Research assistant’s imaginary field trips




My imaginary research field trips

When I became a Research assistant, I took the new responsibility a bit too lightly, especially since about two thirds of my responsibilities are in and about East Africa. I told myself “I am from East Africa, this shouldn’t be too challenging”.

Imagine your mind jumping from Zanzibar to Iringa and then to Dar es Salaam, and all this time, being blanketed under a lot of unrelated data from 3 different fields i.e. Housing, Forestry and Water. The outcome of this journey was a good understanding of the data collection process and everything around it. Yes, you can still understand and analyze data even if I you are not in the field during data collection.

Post field trip data review/analysis is what I have been doing. I did this through working with different materials from the field trips. I have had to interpret photos, combine with other data to find meaning behind specific information, reading between the lines from the cultural point of view etc.

Working with data has been by far the most rewarding and motivational work in this research world. I have had to swim through it, dive deep down to pick out and understand the tiniest issues. Through the process, I learnt new things and I developed some skills within me.  I have had to do a lot of thinking and at times my brain was tested a whole lot. I thought being a native Swahili speaker is enough, but to my surprise, it is not.

What can I say? It takes more than the language. It feels good to be able to find data out of data. I came to realize that I could still squeeze out a lot of important information out of data that has been collected directly by someone else. I found myself drawn into data and understanding it in a very special way. Trying to make sense of some issues by using audios, photos and maps, is not an easy task. It takes a lot of time, but in the end, it is all worth it.

Emma Nkonoki