Failing in the Field
What We Can Learn When Field Research Goes Wrong
Dean Karlan, Jacob Appel
By Dean Karlan and Jacob Appel
About the BookAll across the social sciences, from development economics to political science, researchers are going into the field to collect data and learn about the world. Successful randomized controlled trials have brought about enormous gains, but less is learned when projects fail. In Failing in the Field, Dean Karlan and Jacob Appel examine the taboo subject of failure in field research so that researchers might avoid the same pitfalls in future work. Drawing on the experiences of top social scientists working in developing countries, this book describes five common categories of failures, reviews six case studies in detail, and concludes with reflections on best (and worst) practices for designing and running field projects, with an emphasis on randomized controlled trials. Failing in the Field is an invaluable “how-not-to” guide to conducting fieldwork and running randomized controlled trials in development settings.
Dean Karlan is professor of economics and finance at Northwestern University and president of Innovations for Poverty Action. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. Jacob Appel previously worked with Innovations for Poverty Action and now designs and runs field experiments with the Behavioural Insights Team.
“Using a rich set of examples, Failing in the Field describes failures that occur because the design or implementation of a research study does not yield data that can answer the questions it was intended to. By showing that mistakes in research design can be systematic, this book could benefit many students before they embark on their own studies. It was a pleasure to read.”—Karla Hoff, World Bank
“Highly recommended.”—Karen Shook, Times Higher Education