Fieldworkers' Sessions

Fieldworkers' Sessions

Open to all social research researchers returning from fieldwork - 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 returning from the field 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 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. 


Sessions Michaelmas Term 2019

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  • If fieldwork is - often by nature - done alone, how do we know that we have done well? How do we communicate the quality of our fieldwork to people who were not there with us?
  • To what extent does being a ‘good’ fieldworker stop in the field? What does it mean to do justice to fieldwork in our writing?
  • Is there anything else from the reading that you would like to discuss?

  • What new normals are we asked to conform to in the field? (e.g. for practical reasons, such as safety or communication, or more academic reasons, such as understanding why people speak and think a certain way)

  • How does this relate to our relationship with the field, participants, and coming home?

  • What makes one an insider and/or an outsider? 
  • If we are called to be reflexive about our positionality, what is the right way to write this into our research? (i.e. going beyond the perfunctory confessional ‘I am a white heterosexual female’ paragraph)
  • What challenges do fieldworkers and qualitative researchers face when explaining their work to people who are not exposed to these constraints?
  • How do we articulate the value of our research to people who operate from different epistemological assumptions?
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