Friday, 28 September 2012

Research Dilemma 1- Before the field


It’s three days before I officially get into the field to gather data for my research. Just a highlight of my research objectives:
l  To analyze the nature and form of university students’ environmentalism in Kenya.
l  To understand/explore the relationships between university students’ environmentalism and education for sustainable development, environmental governance and youth futures.

Research is not as easy as it sounds, it’s a process that goes back and forth. It has its bright days and grey days, and I can tell you the latter are more! So here, I will share some of the dilemmas I will be facing while in conducting my research.

Ethical dilemmas
Last week was spent applying for the necessary research permits to conduct research in Kenya. I salute the NationalCouncil of Science and Technology for the procedures they have put in place to ensure that they collect every single piece of research that is conducted in this country and enter it into a database. We need more support to such bodies so that they have an online database where every researcher can easily search for ongoing and completed research and thereby build up on the existing work. They have started small, and I am confident with better management and visionary leaders NCST will do great for this country. I have my affiliations pending, not because anyone has said no, I just have to fulfill some ethical and administration requirements to enable me get into the field. I have three more days to complete this process.

Scope and context Dilemmas
Besides getting ready for the field, I reflected again on my research proposal which I had put on hold during my days in Jeju. Reading it again, and editing it again, I realized that I will never have a complete proposal! My ideas keep on moving back and forth. My scope was first challenged by the fact that the universities were on strike at the time I arrived in Kenya, and secondly, I was meeting more young people who seemed to present even more interesting data that I would use for my research. Making that decision to settle on my scope was not easy.

Literary dilemmas
So this is the dilemma that will probably be resolved when I finally submit the complete thesis. Over and over again, I keep reading widely on my subject. The more I read the more I feel I need to change the focus of my research. The more I read the greater the ideas I acquire from new texts, existing research that challenge my current research goals. I submitted my proposal to the NCST, but I almost told them not to believe in the literature review as it was work in progress. It’s fun to read and write this chapter, but it worries me a lot how long I will keep revising the same chapter!

Preparing to get to the field
This week has been spent making appointments. My research journal indicates that I had initially planned to make these calls in August, and true to my instincts, its best that I am making these calls now. Until now, we in Kenya are not used to planning ahead, especially when it involves several months. In just a few hours of making contacts with universities, I have already scheduled appointments with 5 universities and awaiting responses from the other 3. This sounds good, right? I actually feel I should add more universities.
But just hold on there, I am yet to go to the field, I am yet to gather my first set of data! It gives me jitters. I am feeling nervous. It will make me spend the whole of this weekend planning my first appointments next week. Revisiting the questions I have planned for the key informant interviews, the semi structured interviews, and preparing for the focus group discussions. I am a bit worried, and probably have little confidence, so I have gone for something to boost my confidence as a pilot- KUNEC! This is the environmental club where I spent my other fours years when I was an undergraduate student. 4 years later, its still home to me. If I make a mistake, I wont feel bad about it; it’s a good starting point. If I succeed, it will give me confidence that I can now proceed to other clubs. I am a bit excited that despite the low confidence, KUNEC is my first target group to meet this coming week! The students are already eager to meet me. I already got a facilitator from the group of former leaders of the club. He is a great leader who is now leading AYICC Kenya. I have the appointment of the Dean of the School of environmental studies. He is my referee, and I am glad I still have open access to my former university. I will on the same week visit other lecturers, and spend a whole day eating and drinking with university students. What a day it will be! It will be my first pilot for this research.

Other dilemmas
After one year of using Internet in another country, I am back to a reality that I thought should not be true. I am a connected person, and I have always used mobile Internet on the USB modems here in Kenya. My favorite has been Orange, but I must confess that for the past two weeks this company is failing me. I have been struggling to use this modem in the same house where I started using it two years ago! The connectivity is the worst I have had for a long time. I know we have good connection in this country, and I think some people need to do something if they want to retain me as their customer! I need a better option to clear my dilemmas!

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