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Fieldwork in Complex and Hostile Places (DEVT90042)

Graduate courseworkPoints: 25Not available in 2019

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Year of offerNot available in 2019
Subject levelGraduate coursework
Subject codeDEVT90042
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

Fieldwork is demanding and poses unique risks to the security and safety of the researcher and research participants. Fieldwork also relies on the researcher’s ability to clearly understand their research design and methods and access, collect and manage data in the field. This eight-day intensive subject prepares students for undertaking detailed fieldwork for extended periods overseas in less secure and/or complex environments. Students will develop a working knowledge of what is required to develop an integrated Research Plan, Ethics Application and Fieldwork Risk Management Plan as required for postgraduate research theses.

The subject consists of four days of classroom-based lectures and four days in a scenario/simulation learning environment. Designed to deliver theoretical and practical skills, the subject is taught by a combination of academics and professional security consultants. It covers applied research philosophy, methodologies, field skills and techniques to prepare students for undertaking detailed fieldwork research with vulnerable research participants and/or for extended periods in less secure, complex and/or hostile environments.

The subject builds upon the introductory level of knowledge students learned in undergraduate and honours level research methods subjects, and focuses on applied research methods.

Learning applied research methods and field-craft skills will enhance student’s ability to make original contributions to knowledge. The subject equips students with a working appreciation for the major methodological, ethical and logistical challenges they are likely to confront during fieldwork. The subject is structured to be of relevance to students in social science and humanities based disciplines, and to provide skills relevant for careers in International Development, NGOs and Government agencies.

The following elements are covered in the practical training:

  • Security Context
  • Field Preparedness and Evacuation
  • Residence Assessment Exercise
  • Basics of Negotiation
  • Coping with Insecure Environments: Stress Awareness
  • Field Communication Equipment and Communication Protocol
  • First Aid: Essentials for life support (EAR/CPR, major bleeding control & evacuation/repatriation)
  • Image and Acceptance
  • Vehicle Check Points/Road Blocks
  • Field Security (Crowds and Mobs, Hostage Survival, Vehicle Check Points/Road Blocks, Sexual Assault, Weapons Awareness)

The practical component enables students to apply their new knowledge regarding equipment, organisation, physical and mental states, risk management and contingency planning. (i.e. what to do on arrival in-country, how to fine-tune plans, flexible organisation, importance of travelling light for mobility).

Practical skills taught through experiential scenarios include but are not limited to:

  • Patterns of behaviour and predictability
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder self-assessment procedure
  • How to not be a target (e.g. how and why a researcher is seen)
  • What to do regarding the presence of small arms (i.e. what indicators to understand regarding their use and when under fire or in the vicinity of fire how to take cover)
  • How to avoid and/or cope with threats of physical violence and physical violence

Intended learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of this subject, students are expected to:

  • have an acceptable draft Research Plan, Ethics Application and Risk Management Plan completed and ready for submission;
  • understand the University of Melbourne’s Risk Management, Security and Travel Guidelines;
  • understand the range of ethical issues involved with fieldwork oriented research, including knowledge of how to approach and complete a Human Research Ethics Committee application;
  • understand the process of planning and conducting extended fieldwork research;
  • be able to understand and select specific research methods and analytical tools to undertake applied research in complex and hostile environments;
  • have a Basic Security in the Field (BSITF II) qualification from the United Nations (UN). Holding a BSITF II qualification is a pre-requisite for employment with the UN;
  • be able to demonstrate through assessment and practical scenarios their awareness of the key security challenges and issues confronting researchers in the field;
  • have an advanced understanding of complex environments and be able to manage risks whilst undertaking effective research;
  • have an improved ability to make plans and decisions regarding fieldwork as a component of an overarching research strategy.

Generic skills

Upon successful completion of this subject, students are expected to:

  • have an understanding of the advantages, disadvantages and dangers of using different research methods in different ways;
  • Have acquired awareness of issues relating to cross-cultural communication;
  • be able to synthesise theory with practice and apply knowledge to real life scenarios;
  • acquire effective writing skills;
  • An introductory level of knowledge of quantitative and/or qualitative research methods.

Last updated: 7 August 2019