It’s the final week of the second year of my PhD programme, and here’s my reflection on the year.
My second year kicked off with fieldwork and data collection in Tokyo. After spending four months collecting audio data, the next six months were devoted to sorting it out, making transcripts, conducting pilot analysis, and writing a chapter on the concept of patient-centredness.
I achieved five goals this year:
- Collected sufficient audio data of medical consultations, interviews and focus groups, and these have deepened my understanding of the context and the participants’ feelings. I also learnt research skills for conducting interviews and focus groups.
- Attended three international conferences.
- Gave my first oral presentation for Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice conference.
- Finished writing a draft of Chapter 2: I’ve gained a better understanding of the concept of patient-centred care.
- Have identified an analytical framework and conducted conversation analysis.
The greatest benefit of fieldwork was to have a face-to-face meeting with local experts and get a deep understanding of what actually happens in the field, not just what literature tells you. If you have concerns about the local context or methods in the field, ask experts or scholars, and offer something such as coffee or a meal, or help with seminars. The experts were willing to help, and there was no reason to feel hesitant about seeking their support. You will share the results of the study with all of them when you’ve completed your research, and they would like to know about it. This can also motivate you to pursue the study further.
The fieldwork process wasn’t always exciting, and I experienced a lot of emotional turmoil in terms of my research skills. Qualitative research certainly entails “emotional labour” (said Hubbard et al. in ‘Working with emotion: Issues for the researcher in fieldwork and teamwork’), but I was lucky to have someone with whom I could share my stories and experiences. Refection is a very, very important way to digest the events, move on to the next step and keep heading in the right direction.
‘The key to survival is to maintain faith in the process’
Before conducting fieldwork, I thought that the toughest mountain to climb in my research would be collecting good-quality data in good quantity. But, (big BUT), my emotional turmoil never stopped, even after a successful data collection. Uncertainty over the accuracy of my transcripts, interpretation, an analytical framework and justifying it… has been continuing. Dr Brenda Service’s words (here’s a link to her paper) come to my mind: “Emotion and uncertainty are part and parcel of the qualitative research process but they need not preclude hopefulness’, and ‘The key to survival is to maintain faith in the process.”
Luca brought lots of pistachio sweets from Sicily, and we’ve enjoyed teatime with pistachio panettone homemade by a local shop in Sicily!