Ethnographic Fieldwork Methodology: Approaches, Tools and Ethics

Time:

19 - 22 Mar 2018

Place:

PRIO, Hausmanns gate 3, Oslo

Organizer:

Jørgen Carling and Cindy Horst

Credits:

For participation 19-21 March and approved essay: 5 ECTS. For participation 19-22 March and approved essay: 6 ECTS.

Contact:

Marte Nilsen: marnil@prio.org

Lecturers:

Jørgen Carling is Research Professor in Migration and Transnationalism Studies at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) and holds a PhD in human geography. His research addresses a broad range of themes including migration theory, migration management, human smuggling, migrant remittances, and the links between migration and development. Jørgen has extensive fieldwork experience and combines ethnographic data, statistical analyses, and other methodologies in his research. He has published more than 40 journal articles and book chapters and also carried out policy-oriented work for various governmental and international agencies.

Cindy Horst is Research Professor in Migration and Refugee Studies at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). Her current research interests include: mobility in conflict; diaspora; humanitarianism; refugee protection; transnational civic engagement; and theorizing on societal transformation. She is particularly interested in methodological innovations that allow for critical and ethically conscious research engagement, through shared anthropology, life history research and multi-sited ethnography. She has published extensively for academic and non-academic audiences and has taught and mentored on research methods and ethics at a range of European and African universities.

This course prepares participants for conducting ethnographic fieldwork and using fieldwork data in social-science research. By 'fieldwork' we mean data collection through face-to-face interaction with people in their daily lives, using participant observation, interviews, or a combination of the two. The course pays particular attention to the challenges of doing fieldwork in challenging circumstances, such as those that are often encountered in research on peace and conflict, or in the contexts of migration and displacement. 

Application deadline: 1 February 2018

Course Description:

​The sessions roughly follow the chronology from pre-fieldwork planning to post-fieldwork representation of data, and address both practical and principle concerns at each stage. Discussions of ethical challenges are integrated throughout. Rather than attempting to provide blueprint answers, the course seeks to help participants reflect upon the dilemmas and challenges of fieldwork and make informed decisions for their own research. 

The three-day course is followed by an optional fourth day dedicated to coding and analysing qualitative data in NVivo. This is designed specifically for participants who already use, or plan to use, NVivo for the analysis of ethnographic data. The purpose is to bridge the gap between (1) the methodological, theoretical, and ethical aspects of ethnography, and (2) the technical use of software. 

Schedule:

Sessions

1. Introduction

Brief presentation of lecturers, participants and their research. Introduction to the course.

2. Research design and access

How do I formulate research questions that can be addressed through fieldwork? How do I identify the appropriate 'field'? How do I identify and approach informants? Which ethical considerations are important to design the research and accessing the field? How can fieldwork shed light on structural relations of power, and how might relations of power influence the conduct and outcomes of research?

3. Participant observation and life history interviews

Which data collection methods can be used in fieldwork? How can different data collection methods benefit from each other? What does participant observation entail? What is the academic value of 'hanging out'? What characterizes life history interviews as a method?

4. Semi-structured interviews

How structured or open should interviews be? How can I best prepare for my interviews? What are different approaches to constructing interview guides for semi-structured interviews? Should I also collect specific background information about interviewees? If so, why and how?

5. Language, note-taking and recording

What do I do if I don't speak the language of my informants? How do I address the issue of recording or not? How can I ensure that my notes become a valuable resource when fieldwork is over? How do I protect my fieldwork data?

6. Relationships and risks in the field

How do I present myself and my research in a fieldwork setting? What are the implications of gender, age, national background and other characteristics of the researcher? How do I manage relationships with informants and gatekeepers? What are some of the risks and ethical challenges I might face while doing fieldwork?

7. Introduction to analysing fieldwork data

How can I analyse my fieldwork data? What does coding entail in qualitative research? This session addresses general aspects of the analytical process. (The more specific aspects of coding with NVivo software for qualitative research are addressed in session 11).

8. Working with quotations from the field

How can I make effective use of quotes from informants when I am writing? Are there rules for doing it correctly? How much or how little should the voice of informants be visible in the text? What are strategies for diversifying the use of quoted material?

9. Writing and representing fieldwork data

How do I convey fieldwork insights in writing? Which ethical concerns are important in the writing phase? How can ethnographic data be properly anonymized in publications? What are the common challenges of fieldwork-based research in the review process of academic journals?

Sessions 10–12 make up the optional day 4.

Day 4 is designed specifically for participants who already use, or plan to use, NVivo for the analysis of ethnographic data. The purpose is to bridge the gap between (1) the methodological, theoretical, and ethical aspects of ethnography, and (2) the technical use of software. Participants must bring their own laptop with NVivo installed and be familiar with the very basics of the programme (Free trial versions and video tutorials are available at www.qsrinternational.com/nvivo).[1] More advanced users will also benefit from the sessions, since the primary focus is on analytical use rather than purely technical skills.

10. Constructing a good framework of nodes

What characterizes a good system for coding? How should different types of ethnographic data and different approaches to coding affect the framework of nodes? What are the dilemmas that have to be addressed when you design the framework? How does it make a difference if you work together with others or not?

11. Analysing fieldwork data through coding

A hands-on session in which participants work on the same text and explore the issues that arise in applying a set of codes. We will use the experience to discuss the subjective and interpretive aspects of the coding process.

12. Exploring additional analyses in NVivo

A hands-on session that goes beyond the fundamental code-and-retrieve functionality to explore the analytical use of additional functions in NVivo. We will, for instance, combine thematic coding with the use of sets, case nodes, attributes, and matrices.

Schedule

Monday 19 March

09:00–10:00     1. Introduction

10:00–12:00     2. Research design and access

13:00–16:00     3. Participant observation and life history interviews

Tuesday 20 March

09:00–10:15     4. Semi-structured interviews

10:30–12:00     5. Language, note-taking and recording

13:00–16:00     6. Relationships and risks in the field

Wednesday 21 March

09:00–10:45     7. Introduction to analysing fieldwork data

11:00–12:00     8. Working with quotations from the field

13:00–16:00     9. Writing and representing fieldwork data

Thursday 22 March (optional)

09:00–10:00     10. Constructing a good framework of nodes

10:00–12:00     11. Analysing fieldwork data through coding

13:00–16:00    12. Exploring additional analyses in NVivo


[1] Familiarity with the very basics means having opened the programme, knowing what 'sources' and 'nodes' are, and having coded something.

Deadlines:

Applications must be submitted via this online submission form. There has been great interest in this course in the past and the number of spaces is limited, so it is unlikely that we can accept all applicants. The application deadline is 1 February 2018 and applicants will be notified of the outcome by 9 February 2018.

Requirements:

​In order to obtain credits for the course, participants must submit a paper of 3000–5000 words. (Deadline to be confirmed.) The paper should address all the following topics:

·      The relationship between the research question(s) and fieldwork-based knowledge

·      The specific fieldwork methodology employed

·      Methodological and ethical challenges and ways of addressing these challenges

Depending on the nature and current stage of the participant's own research, the paper can be an account of fieldwork methodology already employed in their own research, a plan for fieldwork methodology to be employed in their own research, or a plan for fieldwork methodology to be employed in a proposed future project.

This course is free of charge, but students will have to cover their own travel costs. PhD students may apply for an accommodation stipend.

Admission:

​Please indicate if you will participate on 22 March in the comments section of the application form. 

All participants must upload their CV.

Course Literature:

​Reading lists for each session will be distributed to participants after admission to the course.



Please address any application questions to Marte Nilsen.