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Field work?


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In most structured PhD programs in Europe it is mandatory to conduct a semester's worth of field work abroad if you focus on International Relations or Comparative Politics. But I have rarely seen a website or brochure of a U.S.-based PhD program that mentions field work or field research. Occasionally, cooperations may exist with institutions (either universities or research institutes) in countries of the Global South, but it doesn't appear to be common that grad students conduct field research abroad (or indeed venture abroad at all?) in the course of their PhD program. Can anyone enlighten me?

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Whether you need field work far and foremost depends on your research topic. So no in America field work is not mandatory, and you will probably not find it in a brochure. Said this students in comparative politics more often than not do field work for a semester or two.Sometimes depending on the research topic students in other fields do too. Often the university has resources through the international institutions to support field work and sometimes professors are running some project that students can get on.

Edited by kaykaykay
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Grad students in comparative politics (less so in IR) do lots of fieldwork for dissertation research, often in years 4 or 5 of a 5 or 6 year program, with a summer trip to suss out research sites sometime earlier. It's rare (at least in my sub-subfield) that this work be conducted through official linkages of the sorts you describe, or that it be an official part of a departmental curriculum, like a study abroad.


I spent a year as a "visiting researcher" (I got some office space while I was doing my archival/interview work) in a foreign university in the global south while doing my diss research, but I arranged the affiliation myself without any official support from my uni (that was pretty common for my classmates, as well). Typically, this sort of research requires outside funding, from NSF/SSRC/Fulbright, etc. It's possible that you might "get on" a project affiliated with your advisor, but at least for most of us working on the global south it's much more common to design an entirely independent project, to track down local academics/collaborators on your own, etc.

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