Planning a PhD Research Trip

Planning a research trip is a frequently encountered aspect of any doctoral project. Only a minority of PhDs can be written entirely from one’s desk, or from materials found online. Most research requires some travel, either to consult archives, conduct fieldwork, or collaborate and consult with colleagues in other locations. This can take the form of either a series of short journeys over the three- or four-year period in which a doctorate is being undertaken, or a longer research trip that last from six months to a year, or sometimes even longer.

Planning such a trip can be daunting for any number of reasons. For archival or fieldwork research, it can be particularly difficult to know exactly how much time will be required for a given piece of research before beginning the work. This can lead to a situation where students find themselves with far too little time to complete the work, or commit to staying in a particular location for longer than their research demands.  Furthermore, many doctoral candidates are on tight schedules and constricted budgets; the demands of teaching, in particular, can prevent students from enjoying the luxury of open-ended research excursions further afield.

All of this factors indicate that research trips need to be considered with utmost care. Sometimes, a short preliminary trip to explore the scope of an archive’s collections can be the best approach, allowing the researcher to plan their research schedule in greater detail. This is not, however, always a realistic option for research that needs to be conducted in remote or distant locations. In such cases, meticulous planning is required; researchers need to make sure that everything is in place, from language skills to research assistants, before they arrive at their research location so that they can hit the ground running. It is only by ensuring as much forethought as possible that a fruitful research trip will result.