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Insight on Field Management

Researchers and field workers are out to collect ground-level data. Image: Outline India


By Prateek Aggarwal

Field Management begins with the deployment of the survey tool that has been created. Data collection on the field is a complex process that requires adequate time and financial resources. Thus, an efficient deployment of the survey not only saves time and funds but also ensures that we get authentic and accurate data. Planning for the field goes through a series of steps. As a field manager, it is always a good idea to include the primary researchers involved in the project in the process of field planning. The steps are as follows:


Identification of Field Variables

Creating a field plan involves estimating the resources we have for our project. The budget and the timeline are the principle variables. They determine the number of surveys that can be done, the number of responses that need to be collected, the number of field staff to be recruited and the amount that can be spent on training, devices, refreshment, monitoring and so on.

The Scope of Work (SOW) helps determine the budget and time available for the project. The SOW is a formal document that describes the deliverables, timelines, pricing, quality requirements, governance and so on.

Recruitment of Field workers

Once we have identified the field variables, the next step is recruiting the field workers. Prior to recruitment, it is essential to consider the responsibilities expected from the field workers and to keep in mind the following factors:

Education qualifications
Language Spoken
Ability to handle technology
Previous experience
Ability to handle rural/urban/corporate field
Furthermore, a fixed hierarchy should be created. Creating a hierarchy ensures that a clear reporting system is in place, project timelines are met, and the field staff is supported at every step of data collection.

Field Training

Field training includes two components – Field Training and Field Mock. Important preparations regarding the training process include:

Make field staff aware of the fact that training will happen on tablets or paper-based tools.
Create a plan for setting up the training material.
Field staff should be aware of the purpose of the training.
In the case of device-based data collection, the training should be divided into two parts:

1) Technical Training

Technical training focuses on learning the mobile-based data collection technology. The workers are briefed on the working of the device and the software on which the data collection would take place.

2) Survey Tool Training

This training focuses on explaining the logic behind every survey question and how different types of questions should be administered.The fieldworkers are taken through every question, the intent of each question is explained and they are also shown possible answers that they could get and how to code these answers.

If the tool is complex and difficult to administer, it is always a good idea to conduct field mocks before going into the field. Field mocks help the field team to gain a better understanding of the tool and the kind of responses that they would get on the field. Field mocks helps researchers to observe the mistakes the field workers are making so that they can be corrected before the survey is deployed on the field.


The final step is monitoring the team while they collect data. The best way is to observe the surveyors on the ground. While your surveyors are collecting data, observe them to learn common mistakes, doubts, and best practices. Share these points in the morning or evening sessions so that everyone can benefit from them. Regularly monitor the data that is coming in to check for any inconsistencies or problems.

Take feedback from your surveyors’ on their experience and note if they are facing any challenges, or if they require any additional resources.


Prateek Aggarwal is the Field Manager at Outline India. He has previously worked in Management Coordination and Support Team at Pragya. He was a fellow at Milaap and took part as a field investigator in FOCUS 2 report undertaken by Centre for Equity Studies. He has a Masters Degree in Sociology from Ambedkar University.


This post first appeared on the Outline India’s Blog Section. To read the original article,  please click here.

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