Walking In Unfamiliar but Exciting Shoes!
It’s always interesting when you spend a day walking in someone else’s shoes, especially if they do something very different from you! I was lucky enough to shadow someone from geography and it was really exciting to hear about his work, and let me tell you it is not even close to what I do. His project looks at medical tourism in the Caribbean, and involves qualitative research methods. Since a lot of his work is currently consisting of working at a computer we decided to have an informal chat over coffee. I had so much fun hearing about his research that I spent almost ½ an hour listening to him talk about his project and I almost forgot to ask him my interview questions.
When I finally remembered I had to ask some more specific questions I decided to start with the broad picture question: What is a typical day like? Answer: “Well it depends on if you are in the field, or back at home (SFU)”
Below I have summarized a typical day in each of the settings:
-Wake up; spend a few hours (2-3) answering/sending emails, and making phone calls to find interviewees
-Go out and interview people usually 2 (a busy day would be interviewing 3-4-which can get a bit crazy). Each interview takes on average 1 hour but can vary (it can be really short or long depending on the interviewee) -> When asked what a good day would be, he explained that it would be travelling to meet people and making new contacts or ending up in situations not planned or expected but end up helping in your research!—Here is really where I saw a difference in our research. I would consider a successful day as getting results (i.e. an experiment working or finding a new pathway I can target, etc.)—not making new contacts or ending up in exciting situations, which do happen sometimes but are rare.
-Go back and organize data, recordings and notes, etc.
I was told data was collected by conducting semi-structured interviews with locals, consultants of medical tourism, policy planners, local providers of care, etc. and questions were based around health politics and equity. This time around my host had two groups to collect data from, one group consisted of people who use the countries local health care system, and the other was nurses who work in health care field.
-Analyzing data and Writing!!! His supervisor is quite publication oriented and encourages her students to be as well. —In my field we want to get a lot of papers published as well but pumping out papers is not a quick task, whereas my host told me that with his research he is able to get a few papers out of each data set
-Phone call follow ups with interviewees
My host explained to me that he gets some down time when he gets back home, but a lot of time is spent in front of the computer doing the above tasks. I was really interested in how data analysis was carried out on qualitative data and learnt that it is extremely different from my data analysis! Data is analyzed using schematic analysis for qualitative data management. This data is then used to help build narratives that show general trends and dynamics surrounding the topic area.
The thing I found really interesting about my hosts data analysis, was that he did it in parallel with another student. By doing this he is able to eliminate any biases he may be subconsciously making and he is able to make sure he doesn’t miss any analysis. Although I am able to work with my lab mates when I need help analyzing my data a lot of it is done on my own or with my supervisor, yet another difference between our fields.
The one similarity I found with his project and mine was that we entered a program where the research project and question had been clearly outline and initiated in some way by our supervisors, and that we were both lucky enough to have good contact with our supervisors when needed. Other than that our fields are quite different but this makes for an interesting conversation. The only down side to talking to people in different fields from me is that I can’t help but always wonder if I went into the wrong field after hearing about their research. I know I didn’t, and I love what I do, but it is always fun to hear what others are up to. Maybe one day I can find someone in a different field from me that I can collaborate with!