The not so good days of fieldwork…

Some of you may know that I am in the data collection phase of my doctoral project. I am working on children living in institutional care and care leavers, in particular, how they construct the meaning of family in the context of family separation. Before I began my fieldwork, I was positive I would get the research participants I needed and I followed all the necessary procedures of gaining access. I anticipated some challenges since research is never a straight-forward process, neither is anything where you have to deal with human participants.  However, some challenges are more difficult to deal with than others and I will detail these below:

Dealing with gatekeepers

My research project involves minors (children) who are also vulnerable. They live in institutions where they are wardens of the state, which means they fall under state protection. Dealing with government departments is not the easiest thing to do because of bureaucratic procedures. It took longer than I anticipated to gain the access that I needed into the children’s homes, and even then, the access came with strict conditions that are affecting my data collection process.  In the end, I am doubting my decision to include this group. The care leavers, who are over 18 can give their own consent, which is less of a headache, although they are a hard to track group.


Research is a process that has a time limit. Everything has a deadline, depending on funds and project requirements. When everyone takes their time to respond to requests for appointments and meetings, they do not take heed of this fact. It is so frustrating, but unavoidable. You have to meet people at their convenience and some people are not nice enough to bother rescheduling when they have missed an appointment. It is up to me to make the 100th follow-up (the exaggeration is necessary, trust me).

Explaining my failures to my supervisors

This is by far the hardest thing for me to do. I struggle with admitting where I have tried something and it has failed. I take it as a complete failure on my part, which is hard to swallow. As a self-confessed perfectionist, I am really struggling to detail my failures during my fieldwork. I know I must learn to do this because they are part of the process. But, I hate failing so much I wish I could document win after win, and not a single failure.

Coming home to my family after an exhausting day

I am living with my mother and nephew at the moment during this fieldwork. I miss the days when I can lock myself up in my room after a bad day because I don’t have to explain to anyone how I am feeling. Now that I am home, I have to discuss my day and discuss other people’s days as well. I have to be sensitive to the needs of those around me, even though I may not feel like it sometimes. The other day, I loved having the support system of my family and friends after a particularly tough day in the field. So, it does have its merits.  But sometimes, I am not up to socializing at all and this is hard to explain to loved ones.

All in all, this process has its rough days. I am soldering on nonetheless and this moment of reflection helps me to keep things in perspective. I am aware that my mental health is of utmost importance during this Ph.D. but I am not always able to deal with the challenges I am facing. Writing about it sure does help…


Phd survivor
Image from Quora


Till next time.



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