Student - 6 december 2016

Blog: Studying Fieldwork

Nadya Karimasari

Blogger Nadya Karimasari discusses a Master’s class that she thinks every social scientist should follow.

This is the sixth and last week of a Master course that I am following called "Fieldwork in Conflict and Post-Conflict Setting" with Gemma van der Haar and Peter Tamas. It is a very good course and gives students more imagination to handle the practice, methodology and ethics of doing fieldwork. I would recommend you to do this course, especially if you already had a fieldwork in mind. The course is open not only for master’s students, but PhD candidates as well.

The lesson in each session is useful not only for fieldwork in conflict and post-conflict setting, but also for any fieldwork in general. This course is also important as a collective learning process to understand about knowledge construction and the self. Hence, it is relevant for anyone doing social research. But most importantly, it first and foremost teaches you about being an ethical being, regardless of whether you are a researcher.

In each session, we discuss the delicate and intricate dilemmas based on experiences of other researchers that we’ve read about in the literature. Some of the very authors of those papers came to class as guest lecturers. I am happy that the class is very interactive and the students are proactive. It is not a one-way lecture in which all answers are provided. Students are stimulated to think for themselves – being an independent mind takes practice. Students have to put the study materials into a dialogue with their own way of thinking and research.

As a social scientist at Wageningen University, this class felt to me like a drop of water in the desert. Most general PhD courses that I’ve followed so far (well, not that many) do not consider that there are a lot of other ways to do research than simply performing an experiment. When the lecturer of such a general PhD course said "research", what he meant by that most of the time is "experiment". But research is not synonymous with experiment. Maybe that is how research is being done within the "natural" sciences, but it doesn’t mean that a general PhD course should always have a heavy inclination towards those "natural" sciences.

Nadya Karimasari is a PhD candidate in the chair group Sociology of Development and Change

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