4.5 Frequently asked Questions, and tips from EAR Researchers

Trained and experienced EAR researchers themselves are the best people to give advice to new EAR researchers. Below you will find some questions that might arise as you embark on EAR. Answers to those questions, and a few tips, have been provided by the following EAR researchers:

  • Atul Sharma, working in Uttarakhand, India
  • Deepak Koirala, working in Lumbini, Nepal
  • Sita Adhikari, working in Chitwan, Nepal
  • Srinivas Bangaru, working in Andhra Pradesh, India
  • Jancy Francis, working in Kerala, India
  • Govinda Prasad Acharya, working in Palpa, Nepal

Q How do I start my research?

"Research is started with the community and with their participation. Before starting the research we have to answer the question of why we are doing all this and what do we want to come up with?" (Atul)

"I start my research with a clear research plan and time line" (Deepak)

Q Why do I need a research plan?

"It gives you a route and direction, where you should go with your work" (Sita).

"A research plan is useful to undertake your work, to do the work systematically, and to implement your ICT initiative as per the research findings. Also to accomplish the research work within the time line" (Srinivas).

Q Who can help me with my research?

"If you are not familiar with the field it is good to make the entry in the field through someone who is familiar and has a good standing in the field. In the course of the research you might see that your own informants, once they are familiar with your research objectives, can collect information if they are given proper instructions. It becomes collaborative research and truly participatory in nature" (Jancy).

"You can ask your research associates for help developing your ideas and with documentation. If you need help for the action part of the research you can ask your research team" (Sita).

"Management, volunteers and staff in your initiative can help with the research. So, you can ask them for help, as well as community people" (Govinda)

Q How much data should I collect?

"The volume of data depends on the research goals and issues. In EAR research, data collection is an ongoing process" (Sita).

"As much as you can, but it should be relevant to the theme and the initiative" (Srinivas).

Q Why do I need to use different tools?

"I need different tools to carry out my research plan and to help me understand things better and guide me as to what I should be doing next" (Deepak)

"By using different tools we can collect information quickly and systematically. When we use a range of tools we can start to analyze, assess and understand the rural people. These tools are used to collect certain information in a systematic way which can save time too" (Srinivas).

"We need different kinds of data to become clear about a particular issue. An EAR researcher should look at the same issue from different angles. To collect different kinds of data from different angles, we need different research tools" (Govinda).

Q What do I do with the information I collect?

"You should label all the data and document it as soon as you have time" (Sita)

"Understand the collected information in the context and from the perspective of your informants. Organise, analyse and interpret it on the basis of your research objectives. Identify the gaps and cross check the information for further validity through meeting the same or different informants across different categories (e.g. age, sex, community, education, occupation etc.). In a group context, cross-checking could be in-built" (Jancy).

"Share the findings of the research with your team" (Deepak)

"You can use collected data to give feedback to your initiatives (to inform programmes and other activities) and the data helps you to find the next research issue" (Govinda)

Q How should I work in my initiative and the community?

"Work in your initiative with a strong team spirit" (Deepak).

"Being an EAR researcher you have to develop a good relationship with the community people as well as your initiative's staff, management and volunteers. You have to share, and lend a helping hand to them. Don't think that this is outside of the work of the researcher. If you want to get deep and real data from the community you have to show you're honest with the community people" (Sita).

Q How do I know when I have finished my research?

"The research reaches it finale when you are confident that you can hand over the research (totally handing over the stick) to the targeted community or to be able to develop an internal mechanism by the community itself to carry forward the process on its own" (Jancy).

"Once you get the findings - but even then the research is not finished. EAR is a continual and ongoing process, you continue to plan and work on it again" (Deepak).

"The EAR research is not ended. It should continue, that's why the previously collected data shows us the way for the next step in our research" (Govinda)

Q What happens if I get it wrong?

"You cannot go completely wrong with your research. Whatever you understand or encounter at the initial stage will help you to improve it further in your future research efforts" (Jancy).

Lessons Learned: Some Tips from EAR Researchers in South Asia

"To be an EAR researcher it is necessary to work as a part of the community. Try to live life like the people in your research area" (Atul)

"I would encourage the selection of one of your research areas for onsite training, giving more practical experience of EAR research in the community" (Deepak)

"While EAR should take note of the views of all the stakeholders in a given situation, it should give weight to those who are excluded and marginalised. An EAR researcher is one who goes to the field as a learner and listener, with a feeling of humility. The results of Ethnographic Action Research are to be validated by the people themselves" (Jancy)

"Please present yourself openly and honestly to the community people. Always give value to the community's ideas and knowledge. Be aware, if your work is not really helpful for the local community it is meaningless for them. So you have to first target to real grass root people" (Sita)

"You should build up a rapport with the community and be in touch with the community so that they can be involved in the research and in your initiative's activities. Find the key informants who can help you in the field. You should also participate in their festivals and this will help you to meet many people" (Srinivas)

"Use a range of different research tools to give you more data from different angles" (Govinda)