PhD: the extreme fieldwork edition

Valuable and honest reflections on fieldwork, and realities of writing a PhD. For those of you about to start, or in the midst of, fieldwork, there is a salutary tale, well worth reading, on thesiswhisperer’s blog at

Without wishing to make it all seem gloomy, Amy Pollard’s ‘Field of screams’ also offers useful insights into how fieldwork (particularly ethnography) can be challenging. The message is not ‘fieldwork is awful’, but that ‘if you’re finding it intense, and hard, you’re not alone!’.

The same issue of the journal (freely available) contains responses from several experienced researchers, ( that help to provide a balanced picture overall.

The Thesis Whisperer

This post was written by Linda Murray who recently submitted her PhD on Maternal Mental Health in Central Vietnam through Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane. Her thesis was completed on nine desks, in four cities and two countries. She now lives in Hobart, Tasmania and works part-time at the University of Tasmania teaching Global Health. This post details how she broke the PhD ‘rules’ – and lived!

In the first few weeks of my thesis, I remember being directed to a blog post by “Sciencewoman” which gave some sage advice to students on how to complete your PhD in a reasonable amount of time. I recently re-read it only to find I had failed two of her major points. Namely, ‘Don’t pick a topic that requires multiple years of data collection,’ and ‘pick a field site within a few hours of your university/house’  – and definitely nowhere prone…

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