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Saying Goodbye: Preparing for the Social Withdrawal From Fieldwork

By: Published: 2021 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 1
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This case study discusses the implications of our departure from fieldwork to our participants and ourselves. It does this via an exploration of my fieldwork overseas in Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2017. During this long duration in the field, relationships were built for the professional purpose of collecting data for my thesis; however, I gained some invaluable friendships, which I felt the loss of after my departure from the field. I explore how ending fieldwork is actually a social withdrawal in which relationships are severed; thus, this aspect of ending fieldwork is underexplored and many researchers are underprepared for it. The preparation to conduct fieldwork in 2016 used a “checklist” approach where I considered technical and logistical aspects of my departure such as pre-arranged travel, data saturation, the number of visits I would conduct, and recording field notes. Hence, using this method left me underprepared for the effects of social withdrawal. Therefore, given this profound effect this has on the research, the case study explored how ending fieldwork affects all those involved and practical ways to end fieldwork (when it is planned). It emphasizes communication with our participants and gatekeepers of our intended departures and staying in touch can help cope with the loss of the network built in the field. Thinking of a strategy beforehand can help prepare us to say goodbye ethically, provide closure, and be the least detrimental for future researchers who want to conduct fieldwork.

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