Diary of a Research Fellow Part 6: Starting fieldwork

Agnew and Pyke (1969)

Agnew and Pyke (1969)

In Parts 5a and 5b of my series, Diary of a Research Fellow, I explained the reasoning behind holding an advisory meeting with my research stakeholders and briefly discussed how I organised and ran the meeting. Despite only taking place in July, so much has happened since then! In today’s post I provide some updates on how I have moved on from the stakeholder meeting, including starting my fieldwork.

Writing up the report and developing the research website

My main focus has been on writing up the report from the meeting and responding to the outcomes. I began by drafting a really thorough report from the meeting that included key outcomes but after some sage advice, decided to cut this down drastically and draft one that is much more succinct and suitable for a practitioner audience. I have now made these documents available on my newly developed project website, which can be viewed here and that now has a Twitter account as well: @menpovcare. The website includes a Project outputs page where there are links to the reports and where I intend to publish all relevant material relating to the project. Each of these activities have been geared towards developing the visibility of the project and building up an engaged audience to ensure that the project has some ongoing impact.

Developing the research questions

One of the main outputs of the meeting with my project stakeholders was the need to develop my research questions. In order for co-production and knowledge exchange to work effectively, I have but their concerns into my project design, based on their knowledge and experience. Two of my research questions were very similar and see project development very much as an interactive and iterative process. My four research questions now more strongly address the issues that were identified by my stakeholders as being important, while remaining true to the original project aims and objectives. I have since developed my interview schedules for participants in light of these new questions, in order to try and generate evidence that responds to local concerns as well as my own academic interests. The newly drafted research questions can be read in the stakeholder reports using the link above.

Interviews with other stakeholders

During the stakeholder meeting, other potentially interested third sector organisations in Leeds were identified so I have been getting in contact with them by way of introducing them to the project but also to begin to recruit participants for the study. I have interviewed these stakeholders individually about what their role in the community is (including their organisation) and have negotiated access to the contact details of men living on a low-income. One of these stakeholders was the Kinship Care Team at Leeds City Council and they have provided me with some contacts that have enabled me to start my fieldwork.

Starting fieldwork

Perhaps most exciting is that I have started to recruit and interview low-income men living in Leeds who have care responsibilities. Following up on the leads given to me by Leeds City Council I have managed to contact and arrange to interview four men, all of whom are Kinship Carers or Special Guardians to children, grandchildren or nieces and nephews. It feels so good to get back in the field. This is what research is all about for me and it has confirmed for me that this research is necessary and could give a voice to men whose experiences remain otherwise invisible. While I have only interviewed four men so far, all of the narratives I have heard have been very different; some have been highly sensitive and emotional and some more positive. What all of these men have in common so far though is that they feel a great deal of responsibility towards the children that they provide care for and have gone through so much to get the recognition and support they need. They have negotiated complex legal frameworks and have experienced (and continue to experience) a complex mixture of grief, uncertainty and financial precarity to do what they consider is the right thing to do by their family. I plan to do follow up interviews with them if possible and of course, to do justice to their experiences in the long-term.

Next steps

This has all kept me very busy but alongside this work, as well as meeting with more men to interview, I have also been developing my options so that I can gain access to this otherwise hard-to reach group. I continue to chase up possible leads and am contacting a number of other possible stakeholders to try and gain access to potential contacts for interview. This is all a time-consuming process but a necessary part of doing this research. I am also going to write up narrative summaries of each of my interviews to kick start analysis. This involves re-listening to the interviews (and cringing at my own voice!) and noting down key themes from each. The aim of this is to ensure that I conduct a contextual, as well as categorical analysis so that my interpretations of the data and subsequent arguments and outputs are reliable and attentive to context.

I will continue to keep you posted about my experiences as an academic researcher on this site but please do follow the project website and Twitter account for more updates specific to the project.

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