Managing Fieldwork in a Pandemic

Researchers around the world have suddenly had to figure out how they’re going to continue their research in the context of a global pandemic. Some have continued with tasks they can do from home, like writing or catching up on literature. Others have pressed the pause button on their research to deal with other priorities. And, though data collection in the field is possibly the most challenging thing to do right now, some researchers have come up with innovative ways to continue their fieldwork.

Sociology professor Deborah Lupton from the University of New South Wales has pulled together ideas and resources from colleagues around the world to produce an incredibly detailed guide called ‘Doing Fieldwork in a Pandemic’. It’s available for free as a Google document here and embedded below:

This guide contains lots of information and ideas for data collection methods that comply with social distancing requirements. If you do need to change your plans for data collection with your participants, this guide is a great way to ‘shop around’ for alternative methods.

As always, be sure to talk with your supervisors about any potential changes in your research plans. Any changes can have implications that need to be talked through and considered thoroughly.

Be aware, too, that changes in your data collection methods will affect your ethical approval. At the moment, all existing AUTEC approvals for research which brings researchers into close proximity to human participants are suspended until New Zealand is placed in below Alert Level 2 (ie. Alert Level 1 or zero/no alert level). If you find a way to amend your methods to avoid close proximity with participants, you can request an amendment to your existing ethical approval by contacting the AUT Ethics team, who are working from home. Find their info on their general website and their intranet page (login required).


Lupton, D. (editor) (2020) Doing fieldwork in a pandemic (crowd-sourced document). Available at:

About Anaise Irvine

Dr Anaise Irvine is the Editor of Thesislink and leads the Researcher Education and Development team at Auckland University of Technology. Her PhD research analysed how contemporary films and novels represent genetic engineering as a social justice issue. These days she works with researchers at all levels to improve their research skills, and the most obscure of her own research skills is being able to turn novels into phylogenetic trees!

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