Phd · research

Conducting research in a developing country

I must say that I’m on a rather steep learning curve and am holding on for dear life. Even in the infantile stage of my research, I have hit a few speed bumps and curve balls and am starting to feel a little jostled. Conducting research in Nepal fulfils the dreamer in me but my brain is starting to wonder if this was such a great idea.

In regards to conducting research in a developing country, here’s a few things that I’ve learnt thus far:

1. One must be fluid…. liquid, water, pepsi, wine… whatever… just fluid. While I am a determined planner, I am learning that things don’t always work out per spreadsheet outline. Timelines, locations, participants and study goals all morph into something hardly recognisable from one’s initial ideas. While this is frustrating and annoying, you won’t get anywhere trying to swim upstream. If you go with the flow, things often work out in the end.

2. Let go of your ego. I had this great initial research idea which everyone told me was very important work. As I started to plan and complete the ethics application, I was struck with so many barriers and obstacles. I was getting so upset that my amazing idea just wasn’t working out. As I slowly started letting go of my idea, a few other possibilities were presented to me. These ideas were realistic and manageable BUT they’re not as good as mine! I had to swallow my pride and let go of my ego to allow myself to be open to other possibilities. Even though I was reluctant to take on new ideas initially, I can see they are still going to be great.

3. Ask and ask again and then don’t believe the answer. Communicating with people in Nepal can be challenging. I have learnt to only ask 1-2 questions per email as this is how many answers I’ll receive back. It could take 1-2 weeks to receive a response, sometimes never hearing back at all. On important matters, don’t be satisfied only asking one person for information. I had asked several people about who I should be submitting my ethics application to and even then I received the wrong answer. This ended up changing my research dramatically. A lady I’m working with once told me to ask 5 different people a question to try and determine the most accurate answer.

4. Stop stressing. I am learning that people in Nepal have such a relaxed way of doing life. There are still so many unknowns in my research planning and when I push for answers I often am faced with responses such as “we’ll figure it out on the day”… eek! Not my style of planning at all and tends to stress me out. So many things can go wrong with that attitude but, maybe things could work out without drama or stress?! I’ll keep you posted on how it works out 🙂

These are the things I have learnt and are fast becoming my daily mantra: Be fluid, no ego, keep asking and stop stressing…

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