Researching in volatile environments and the importance of adaptive methods for junior researchers

Caroline Doyle (University of New South Wales, Canberra, Australia)
Anthea McCarthy-Jones (University of New South Wales, Canberra, Australia)

Qualitative Research Journal

ISSN: 1443-9883

Publication date: 13 November 2017



The purpose of this paper is to examine the importance of adaptive methods for junior researchers undertaking research in volatile and dangerous environments.


Through the presentation of two case studies of the authors’ own experiences in the field, the authors demonstrate the way the use of adaptive methods is crucial for junior researchers to overcome unforeseen obstacles and day-to-day difficulties presented by field studies in volatile locations. Finally, the authors address the gap in the methodological literature on how junior researchers can best communicate adaptive methods in the methodology section of his/her research project.


The authors argue the importance of embedding a first-person narrative into the methodology sections of the project as a clear way for a junior researcher to demonstrate elements fundamental to the data collection experience, thereby engaging the reader with crucial aspects of the research findings.


The need for junior researchers to draw on a greater degree of flexibility in the field when confronted by the challenges of conducting research in volatile environments is paramount to the success of the project. The authors offer, based on the experiences in the field, pragmatic techniques to addresses some of the “messiness” of field studies that allows the researcher to demonstrate the crucial importance of adaptive methods in the doctoral projects.



Caroline Doyle and Anthea McCarthy-Jones (2017) "Researching in volatile environments and the importance of adaptive methods for junior researchers", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. 17 No. 4, pp. 335-344

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