Fieldworkers' Sessions

Fieldworkers' Sessions

Open to all social research researchers - Refreshments provided.

Going into the field can be terrifying, but so is returning from it. Fieldwork throws us out of our comfort zone, and allows us to be receptive to new ways of thinking. Upon our return, we are often confronted by a daunting series of questions: How was it? What did we learn? How can we understand experiences that we found difficult, bewildering, or problematic? How can we translate these into the language of the academic world, or nestle them into our own relationships? Has the field changed me? 

The Fieldworkers’ Sessions offers a space for DPhil students to share their experiences, learn what it means to translate fieldwork into academic results, and understand the value of qualitative methods in the social sciences and the wider world. Every two weeks we will participate in a facilitated discussion on the different facets of field-based qualitative research. For each topic we will disseminate a reading to help provoke discussion on how we have individually dealt with the issues inherent in this type of research.  From a reading chosen to provoke thought about one aspect of field-based research. An indicative schedule can be found here (subject to change with participants’ input). 

There is no definitive type of fieldworker. If the field is central to how you think about your research, if you are curious about how others have done fieldwork, what is similar and what is different to your own experience  if you are keen to reflect on the personal and academic implications of fieldwork with a community of like-minded researchers, then we would be very happy to welcome you to the Fieldworker’s Sessions. 


Contact Shona or Clara to join our mailing list for the term.

Trinity term details to be added shortly

Sessions Hilary term 2020

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We will begin by discussing failure in the field in its many forms.

How do we conceptualise failure and cope with it?

Would we have done anything differently, and does it matter?

Failure in the field is such a private sentiment, although it is so common.

Would recognising failure change our research, and change us?

Analysis occurs at all stages of research, not just “in the field”, but it can be difficult to plan for it when fieldwork veers in unexpected directions. We will talk about how DPhil students have created and re-created plans for analysis throughout the process. We’ll talk, for example, about data analysis software, although it is less about “how to” use them, than to understand what has worked, and how, and why. 

Silence emerges in different guises: maybe we failed to access an important contact, our contacts were reluctant to open up about what we wanted to investigate, or we stumbled across a glaring gap in our data after returning from the field.

How do we understand these silences?

How will we go about filling them in, or move past them?

The topic for Week 8 will be “writing ethically.” Two DPhil students will share about their experiences translating what they learnt in the field into a completed piece of writing. The practical application of ethics in our writing requires us to think through protecting the identities of elite/non-elite interviewees, how we use quotes, the extent to which we should  “write in” the profiles of interviewees and the context in which we were speaking, and dealing with feelings or “meta-data” that arise during interviews.