Cautionary Tales

Being on field is an adventure in itself. All field missions are unique, bringing strange, funny, and on occasions disturbing anecdotes to help us learn and grow as researchers.
Knock knock? Who’s there? No one!

Respondents don’t just stay at the field site – they move around over time. Especially in rural areas, members of the household often migrate to nearby cities or urban areas in search of work. But what happens when we are required to conduct a baseline, midline as well as an end-line study in the same location with the same respondents? You may not find your respondents in their home all year round. And this is exactly what happened to us!


We were conducting an end-line study in Rajasthan in November, but just couldn’t find the baseline respondents we had surveyed earlier. We knocked on their homes only to find from the family members that the original respondent had migrated either to Gujarat to harvest cotton or to Punjab to sow wheat.

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Why you need that pre-test

“How do you clean your hands?”

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17 or 71?

“What's your age didi?”

“17”, she giggles, her grey hair glinting in the sunlight. 

“Didi are you sure you are 17?” “Yes, Yes”

Concepts of time and space in some rural areas aren’t the same as Western ones. Yet almost every survey you come across asks the question - ‘what’s your age?’ Over the years, we have developed strategies to answer this question.

For young children, we check their government-issued MCP card. If they don’t have one, we ask if they were born before or after the most recent local natural disasters and then make an educated guess. For adolescent girls, we ask how long ago they started menstruating, and use the average age of menstruation to calculate. For men, we ask family members and neighbors.

And for the didi we met in Bihar, we asked if she was alive when India became independent? Turns out she was.

 

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