I'm more than halfway through a part-time sociology PhD. During my research in Turkey the attempted coup meant no one was willing to talk about the issues I was researching. A year later, because of foolishly signing a petition, I - and every other foreign academic that signed it - was deported from the country and given an entry ban. I won't even mention that all my books and everything I own are still in Turkey.
Now with Covid, when one would think people would be used to Zoom and willing to talk, I have managed to get just a fifth of the interviews I need. My supervisors have now said enough is enough and want me to superglue it all together with what I feel is fairly irrelevant data triangulation.
Has anyone ever been in a situation where they cannot get access to their research participants? What did you do? I'm desperate to find a way to stick to my original research, though all the subjects are in a country I can't enter. :(
Can you change form interviews to online open ended questionnaires? You'll need to increase the recruitment target by a fair bit, but it might be a better way to collect data. You can then use social media (it costs about £500 in the UK for a media company to get your survey out there to the right people, or you can manage it yourself with geographical boosts). If you're conducting interviews in that way you'd need to design the online platfrom and keep the questions very, very open. You'd need to recruit about 80-120 people, however from that you'd get about 20-30 decent transcripts to use. If you go down this route, look up work by Gunther Eysenbach and his work with infodemic research. It might work, and you get a really good methodology chapter out of it because it's a fairly novel research method
I honestly think your supervisors might well be right here. You're presumably researching something the Erdogan regime are not happy about, and the people you want to interview just think the risk is too high for them to participate. I'm not sure a survey would get participants either. And is it ethical to try to push people into taking the risks?
I have never interviewed anyone and am engineering PhD student, so I am probably wrong. Though why are you so desperate to continue with your original project even though it is not working? I would say that most people change their PhD in some way due to various issues and their is no shame slightly changing your project due to unforeseen issues. My PhD has massively changed because the experiments were not working and I am now doing stuff that works seamlessly (mostly). Research changes depending upon the circumstances and I would think carefully if the results will be worth the effort in the long run.
Thanks, all! I do think the questionnaires will meet the same reluctance but I'm grateful for the Gunther Eysenbach tip! Thank you. I agree, bewildered, that it wouldn't be ethical to push people into taking risks but there really are no risks. There is absolutely nothing identifying participants and literally a million people could give similar answers. But it does illustrate the fear which is an interesting topic in itself. Rewt, I appreciate your thoughts. It's a bit different that quantitative research in that I know it would 'work' if I could find the people brave enough to talk. Thinking of hiring an interviewer now, a road I had not previously considered.
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