What Exactly Happens During Fieldwork and/or Field Research Pt. 2

Welcome back, folks!

This is one post in which you REALLY need to read the first part, if not this would all be gibberish to you. I wanted to share about field research and particularly what happens when you are in the field, using my experience, of course.  But it was becoming an excruciatingly long post so I decided to break it into two. In sum, the first part was an overview of what happens when you get to the field.  And this part is for giving you a specific example by describing a typical day in the field.

Let me give a typical day in the field. It went something like this: wake up; exercise (sometimes I exercised at night); do dissertation work. I kept writing. My number one tip is that you should always write every single day. In my case,  I worked a lot on my theory in the field and I was able to revise and reframe from data I was collecting. Okay, continuing on to the description of a typical day: After writing for a few hours, it was [usually] time to head out. Now, I  would start thinking of what to eat. The great part was leaving home around 10 or 11 meant  I could beat traffic in Lagos. I would head out to either an interview or two. I would then head to the field (I have to rethink this terminology now) where surveys are being administered, and then I would also talk to people as much as they let me. After a while, I would take a break to eat. Next, it would be time to continue on the field OR track down government workers I needed data from. Whew, I'm having PTSD as I write this. I spent HOURS in Ministries and Local governments. Anyway, commuting from place to place also provided the opportunity to do logistical work like emailing/Skyping my advisors who were stateside. This would also be the time to email reminders of my interviews or schedule interviews with more people. Or it could mean time to take a Skype call to interview someone not on ground. And then I would head back home. On my way home, there was almost always traffic.

If I needed to rest my head from the long day, I will read leisurely. If E is in the ride with me, I will chat with her while doing some work on my laptop. When I get home, I would usually eat dinner, chat with my family who were also Stateside via Skype. Once I hung up, I got back to working. Working meant reviewing field notes, transcribing, changing some aspects o my theory and hypothesis and evaluating the surveys collected to make sure enumerators actually administered the survey the way I wanted. Thanks to due diligence, I caught one that never worked, and fired her behind. Lol.

Anyway, sometimes I would use this time at night to Skype with people back in the U.S. that I had technical questions for (due to the time difference). This was also the time to work on non-dissertation projects. I hate stuff piling up and my strategy is usually to do stuff bit by bit. So each day I work on a non-dissertation project with future deadlines. Afterwards, I read a journal article or book. This is basically just any academic literature in my field to keep up with whats happening re methods being applied etc. I will also do something on quantitative method I am trying to hone; this can be anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. If I was too lazy to exercise in the morning, I would do it now. Sometime around 1 or 2am, I would go to sleep and continue the next day.

On weekends, I tried to do fewer stuff but add in blogging or anything to get my creative juices flowing. Plus don't get me wrong, there was some time for fun stuff too.

I say all these to show that its not formulaic per se. The main point was to be as embedded as possible while also trying  to not be so "distracted" by field work that to get back to the groove of things after fieldwork would be hard. On some days I was not in Lagos and would travel out of state. But the more I met with people, the more people I had to meet with.

Some days, I was more productive than others. My point is, the whole idea of fieldwork sounds amorphous and overwhelming but try not to be overwhelmed. Just take it one day at a time but have a plan for what you want to achieve. Data is limitless so fieldwork can be endless and a colossal waste of time without a plan. But having a goal means you can evaluate monthly or weekly to see if your aim for field research is being materialized. I kept a strict calendar with each hour accounted for. Ok I do this in my regular life too. BUT, it helped especially in the field.

I will be honest with you. It was a crazy few months but if I survived it, you can. My biggest challenge was being away from my natural habitat and not being home. If you are adventurous, you would have the time of your life. Some people say field research was the best time of their lives or their degree. It's a No from me. Was it a great experience that taught me a LOT? Absolutely. Would I want to do all that again. Nah. At least not from this standpoint. When its for your dissertation, the stakes are too high and there is too

This was a long about way to give you a tiny glimpse of what field research is like. Again, it may vary depending on specifics. However,  if you have any questions, comment or email me please. Or a post suggestion, please let me know as well. It might take me another six months to actually post one of these, but I will.



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