Ethnography is increasingly popular among social researchers. Blogger Nadya Karimasari is undecided about her ethnographic research location.
How do social researchers make a decision about where to conduct their research? I guess it depends on their research question, proposal and design. Are they trying to do research at national level, global level, or a more localized one?
Right now, I am developing my research proposal. I am doing my PhD under an umbrella research project with two other PhDs. We have an overarching research theme and methodology predetermined for us. In total, each of us will do around sixteen months of ethnography in our respective countries. Later, our supervisor and a post-doc will make a comparative analysis of our research.
I have been longing to have a long-term ethnographic research, so this opportunity is a big deal for me. I have done long-term research before, but mostly on policy and bureaucracy at national level. When I got local, grassroots-level research projects, it was only for a couple of months. Often I didn’t stay on the research location but went back and forth from my home to the site.
When I asked my colleagues at the Leeuwenborch on how did they choose their research location, most of them said they had been in that location before their PhDs. They might have done their master’s theses there and find further research questions that piqued their interests. They might also had worked in that location before and found a lot of puzzles that motivates them to do a doctoral degree.
I have such location in mind, let’s say location X. Previously I have been engaged with the people in X for years. Gaining their trust would not be such a big hassle. I know there is a great research problem that could only be investigated in X. It will be a great contribution for the academic discussion. I am feeling confident and comfortable to do my research in X, but I have a little worry about “managing my bias” as I have been very much “on their side” for some time.
On the other hand, I have another possible research location, Y. This other option is interesting because very limited studies had been done on Y. Doing research in Y, anyone would be somewhat a pioneer and bound to find interesting things. A lot of happenstances are also pointing me towards this location. But I don’t know if they would accept me and be open to share their life stories with me. I barely know anything about Y, so I was making a lot assumptions when I was developing a research problem for Y.
Well, such is life as a PhD candidate. Decisions has to be made. I am sure there will be light at the end of the tunnel.