Lesson 3: Project execution

Staff Recruitment and Contracting
The execution phase is the period of active data collection and analysis. If your field work is being supported by human resources, it is recommended that you establish an employment contract in writing prior to engaging staff in thesis support work. In the contract specify:

  1. The nature of the work to be done
  2. The work hours
  3. Deliverables
  4. Supervision and quality assurance procedures (if necessary)
  5. Compensation
  6. Travel Allowances (if necessary)

Both you and the contracted resource should sign the document and each should keep a copy. In the event of future disputes about work requirements or compensation, each can refer to the signed contract. A written agreement should be established for all human resources supporting your thesis research, including: field assistants, laboratory assistants, translators, transcribers, and drivers.

It is recommended that all field assistants undergo a training period prior to beginning to collect data. Depending on the complexity of the study, a training manual may be required. Consult your supervisor if in doubt about the need for a training manual.

If you are acquiring lodging in the field during your data collection, it is recommended that you also secure a contract stating the agreed upon fee (daily, weekly or monthly as the case may be) and signed by both parties before taking up residence.

Revised Protocols
After hiring and training field assistants, one of the first activities you should undertake is to field test your data collection instruments – this applies to both quantitative (e.g. surveys) and qualitative instruments (e.g. interview guides). If your field location is in foreign country, it may be required to translate your data collection instruments into the local language. Ask your local partner institution for advice on this. When translating from one language to another, it is recommended to have one person translate it from the original language to the local language and another person to translate it back to the original. This will allow you to determine if the translation is of a sufficient quality.

You should test your survey or guides on one or two participants to determine if the questions, phrasing, order and tone are appropriate. Based on your experience with the instrument testing, you will make adjustments as needed. Quantitative instruments should not change after this initial field test. Qualitative instruments may continue to evolve throughout the interview period based on your reflection and field observations.

Participant Recruitment
During the course of developing your thesis proposal, you will have defined an approach to participant recruitment. For quantitative field studies, this will have included:

  1. Participant inclusion criteria
  2. Participant exclusion criteria
  3. Sample size

For qualitative studies, your approach to participant recruitment should also have been defined. There are a number of qualitative approaches that may be utilized, including:

  1. Purposive sampling
  2. Convenience sampling
  3. Snowball sampling

For desk reviews, you should also define the parameters of your literature search. During the execution phase, these parameters may be refined to expand or limit publication dates, geographies, or study types based on your initial search results.

When recruiting and collecting data from participants, be sure to present them either in writing or verbally with an approved consent form. If necessary, your consent form should be translated into the local language.

Ethical Clearance
Be sure to check the requirements of your home university, partner institutions and local authorities around ethical clearance applications. In many cases, data collection cannot begin until ethical clearance has been secured and ethical clearance is usually a requirement for publishing findings in peer reviewed journals. The ethical clearance process can take up to 3 months to complete and sometimes requires multiple efforts. Be sure to plan accordingly.

Please note that even if formal ethical clearance isn’t required, if you are collecting data in a low or middle income country it may be customary and necessary to meet with local village chiefs, local assemblymen or other important stakeholders to inform them of your research work and seek their approval to collect data. Consult your local partner for guidance on this matter.

Learn how to monitor your project in the next lesson.

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