Field research – The internship in writing
The extensive independent study field research paper produced by the student is both the centerpiece of the intern’s professional engagement and the culmination of the academic achievements of the semester.
During the preparatory session IFE teaches the methodological guidelines and principle to which students are expected to adhere in the development of their written research.
Students work individually with a research advisor from their field. The first task is to identify a topic, following guidelines established by IFE for research topic choice. The subject must be tied in a useful and complementary way to the student-intern’s responsibilities, as well as to the core concerns of the host organization. The research question should be designed to draw as much as possible on resources available to the intern via the internship (data, documents, interviews, observations, seminars and the like).
Students begin to focus on this project after the first 2-3 weeks on the internship. Each internship agreement signed with an organization makes explicit mention of this program requirement, and this is the culminating element of their semester. Once the topic is identified, students meet individually, as regularly as they wish, with their IFE research advisor to generate a research question from the topic, develop an outline, identify sources and research methods, and discuss drafts submitted by the student.
The research advisor also helps students prepare for the oral defense (soutenance) of their work which takes place a month before the end of the program and the due date of the paper. The purpose of this exercise is to help students evaluate their progress and diagnose the weak points in their outline and arguments.
Rather than an extraneous burden added to the intern’s other duties, the field research project grows out of the internship through a useful and rewarding synergy of internship and research.
The Field Study and Internship model results in well-trained student-interns fully engaged in mission-driven internships in their field, while exploring a critical problem guided by an experienced research advisor.
The Profiles section of this site contain sample profiles that illustrate the continuum which connects a student’s major and study abroad goals with the IFE placement and the topic of the independent study.