The Field Research Method Lab is a new initiative that aims to bring together both established and early career researchers in order to share their hands-on fieldwork experiences. It is an online platform for researchers to appraise various constraints that they have encountered in the field and reflect upon how they have successfully or unsuccessfully addressed those constraints.
Despite the fact that ways of addressing constraints in the field often determine the quality of research findings and their validity, they have not been given enough space or opportunities for debates in academic works. Rich details of field research are often buried in individual researchers’ private domain such as research journals. At best, they remain between lines in academic texts without a chance to be fully disseminated.
The Field Research Method Lab, however, does not purpose to offer any “model” approaches or “best practices.” A seemingly effective or successful method in some aspects may still be subject to controversy in other views and contexts since neither the ways we relate with our field nor the logics we apply for analysis can ever be exempt from epistemological, ontological or ethical scrutinies. The underlying complexity of methodological discourses is no less significant than the reality of our field.
In this context, this online platform introduces diverse strategies adopted by field researchers, facilitating critical yet constructive debates and responses. Each contributor is to reflect upon their past or present field research projects and draw meaningful lessons in both practical and academic terms. Wherever possible, each posting accompanies a research outline as well as details of research outcomes so that viewers can better understand how the researcher’s experiences in the field have fed into their final research outputs.
The first series of posts will be focused on field research in China. They are primarily based on the presentations made at a workshop held in June 2013 under the title of “Addressing Field Research Constraints in China” by the Department of Geography and Environment, with financial support from the Teaching and Learning Centre, London School of Economics and Political Science.
Contributions to this blog are currently built around, but not limited to, the themes below:
- Practicalities associated with field research: field access; collaboration with local partners; language barriers, including dependence on translators
- Constraints on data collection: sampling; access to government sources; credibility and contamination of field data
- Relationship between the researcher and the researched: researcher’s positionality; power relations; insider-outsider dichotomy; boundary crossing
- Constraints on international collaboration
- Cultural encounters
- Government censorship and data access
- Research ethics
It is the aim of the Field Research Method Lab to expand its coverage to other regions and develop further discourses. The Field Research Method Lab welcomes new contributions from any researchers who wish to share their invaluable field experiences as well as responses to existing postings. Please contact Dr Hyun Bang Shin (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) with your ideas including a short abstract and brief biography.
About the Editor
Hyun Bang Shin is Associate Professor in Geography and Urban Studies at the Department of Geography and Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science. His research includes the critical analysis of the political economic dynamics of urban (re-)development and covers Asian urbanisation, speculative urbanism, displacement and gentrification, the right to the city, and mega-events as urban spectacles. His main areas of field research include Seoul, Beijing and Guangzhou among others.
More details of his current research are available on his personal webpage at http://urbancommune.net.