I went to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. I was conducting thesis research into national identity and electoral conflict in Kawe constituency in Dar es Salaam. I developed a survey and assembled a research team to administer the survey within all ten wards within the constituency. We surveyed 152 randomly selected participants within 19 sub-wards. This allowed us to cover a broad range of geographical locations within the city while managing our operational costs. The data collection portion of this project took place during June and July of 2017. The analysis and write-up are still ongoing at the time of this submission, which is late August 2017.
This experience was important because it was my first successful research project that was developed and administered primarily individually. This was important for me as an emerging scholar as it provided the platform to carry-out an original study that personal funding would not have been able to cover. The impact of our research is yet to be determined as neither I nor the graduate student I worked with have submitted anything for publication. Additionally, neither of us has provided any recommendations on how to further maintain/increase the security during the next general elections in Tanzania, scheduled to be held in 2020.
The theory and methodology courses that I took as part of my studies helped prepare my study to be as successful as I could make it. Additionally, the statistics courses I took helped me to work with another graduate student who is primarily qualitatively driven and the two of us could design a questionnaire that incorporated both of our interests and ideas into one item, which greatly simplified administration and further analysis. Furthermore, my courses that dealt with conflict and elections in Africa, particularly within Tanzania gave me a necessary background to conduct research within the country.
I learned and experienced the difficulties involved with gaining approval through the proper channels in a system that is non-automated and requires in-person visits to every office of every ward and sub-ward a project is intending to include before any data collection can take place. The knowledge and experience gained from that was not possible to learn in a classroom setting and requires being personally involved with all aspects, from initial development and approval-seeking, all the way to dispersion of results back to each office and individual that requested them. Moreover, learning how to navigate assembling a team and getting a survey originally written in English ready for administration to a non-native English or non-English speaking region is a skill I needed to develop if I hope to work in similar settings in the future.