Tales from the Field

I didn’t know what to expect going into the hour-long session on Action Research. The talk featured a panel of three professors from each of the three colleges/schools at Bucknell. Professor of Engineering Kim discussed his work as a trip leader with the Bucknell Brigade and BAP. Professor of Sociology Searles discussed his work leading a class on how to conduct good sociological research. And Professor Orsborn talked about his work with SUNCOM, a non-profit agency that helps people with disabilities. 

There were a number of great tips that were shared by the speakers regarding their own personal experiences when working with students in the field. Professor Orsborn urged us to bring an experience from the field back to the workplace. When working with SUNCOM, Professor Orsborn had his students make a mood board for the disabled patrons of SUNCOM. There, students noticed that the individuals of SUNCOM enjoyed using the mood board as they pointed to different graphics and text of feelings. Understanding the value in this type of communication, Professor Orsborn had his students make their own mood boards for class presentations in his digital marketing class.

Professor Kim talked about the importance of conducting field research and actually following up with the individuals in the field. One of his big research projects involves working with students to provide affordable vision care and eyeglasses in remote Guatemala. The students designed a lens-cutter that cut circular-shaped lenses to enable a local entrepreneur to make eyeglasses for about $5 compared to the standard $300-$400 per pair of glasses. However, after Kim and his students had left, none of the Guatemalan residents were wearing the glasses. It turns out the locals did not like the style of circular lenses. This goes to show the importance of following through with your research, even after you think the problem has been solved.

I really liked Professor Searles’ optimism about working in the field. He reminded us that bad data is still data, and that the only thing worse than bad data is no data at all. He urged us not throw away bad data just because it isn’t what you expected it to be when you first set out to perform your research. A student of his wanted to learn the reason for why there were so many adult shops along Route 15 near Harrisburg, PA.  He suspected that the number of male truckers  that pass through the route was the primary cause. After interviewing the owner, the student was stunned to hear that the majority of customers at his shop were actually female. Professor Searles said that the student learned a valuable lesson in not throwing away “bad data” by continuing with his project.


One thought on “Tales from the Field”

  1. Oh yeah, the porn store was fascinating! Wasn’t it? I wanted to know more. Why did she say it was mostly women? Does she believe that? When you have observed or behavioral data that differs from perception data, it reveals so much about identity and how it shapes organizations.

    For example, imagine the Arthur Andersen auditors. If we asked them by survey, around 1998-99, if they believed they worked for an ethical firm, they would say yes. But that says more about their view of ethics then their actual choices!


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