Policy Research: The Field Dimension
Field research, defined as an unstructured contact with public problems and programs, is essential to realistic policy research. Research linking governmental action to good outcomes is rare, because those who study government and those whose who analyze public problems are seldom the same. Field inquiry can help give policy research more governmental content. A lack of field contact is one reason why much of the research surrounding welfare reform has been incorrect. Ideally, the connections between policy and outcomes that respondents claim during field research should be verified by statistical analyses that use program data. Unfortunately, field research is discouraged by academic incentives favoring rigor at the expense of realism.