This article aims to detail the current stage of my research process, the direction henceforth and the rationales behind the changes.
Presently, I am conducting fieldwork and implementing adjustments which were informed by the pilot exercise. I have interviewed a total of four participants. Although I have treated the later interviews as actual research, they still function as pilots as I continue to improve my focus and data elicitation approaches.
I have also made several informal approaches in person or by phone to potential participants. I have held some meetings with cultural intermediaries and gatekeepers which yielded a growing list of potential research contacts (The list is provided as a separate attachment).
Change of Data Collection Methods
The reality of the scope and pace of the fieldwork process has influenced a change of approach. Initially, I intended to exploit a visual method, which would have required significant input in terms of time, human resource and equipment. It became apparent that access to media equipment from the university would be a potential drawback as I required clearance for certain kinds of equipment, which are normally reserved for subject specialists.
I also attempted to deploy the narrative interview method. However, I observed that the respondents gave brief responses, which necessitated follow-up question and further probing. I then made the decision that subject matter and the category of my respondents would be best matched with the semi-structured to unstructured interview approach. The adoption of semi-structured interviews is proving efficient in enabling the participant to express their lived experience more fully.
I am presently reviewing the compatibility of the participant observation method with the goals of the present study. I intend to exploit an opportunity to work with a family of creative entrepreneurs as they prepare to launch the fashion line. This will require my presence at every stage of planning up to the launch cum fashion show. I envisage the process to entail ethnographic and intervention elements and opportunities for data elicitation.
Reflections from the field
The pilot sessions and subsequent interviews have revealed the need for a continual iterative development of the interview protocol. It also calls for a constant review of questions and questioning techniques to maintain relevance to the unique experiences of different participants.
I appreciate the importance of good grasp of theory and hypothesis for an effective extraction of quality responses. The field process requires an effective alignment of interview questions and the discussions in the study.
The process of recruiting interviewees has revealed the challenge of having them to commit to appointments. Although most outrightly expressed willingness to take part in the study, yet it has required significant persistence for them to commit to an interview. A strategy on my part has been flexibility and to allow the respondent to choose any time slot no matter how inconvenient to me. I have also been careful not to postpone or cancel any appointments.
I noticed that the list of potential respondents is dominated by Zimbabwean cultural entrepreneurs. This is predictable as I belong to the same community. I acknowledge that it will require more effort to recruit participants from other African countries.
I now have more appreciation for the importance of preparation prior to engaging in a research contact. I have benefited from having a thorough knowledge of the research participant’s practice ahead of the interview.
It saves time to have all devices fully charged at home to avoid wasting research time looking for power sockets upon arriving at the venue.
The participants are all unique and vary in terms of experience and practice, which has required flexibility in the application of the interview protocol, constant review of the questions to accommodate new lines of enquiry and realignment with hypothesis and theory.
Practicalities and decisions
Recording: I have benefited from the decision to record the interviews, which has enabled me to focus on the responses and ask follow-up questions. I have mitigated the risk of malfunctioning of the recording equipment by using the phone as a backup.
Data management: The audio files and the transcription are kept in Microsoft OneDrive, which offers several layers of encryption and ease of access from the cloud.
Transcription: I intend to transcribe a few interviews until themes start to emerge when I will require the services of a professional transcriber.