How to Prepare for Fieldwork in Different *and maybe Difficult* Contexts

Tulin Dzhengiz (Cengiz)
17 min readDec 8, 2021

I identify as a qualitative business and management researcher, who occasionally also likes and experiments with other quantitative and mixed methods (thanks to mostly my co-authors). I completed my PhD training in the UK and masters across Europe, conducted all the interviews I ever needed in these contexts. Until recently, I thought that my PhD training together with many readings on how to do qualitative research, ethnographic research, interviews and specifically semi-structured interviews, I was prepared for doing interviews in many contexts. Indeed, I would have even assumed that I am not too bad as an interviewer.

Well, you can already guess that I had some recent experiences which made me doubt myself, but also made me grow even further as a qualitative researcher and an interviewer. At least, I hope I did grow :) Not so long ago, I travelled to Turkey to conduct some interviews in two to three months of fieldwork. During this fieldwork, I had days that I had to go to my accommodation and just let myself cry due to the intensity of some conversations with interviewees. I had days when I got so frustrated at my local partners' attitudes. I had days spent with confusion, ambiguity and let’s face it anger, due to the bureaucracy and lack of understanding about the local context with my research institution. All of which were completely new experiences. So, I thought before I forget these days and leave them behind as times of productive research, I should note down my reflections.

Calming the Fears of Your Own Institution — Preparing for Lengthy Bureaucracies

If you are based in the western world and you do your research in emerging country settings, you will know that especially when travelling to places like Turkey during covid times, the bureaucracy will be more time consuming than ever. Unfortunately, this gets worse when your institution or the people who are supposed to help you with bureaucracies keep confusing Turkey with other countries. As a country torn apart between the east and west, Turkey is a strange context. Some people think it is like Iraq. Some people think it is like Italy. Turkey is, in reality, like a bit of both. But, if you are organising fieldwork in your native country (I am originally Turkish) and you are feeling that your own institution is biased towards the country perhaps slightly negatively, you are already off to a bad start…