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UCL Home  /  Geography  /  News & Events  /  News  /  News Archive  /  August 2010  /  The necessity for personal fieldwork

The necessity for personal fieldwork

Ann Varley’s response to her award of Busk Medal for her commitment to field research in Mexico

The necessity for personal fieldwork

At the Award Ceremony at the RGS on June 7th, Professor Ann Varley’s acceptance speech in response to receiving the Busk Medal welcomed this as an endorsement of the type of fieldwork she has carried out in Mexico: spending extended periods in a country, speaking the language, and being directly involved in the work yourself, even when working with research assistants.

Modern pressures on overseas-focused researchers encourages reliance on others to undertake the fieldwork, which may undermine the quality of both the research and subsequent teaching. Ann cited examples of crucial insights that have shaped her thinking based on often chance encounters that could never have been gained second-hand. Such work cannot be done by employing interviewers to do the work, or having everything translated by others into English. She also believes in the continuing value of long-term working on one country, rather than routinely moving to others in the interest of superficial breath.


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