Research design in anthropology is a tricky thing. It is the part of the process you do before you do anything else, and thus you do before you have any real sense of the situation in which you will be researching and the people with which you will be working. It is the place where you lay down the questions to be answered, setup ways in which you will attempt to answer them, try and anticipate all of the ins and outs of the process as well as all the steps necessary to be taken with all of the stakeholders, which in my case includes my client, my masters committee, and my university IRB.
Then you get into the project and start your research, and only then do you start to realize and understand what you’ve got yourself into and just how many things you didn’t anticipate. So far with this project, being a cyber anthropological based research study (all of the research is being conducted online), my problems have all centered around technology.
My first limitation was understanding the process to get my blog on the Fedora Planet blogroll. With help and some ‘hacking the system’ I got on and while at FUDcon I figured out why it didn’t work in the first place (I wasn’t a part of enough groups!).
Now I am realizing my second limitation, that of requiring a signed piece of paper from all interview participants before each interview can commence. Pen and paper is perhaps one of the oldest forms of communication and technology known to man and yet it is the one thing standing between me an several potential interviews.
This was not a hindrance I anticipated when designing my research study, and it is perhaps not something with which people who are not researching under a university have to deal. However, it is something I now realize is important and am bringing attention to in case there are others embarking on similar research studies with similar IRB limitations that require them to have signed consent forms so they can account for this process in their research design.
Were I to design a similar project in the future under the same IRB limitations, I would ask my IRB to approve an electronic encrypted signature on my consent forms.
Here’s to hoping someone out there can learn from my mistakes!
That all being said, if you have a means for returning a signed document to me electronically and you would like to be interviewed for the Fedora research project, but have yet to contact me please do so soon! All interviews will be wrapped up (as best they can) by Friday!