to go in-house and when to subcontract. Finding the right methodological mix. Organisational metabolism. Convergent validity The great misconception. Unintended consequences.

Chapter 3. The Fundamentals

Where to run the study. The optimal number of study locations and time in field. Serial versus concurrent research. Pilot studies. The F-scale rating. The advance party. The road trip. Ambient awareness of the locale. Touchpoints. Scheduling. Cultural notions of time. Faith. Researching during Ramadan. Booking flights. Energy and flow. Visas and passports. Remote sensing. Accommodation, and why you never want to stay in a corporate hotel. Guest houses, homes and love hotels.

Chapter 4: Recruiting Participants

Distance to participant. When to hire a recruiting agency and when to go in-house. Screening the agency. Recruiting fraud. Building an in-house recruiting practice. Studio D’s approach to multi-layered recruiting. The specialised recruiting role. Snowball recruiting & the local team. Building a participant list. Recruiting through social networking services. Recruiting bias. Optimal respondent numbers? Writing the screener. The recruiting schedule. Recruiting minors. Incentivising participants. Incentivising internal recruits. Incentives for criminals. No shows. Adverse impact from poor recruiting. Floaters. Geographic spread. Recruiting retrospective. Recruiting in sensitive environments

Chapter 5: Team

Core and extended team. Optimal team size. Team roles. Job descriptions. Hiring researchers. Hiring fixers and guides. Interpreter, translator, data manager, field accountant, hustlers and other specialists. The “no tourists: rule.

Chapter 6: Managing Risk

Risk identification and assessment. Personal, institutional and client attitudes to risk. Knowing when, how and whether to mitigate. Managing expectations in the organisation. Health & wellbeing. The ten emotional stages of working in higher risk environments. Confidential sources. Data security. Data contamination. Researching in hostile environments. Security details. Bribery. Computer forensics. Transparency of purpose. Mistaken identities.


Chapter 7: Approaches

A comprehensive documentation of methods for foundational, generative and evaluative projects. How to impact design, strategy, innovation, brand, and marketing. Draws on a range of disciplines including design research, anthropology, data science, clinical psychology, conflict journalism, photojournalism, interrogation techniques and social engineering. The honesty of data. The lies we tell.

Chapter 8: Interviews

Types of interview. Interview roles. Guides versus scripts. Interview setup. Client assumptions around data, note-taking. Focus, expansion, evidence, rapport, repetition, defensiveness, hostility and other in-depth interview techniques. Interview preparation. The importance of social parity. Native languages. Projecting and reading body language. Being non-judgemental. Embracing judgment. Dissecting emotional responses. The long pause and the grand tour. Leading questions. Running bilingual interviews. The nine stages of in-depth interview.

Chapter 9: Mapping, Logging & Inventories

Home, fridge, bag, wardrobe and wallet mapping. The handbag paradox. Product inventories. Brand mapping. Logs, statements, receipts, and other forms of evidence. Web analytics. Application and service analytics. Search insights. Day-in-the-life. Diaries.

Chapter 10: Surveys

When surveys are appropriate. Online versus in-person surveys. Street. Telephone and video. Questionnaires. Questionnaire design. Designing questionnaires for illiterate or semi-literate respondents. Types of questions. Sampling. Response rates. Conjoint analysis. Segmentation.

Chapter 11: Rapid Calibration Techniques

How to immerse into and understand any culture. The morning commute, long distance stations and international airports. Waking up with the city. Artefact analysis. The hairdresser, the barber’s shop. Real estate listings. Obituaries. Buying porn. Breaching behaviours. What you can learn from patinas, multinational chains, queuing behaviours, signs, graffiti and other forms of urban notation. Hanging out on stoops, steps, and stumps. The nod. Urban design. Places of worship, secure facilities, hospitals, brothels, and other sensitive spaces.


Chapter 12: Popup Studios

If you could create the perfect creative studio space what would it look like? Where would it be? And who would be there alongside you? The art and science of repurposing spaces for creative output. Achieving individual and team flow. Understanding the trade-offs. Optimal studio location and duration. How to make sixteen hour days feel like five. The data, synthesis and concept walls. Budget comparisons. Distance to interesting. Knowing whom to invite. Guests, freeloaders. Examples from Lagos to Riyadh. Emotion stages. Peak personal experiences. Return on investment. Culture shock. Decompression.

Chapter 13: Data Collection

Setting up workflow for collection, scrubbing, filtering, management, storage and use. Baseline comparable data. Meta data and naming. Privacy. Accountability. Ethics. Data consent. Grey areas. The weight and fluidity of data. The properties of data. Data streams. File and folder naming strategies. The data manager and curator roles. The purge. Field Principles Of Data Collection

Chapter 14: Constructs

Ways to think about the world around you including: understanding etiquette and knowing when to break it; inappropriate behaviours; rule-breaking, law-breaking, naming; reciprocity; rituals, formality; gift giving; hierarchy and power; body language; punctuality and other notions of timing; coping with distractions; public & private; informal distance classifications; in-group & out-group; sales tactics; clean and dirty spaces, objects and usage, experiential vocabulary. Ownership, newness and wear. Carrying and access behaviours. Biases, beliefs and values. Process bias.

Chapter 15: Dynamics & Flow

How to make the most of your time on the ground. Field study goals. Team dynamics. Tracking progress. Daily and weekly rhythm. Late arrivals. Personal time. Research kits. Social Dynamics: names and titles, greetings and farewells; business cards and gift giving. Behaviour unbecoming. Hierarchy and power. Fields of view. Punctuality. Who waits and why. Who talks and why.


Chapter 16: Sensemaking

How to turn data into insight. The three type of synthesis. The art and science of running debriefs. Understanding trade-offs. Semantic analysis. Affinity mapping. Creating frameworks. Building a data wall. From data wall to flat plan. The psychology of sensemaking.

Chapter 17: Deliverables

What clients expect and what to deliver. Types of report for: user/consumer experience, strategy, brand, segmentation, marketing. Appealing to the left and right brains of the organisation. The difference between what is contracted and what is delivered. Segmentation, personas, archetypes and case studies. The asset library. Where the real value lies.

Chapter 18: Sharing

What is shared, with whom, when and why. The art and science of storytelling. The four truths of storyteller. The ownership of ideas. Moral and legal obligations. How the questions, stories and audience evolve. The researcher and team as protagonist. Personal, project and organisational myths. Primary & secondary audiences. Who wants you to succeed? Who wants you to fail? Who gets to share. Understanding reach. What I’d wish I’d known.

Chapter 19: Impact

Cut to the chase. Why we do. Who we are responsible to. When to measure. What to measure. When distortions occur. When not to measure. Those projects.

Chapter 20: Reflecting Forward

Riding the storm. The evolution of questions, data, insight, methods and storytelling. The field researcher mindset. The role of technology. The evolution of stakeholders, clients and organisational literacy. Two persistent trajectories. How we evolve. What we become. Your role in this.

In numbers…

In 4 parts, from initial pitch to making an impact
6 types of field research project
9 stages of any interview
34 field research principles
41 rapid calibration techniques
50 illustrations by Lee John Phillips.
80+ diagrams, case studies and more

Thank-you, appreciated!

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Jan Chipchase
The Field Study Handbook

Founder, Studio D. Writing at the intersection of design, human behaviour & culture @janchip