Creatively adapting research methods during COVID-19 &#8211 Worldwide Journal of Social Research Methodology

By Mary Brenda Herbert

Where are you currently?’ He quizzically checked out me, eyes darting in one corner of my screen to a different. He wasn’t searching at me, but behind me.

 ‘I’m in your own home,’ I only say.

Oh, I figured you had been inside a bookshop when you attend home. There are plenty of books behind you,’ he stated, nodding. And thus started my weekly video call with Mike*.

As ethnographers, we are utilized to ending up in our interlocutors in-person on their own territory or on neutral ground, but rarely, if never, within our own homes! However, the COVID-19 limitations altered everything. Through interactive video tools like Whatsapp, Now i seeing into children’s homes and they’re seeing into mine. It was not quite the way i had imagined my fieldwork to become.

I’d only begun my fieldwork a few several weeks before this change. After several several weeks of trying to get ethical approval in the local authority, I finally began meeting families in my PhD study. My study concentrates on children as well as their moms who’ve experienced domestic abuse and social care interventions. I was all all set to go after i recognized that my plans were going to change dramatically. Lockdown had been announced which, meant an finish towards the home visits I envisioned. That which was I to complete?

Panic was my first response, however another thing dawned on me. Essentially, the objective of my project hadn’t altered I possibly could still research children’s lives, it simply happens their everyday lives now incorporated handling a pandemic. There is even the ethical question from the families attempting to continue the study. I didn’t wish to allow them to lower but exactly how could I continue securely? I recognized my techniques that required to change, not my aim. Inside a frenzied scramble I come up with a skill pack comprised of paper, glue tick pens, pencils, modelling clay, pipe cleaners, lolly sticks, along with a small toy camera, plus a rapidly composed guide that contains instructions  (please visit fig. 1). My aim ended up being to give children the sources to creatively capture the brand new normal of the everyday lives. Right before lockdown I delivered the skill packs to my interlocutors’ doorsteps, and that i was careful to follow the social distancing rules when talking using the families from outdoors their houses. Following a pack deliveries, the families and that i agreed that i can give them a call once per week to determine the way they were making. Together we labored out a means of documenting their everyday lives.

Although this is not generate income had initially envisaged my research going (whose research would go to plan anyway?), I’ve had encounters and glare that will not have been possible otherwise for COVID-19. An essential realization for me personally is when scientific studies are mediated through various materials. Two prime examples would be the internet and also the weather.  The internet is really a rather insolent and hard to rely on research assistant it sometimes appears for work along with other occasions less.  Sometimes it surprises me and stays throughout the job to become completed, however it mostly ducks out and in. My research partner is my internet, and that i have grown to be especially dependent on it during this period of COVID-19.  Its (united nations)reliability has highlighted the infrastructures that actually work to help keep the world connected (Chiou and Tucker, 2020). Because the Covid19 limitations were lifted, but social distancing advisories continued to be, the elements has turned into a major influencing element in figuring out my work methods. One time, I showed up within the flowing rain in a home coupled with to change my intentions of short notice.  Our initial intends to take a stroll were unthinkable, and so i rather arranged an open-air picnic blanket within the corridor of the block of flats to complete some artwork with children. (please visit fig. 2).

Fig. 2 Being prepared for an impromptu art session on the picnic blanket.

My dependency on the web and the elements makes me really conscious of how my encounters are mediated by materials, structures, and chance. However, these illustration of changes, adaption, and interdependency aren’t unusual for ethnography. Frequently these dependencies on other things and people outdoors from the communities we’re researching are rarely discussed or are sidelined, yet they play an important role in the way we conduct our research (Rosaldo, 2014, p. 111). The pandemic has rapidly debunked any illusion which i formerly held which i, the investigator, am totally in charge of the look and unfolding of my research study (Pandian, 2019).

So, what from the art packs? Some children took photos, some have attracted making things, others have forfeit all of the pens and pencils, although others have overlooked it altogether. The kids used what they’ve felt confident with, which by itself is ‘data’. I’ve attempted other techniques: I’ve attempted diary/journal– which was not received well (an excessive amount of like schoolwork). My trial having a digital photo diary (Plowman and Stevenson, 2012) led to moms taking snapshots of their kids instead of children taking snapshots of themselves, that was not things i had intended. Together we are searching for a method to explore the everydayness of existence through having fun with methods.

What this means is there’s lots of settlement, innovation, frustration, and persistence on sides. In the families who’ve to endure me going from area to area to look for a place within my home with a Wi-Fi connection therefore we can continue our video call, towards the children who’ve trained me how you can play hide and go seek over the telephone, to socially distanced walks with children within their local areas, to meeting across doorways to switch info and materials – we’ve navigated these terrains to be able to tell the storyline, the storyline of the items everyday existence is much like. We all do this in “an attempt to unsettle and remake” what’s known (Pandian, 2019, p. 5).

The irony of researching with children regarding their everyday although my very own youngsters are glued for their screens isn’t lost on me. In a lot of ways, the moms that form a part of my research are battling with similar a few things i am – how you can keep children occupied, getting shopping, keeping well, remaining safe, and doing our very best to obtain with the pandemic. Simultaneously, the pandemic has additionally highlighted ongoing problems with inequality and power relations in society. Although I’ve similar concerns and challenges because the moms within my research. For instance, my children’s utilisation of the iPad like a childcare resource isn’t being critiqued by social services I’m able to do an online shop and employ the vehicle to prevent trains and buses I’ve money along with a supportive partner that helped me to. I’m cushioned by my relations, network, and use of sources. The pandemic has introduced the growing inequalities within society and also the institutionalized racism towards the surface. Many of us are experiencing and enjoying the pandemic, however the results of it won’t be the same.

So, when Mike asks me concerning the books on my small shelf and the number of rooms have been in my house, I’m really conscious of the main difference within our status in society, and this is an excellent factor to look at. Although the pandemic is definitely an enormous once (hopefully) inside a lifetime experience, the essential essence of research remains the same – the development of understanding, as well as for me, the significance of going through the everyday lives of kids.

*Not this individuals real name.


Chiou, L. and Tucker, C. (2020) Social Distancing, Access To The Internet and Inequality. w26982. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of monetary Research, p. w26982. doi: 10.3386/w26982.

Pandian, A. (2019) A potential anthropology: means of uneasy occasions. Durham: Duke College Press.

Plowman, L. and Stevenson, O. (2012) ‘Using cell phone diaries to understand more about children’s everyday lives’, Childhood, 19(4), pp. 539–553. doi: 10.1177/0907568212440014.

Rosaldo, R. (2014) Your day of Shelly’s dying: the poetry and ethnography of Grief. Durham: Duke College Press.


Conducting Qualitative Fieldwork during COVID 19