Collecting field data through field work is one of the most important aspects of research in the field of anthropology. Depending on the area of anthropology being researched, fieldwork can occur in various settings such as museums, libraries, rural areas, urban areas, virtual environments, communities, businesses, and conservation environments.
During the initial years of anthropology research when the subject was still new, anthropologists typically did not go into the field. Instead, they often studied the work of other anthropologists in the library and museum settings. During the 20th century, Bronislaw Malinowski, one of the founders of anthropology, is known for his views on the importance of fieldwork.
Anthropologists today collect and compile data using a variety of methods. In the area of social and biological anthropology, quantitative data is often compiled through censuses, archives, and public records. This type of data collection is critical for social and biological anthropologists who are researching physical traits within a certain demographic and comparing different populations. It is also important for anthropologists working on projects with other anthropologists. Qualitative data is collected and compiled through individual interviews, group interviews, online forums or discussions, and observation. Data collection through observation can be more complex because it is very detailed and time consuming.
Most anthropologist find fieldwork and data collection very rewarding. If the anthropologist is researching an area that they were previously unfamiliar with, the anthropologist will often gain an extensive understanding of the area. If the anthropologist is researching an area that they are already familiar with the place, the anthropologist will often see the area from a new perspective after the research is concluded.