RUB Research School

Me_01: ONLINE Fieldwork Basecamp: Getting ready for field research

For doctoral researchers from all research fields | Level all

Online Workshop
19.07. + 21.07.2022
Time: 09:00 - 12:00 hrs each day
Trainer: Markus Rudolfi
Language: English
Participants: max. 20 persons
Credit Point: anerkannt mit 0,25 CP für das Doktorandenprogramm RUB-RS Zertifikat

Due to the unpredictable and ‘messy’ reality of research fields, it frequently happens that your well-planned research agenda does not come even close to realization. This course offers a practical inquiry into the challenges of fieldwork which you rarely find in methods books, but which are central for your fieldwork to succeed.

We will discuss “fieldwork” as the temporary empirical research practice at a particular site (or “field”) to gain data for your research project. Hence, this course offers training in how to deal with the irregular realities before you dive into fieldwork, but also when and how to document data, about different ways of interacting with and positioning oneself vis a vis interlocutors, and some useful guidelines for navigating through difficult fields.

Course Description

Imagine you find yourself in a big city in a foreign country, or in a small village in the mountains. Your research is all planned and set from home. But now, the bus doesn’t go, the people don’t speak the official language, and the appointments you made from home, do not seem to materialize. For such cases, no handbook will serve you as a good companion that shows you the tricks for dealing with such unpredictable situations. However, by being aware of the possibilities that such disconcerting moments may be faced whenever you conduct fieldwork, it is possible to learn to manage such situations well. What at first seems to be only failures can through careful consideration turn out to tell you a lot about your research object and the conditions in which it exists.

This course provides its participants with an advanced reflection on and useful techniques for the practical challenges of fieldwork. Across disciplines, researchers encounter similar struggles of how to navigate unknown social, discursive, and material contexts. Drawing on the experiences of several generations of fieldwork, the course will provide practical advice by working through scenarios and cases that equip the participants to make considerations for their fieldwork that would otherwise be not that obvious. Much like the idea of a “basecamp”, the course is directed towards good preparation and situated decision-making when going on the fieldwork journey.

The course will be held online and is divided into two synchronous morning sessions with an asynchronous offline exercise. Please be aware that the course is not an introduction to fieldwork methods but already requires methodical knowledge in the respective field. The discussion will be centred around methods and methodology and provides a way of thinking beyond methodical standards, how to integrate research strategy into methodology, and critical approaches to data gathering. The course also requires some preparation in the form of reading the recommended literature and prepare a short input on your own research. As the course will take place online, please make sure that you can participate via the software ZOOM.


  • basic knowledge in field methods (e.g. participant observation, interviewing, group discussion)
  • read the two recommended texts by A. Markham (2013) and J. Okely (2007)

Recommended literature:

Markham, A.N. (2013): Undermining ‘data’: A critical examination of a core term in scientific inquiry. First Monday, 18 (10);
Okely, J. (2007): Fieldwork Embodied. The Sociological Review, 55(1_suppl), 65–79.
Law, J. (2006): Making a Mess with Method, version of 19th January 2006, available at
Pollard, A. (2009): Field of screams: difficulty and ethnographic fieldwork. Anthropology Matters, 11 (2), oct. 2009, 1-24.   

Markus Rudolfi holds a BA in sociology (major) and psychology and an MA in sociology. He is researcher at the chair Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main at the Institute for Sociology.

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