Detailed description of the early stage research training for doctoral fellows

Anthropological training at doctoral level:

'SocAnth' aims to produce professionally qualified anthropological researchers. In anthropology central modes of research involve data collection during long-term ethnographic fieldwork and participation in seminars. There are also ancillary methods of data collection (archive, media, survey). All the training in 'SocAnth' is designed to provide the techniques necessary for these various forms data acquisition and analysis.

Anthropology draws on the creative tension between empirical particularity and broad theoretical questions about what it means to be a human social agent. Fellows in 'SocAnth' will be trained in this particular way of building social scientific analysis and understanding. Fellows will be trained to see that theory, method and analysis are mutually constitutive and to understand the epistemological implications of their choice of methods. The training enables Fellows to sustain an intense focus on fine-grained empirical detail and to achieve high levels of linguistic and cultural competence through long periods of fieldwork.

All the training programmes in our network teach rigorous and thorough anthropological methodologies, but recognize that in the final analysis these are learned, like craft skills, through experience. Training supplies a solid epistemological basis for this through a combination of classroom discussion and hands-on practical exercises.

Anthropological training builds a critical and reflexive approach to knowledge. Students come to realize that the design and application of a research project are social and cultural activities. Students are also trained to be critical of common assumptions about people, culture and society, and to distance themselves from their own cultural assumptions. They are trained to be prepared for the possibility of unanticipated findings and events in the course of their data collection and so to collect data beyond the original focus of interest and specific research topic. Fieldwork is processual by nature, and students are trained to follow social and cultural scenarios as they unfold, and prepared for the likelihood of revisiting and reformulating their research objectives as they proceed.

Seminar participation in the first and third year of training enables Fellows to follow through the process by which long-term fieldwork contributes to social scientific knowledge, teaching them to isolate the theoretical questions that inform particular pieces of ethnography, and the kinds of empirical evidence that can be most effectively deployed to address those questions.

Data collection (in archives, through fieldwork or visually) is one of the most challenging aspects of training and one where Fellows must grapple with a variety of problems - intellectual, ethical and practical. Fellows are trained to ensure that during this part of their training they regularly take stock, and compile reports for their supervisor each month. These monthly reports provide a useful means for them to reflect on their progress and direction, and it is helpful for the supervisor not only as a means of offering regular advice, but also should some emergency arise. Where appropriate and useful - and this is logistically much easier when the field site is in Europe - supervisors visit the Fellows in their field site to give training and advice on the progress and development of data collection.

Pre-fieldwork training as well as guidance from supervisors while in the field provide support and means for dealing the demands placed on the researcher during data collection, which may also involve personal and emotional costs.

Details of SocAnth training for Doctoral Fellows at their Recruiting Institutions

The general goals of anthropological training just described are delivered to the Fellows by 'SocAnth' in the following contexts:
  1. Fellows pursue their individual research projects at their Recruiting Institution.
  2. Fellows participate in
    • Joint Activities
    • Optional Inter laboratory visits.
In their Recruiting (aka host) Institution each Doctoral Fellow works under two supervisors from this institution and one supervisor from a Partner Institution. These supervisors are responsible for constructing a personally tailored programme of training (taught courses in research methods, ethics, short research activities etc) building on the Doctoral Fellows' existing skills and shaping the direction of their research. Fellows meet their local supervisors fortnightly. At their host institution all Doctoral Fellows attend the regular postgraduate training and research seminars in anthropology (and other related disciplines, where appropriate). In all training, diverse approaches to teaching and learning are used: apart from supervision, specific research skills such as semi-structured interviewing are taught in small tutorial groups and involve a high level of task-led learning.

Specific Methods Training in the first ten months, prior to the optional inter laboratory visits and/or fieldwork, will normally include the following, although the content of each programme will vary to suit the individual research goals of each Fellow:
  • Qualitative Methods: Ethnographic method and long-term participant observation (including significant practical component); participatory research methodologies; interviewing, focus groups, life histories; archival research; field notes (including audio-visual methods of recording and analysing data and use of appropriate software for handling qualitative data); and interpretive/symbolic modes of analysis.
  • Ethical and Political Issues: All Fellows consult Ethical Guidelines such as those produced by the Association of Social Anthropologists of Great Britain and the Commonwealth or the American Association of Anthropologists. They are taught to understand the principles of informed consent, especially in relation to groups who may not be in a position to give such consent (e.g. children, those with no prior experience of researchers or the media; the ill). They are trained to consider and be able to describe the possible ethical implications of the research results such as the protection of dignity, autonomy, integrity and privacy of persons. They are taught to think through the different aspects of relations with informants and research collaborators and grasp the legal and ethical issues at stake concerning intellectual property rights, ownership of data and copyright. Especially when dealing with marginal groups, Fellows are taught to be aware of ways in which they may be able to train and assist the people they are studying as part of the research process. They will be made aware of EU legislation such as the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, as well as international conventions such as UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Helsinki Declaration.
  • Quantitative Methods: Most social anthropological research involves the use of numerical data: e.g. assessment of the basic demographic profile of the population under study, the compilation of frequency tables, or the use of other simple descriptive statistics. Training includes the acquisition of competence in the presentation and critical interpretation of this level of numerical data.
  • Research Design: Unfamiliarity of context, and the processual nature of anthropological research itself, mean that formal research design has relatively limited use but Fellows learn how to formulate a viable research topic and ask a question that they can answer through a year's fieldwork, how to relate evidence to theory, and how to select the most appropriate methodology for the evidence required through designing and presenting a research proposal in their first year.
  • Communication of Research Results: Throughout their research, Fellows are made aware of the requirements and expectations of different audiences with regard to their work, in both academic and non-academic (including policy-related) fields, and to develop appropriate communication skills for the presentation of anthropological arguments to lay audiences.
  • Project Management and Team Working: Anthropological research frequently involves collaboration with research subjects, local organisations and non-governmental organisation, and skills in managing inter-personal and inter-cultural relations are central to many careers in which anthropological training can be applied. Their inclusion in pre- and post-fieldwork training therefore maximises the potential long-term value of the fieldwork experience for the further development of the individual's competency.
The success of this training is assessed prior to fieldwork in the viva/comprehensive exam that is compulsory before permission to move to independent research is granted.

Joint Activities

Each intake of Doctoral Fellows launch their training in 'SocAnth' with an introductory course and seminar of 5 working days duration held in September at BBU in Cluj, Romania. This course focuses on the historical development of Anthropology as a discipline and pertinent aspects of its current engagements. This meeting creates the first links between the participants. All Doctoral Fellow entrants (as well as the ILVs for that year), a staff member from each partner institution, doctoral students of BBU and outside experts take part - up to 30 persons.

The first objective of this course will be to develop an understanding of modern Anthropology through an examination of different research traditions and methodologies Explanations of cultural diversity and social evolution will be discussed through critical presentations of the historical development of the discipline.

A second element will comprise discussion of a prominent or new field of research based upon pre circulated readings (via the web ct course delivery), such as medical, cognitive or visual anthropology or new models of social evolution.

The final element will be brief presentations of each Fellows' research project and discussion of their methodological approaches and alternative possibilities, to which BBU research students will also be invited.

The seminar will forge strong bonds between participants, deepen mutual understanding and knowledge of their research projects and initiate the formation of a group of experts in the anthropology of the new and associated member states.

The Second Joint Activity takes place immediately after the Easter vacation in the first year of training (and again in the Year Two for the second intake); Doctoral Fellows attend a one week long seminar and workshop at the MPISA partner institution in Germany, allowing them to make contact with the international research team operating there as well as the cohort of local doctoral students. On this occasion 'SocAnth' Fellows will present their work in much greater detail. Students will have the chance to compare research strategies and methodologies of their recruiting institutions and a special session will be devoted to exploring complementarities and antinomies of these. A member of staff of each partner institution also takes part in this training when all research projects are collectively assessed and submitted to peer review. Fellows will normally stay on to use the library facilities, engage with other activities of the institute and establish closer intellectual bonds with the MPISA doctoral cohort for one more week.

Throughout the rest of their training the Doctoral Fellows join in the annual meetings at the beginning/end of each year, whether held at BBU or MPISA. The content of the training on these occasions will vary over the course of the programme, being tailored to the actual research projects of participants, in order to introduce them to new and pertinent perspectives, methods and approaches. We plan the second meeting (in September 2007 at BBU) to deal, inter alia, with a comparison between the theoretical and applied approaches to visual anthropological data at Goldsmiths and BBU.

The third major Joint Activity coincides with the onset of the third stage of anthropological training - the writing up of data into a finished doctoral thesis. All Doctoral Fellows will be required to join MPISA's own Ph.D. cohort in the third year for their first term of writing up. This will create a unique training environment for them in one of the largest anthropological research institute in Europe, surrounded by over fifty scholars investigating changing norms and values, everyday life and conflicts in post-colonial and post-socialist settings. Here the full value of seminar-based research will be transmitted to the Fellows.

Finally, at the end of year four all Doctoral Fellows and all those ILVs who have benefited from short term mobility in this programme will be invited to a closing conference at BBU. The best papers from this conference will be edited into a collection for academic (peer reviewed) publication.

Throughout the whole training 'SocAnth' will make full use of the possibilities of 'virtual mobility' that modern IT technology allows. A web-ct website will be dedicated to the 'SocAnth' Fellows. It will contain Fellow home pages; work in progress; discussion noticeboards; a collection of reading lists from the Partner Institutions as well as links to useful web sites and other electronic resources (teaching materials and the like) as well as the calendar for the whole Project. In order to ensure fairly continuous interaction, postings will be copied to Fellows own external email. This form of Fellowship interaction has been successfully pioneered by BBU.

Optional Mobility Elements for Doctoral Fellows

In June of their first year of study, those Doctoral Fellows who intend to research in the post socialist region may receive advanced training in Balkan ethnography and sociology, followed by a ten day training exercise in field based research. This will be led by a scientist from Babes-Bolyai, together with local doctoral students who, inter alia, will provide translation. (This model has been tried and tested by the Coordinator with great success on numerous occasions since 1998).

Doctoral Fellows whose training programme in year one prevented them from obtaining specialist training in Visual Anthropology methods at Goldsmiths may, optionally, spend the following six weeks engaged in practical training in ethnographic film making under the guidance of award winning ethnographic film makers teaching at BBU.

In the final year of training, after the semester at MPISA, short visits to Partner Institutions will be permitted for consultation and comparison with experts in the network whose work enriches or complements that of the Doctoral fellows. The mobility is restricted here in order to accommodate and sustain the time and financial limits of the programme.

Complementary Training for Doctoral Fellows

Anthropology provides a training for a wide range of careers as well as that of academic research and 'SocAnth' training is designed to prepare Fellows for careers inside and out of academe.

Fellows will learn such transferable skills as critical and flexible judgement, interpersonal communication and collaboration. They will become fluent in another language, familiar with survey methods, interviewing, and diverse forms of social documentation. Discipline-specific skills of a more subtle kind include social understanding, awareness of context, cultural translation and mediation, and the ability to represent diverse epistemologies within a single frame.

During their first and third year of training our Doctoral Fellows will also be strongly encouraged to take advantage of advanced skills and vocational courses run in their recruiting institutions. All these forms of training are designed to help Fellows in their personal and professional development as well as with their research. They aim i) to provide Fellows with opportunities to improve their research skills and knowledge; ii) to introduce them to a broader range of research skills than they might normally use in their research; iii) to make our Doctoral graduates attractive to employers

The courses offered provide training in Personal and Professional Management Skills, Organisations and Management, Facilitation Skills for Small Group Teaching, Research Funding Applications, Using Electronic Resources, IT Skills, Professional Communication and Presentation Skills, Statistics, Pronunciation and Public Speaking for Advanced Learners of English, Internet and New Media, Using Specialist Knowledge to set up Your Own Company, and Career Planning and Management for PhD Students. All Recruiting Institutions also run language courses for students who need a new language for their research.

The courses offered in these programmes supplement those already provided by individual academic departments, and are available free of charge to all research students.

All details of these courses, together with other completed tasks, are put down in the Research Student Logbook.

At Goldsmiths and UCL, Fellows will have the chance in their third year to teach tutorials and/or seminars. Fellows will first be offered training in teaching practice in Higher Education and will have access to workshops run by the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching. Their teaching will then be monitored by their supervisors or appropriate others in their Recruiting Institution. Experience has shown that such 'teaching packages' are a useful addition to the portfolio of a candidate for a position as a qualified academic.

Expectations and commitments:
  • Throughout their training, and when on site, Doctoral Fellows will participate in the doctoral and graduate seminars of the host institution. As standard practice, Doctoral Fellows will be required in the course of their first year of training to present their research in the relevant seminar of the host institution, as well as in the 'SocAnth' meeting at MPISA after the Easter break.
  • Fellows will be expected to work full time, following the normal working week of the Recruiting Institution. Roughly speaking (though this varies over the course of time) this might include ten contact hours and thirty hours of individual research.
  • During their first year of training the progress of DFs will be monitored through their production of a series of pieces of written and other work.
  • At the end of the first year of training the Fellows will present for viva or examination a research proposal of approximately 10,000 words. The proposal is evaluated by a formal academic viva, prior to, and as a condition for, the Fellow to go on to fieldwork (or other data collection). In the viva intellectual content, feasibility, time-scale and logistical aspects of the data collection are all considered.
  • As part of this examination process at the end of Year One each Fellow must have filled out a Risk Assessment form and an Ethics Approval form. Both issues will be discussed at the viva and no Fellow will be permitted to proceed to fieldwork without submission of these forms.
  • A poster will also be produced by all 'SocAnth' fellows at the time of this examination to advertise their work (on the web site and in other appropriate places) and its place within 'SocAnth'.
  • During fieldwork the supervisor will monitor progress by regular correspondence with the Fellow and, where appropriate and feasible, a short visit to the field site.
  • Within a month of returning from the field, Fellows will write a short fieldwork report for their supervisor(s) which should include the following information: locations visited/researched; any archival and other written or visual material collected; numbers of interviews etc. conducted and with whom; some idea of how year was spent, time-wise; any problems encountered; a proposed outline of the thesis.
  • In the final period of training each draft chapter produced by the Fellow will be carefully assessed and discussed within supervisory meetings, recorded in the logbook.
  • In or shortly after the last period of their Fellowship they will be expected to make one presentation at an international conference or major research seminar.
  • At the Concluding Seminar, all fellows must present the results of their research.