Qualitative data gathering challenges in a politically unstable rural environment: A Zimbabwean experience.

Tabitha Grace Mukeredzi

Abstract


Conducting field research can be both a challenging and very rewarding experience. The snags and surprises, the feelings of frustration, fear and anger that go with it should not stall the research process but instead, should be handled with flexibility and patience. The experiences not only enhance the researcher’s own reflexivity and creativity but also provide insights into the human conditions and actions as viewed from multiple perspectives. Gaining access to participants in rural, politically unstable environments demands authority and consent not only from the participants but also from other players with interests in the research sites and settings.
In this paper I discuss data gathering experiences and challenges I encountered during field work for my PhD in Zimbabwe in mid-2008. I highlight the logistical and psychological challenges encountered, how I overcame some of them and was stymied by others. Specifically the politically related challenges were to do with gaining access to schools and participants, limited communication, fuel provision and other logistical facilities. Issues of poor topography and interview space also emerged as other challenges.

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