From Fieldwork to Analysis

Course objective:

The course is primarily targeting PhD students, who have recently finalised their fieldwork and are about to concentrate on the writing of their PhD dissertation.  The overall objective of the course is to assist PhD students to:

  1. unpack their fieldwork material and transform information into data;
  2. identify potential analytical issues and how to contextualise these,
  3. discuss the development of analytical concepts.

The course will NOT include an instruction or in-depth discussion of computer programs for qualitative research and data management.

ECTS: 3,5 ECTS (0,5 ECTS per day + 2,5 ECTS for written material)

Preparations for the course:

Participants are requested to submit an ethnographic description from their fieldwork (ca. 10 pages). The text should be submitted electronically to the course resource persons no later than one week before course start.

Day 1:

The focus of this session is on different ways to organize and work with fieldwork material. Day 1 will be a general introduction to analytical thinking discussing how one moves from empirical material to data. How does one identify “densities” in the material and transform these into data? What is the distinction between information and data? What are the requirements for validity in ethnographic research?  This discussion will be based on comments from peers and teachers on the pre-circulated texts. 

We will pursue different analytical themes emerging in each project and discuss how the field can be constructed? What understandings of the field emerge? What are the implications of particular constructions of the field in terms of literature to cover and discuss? At the end of Day 1, each participant should have been tasked with a way to further push the analysis of his or her submitted text with a view to revising the text for Day 2.

Assignment for Day 1: Each participant is to submit a 5 page text consisting of a ‘chunk’ of data with potential for the thesis you are going to write. It can be an ethnographic description that is iconic or particularly interesting for the research project. This might be a description of a situation, a person, or a case that seems to exemplify the tensions, puzzles, and themes you wish to explore in your thesis. It can be part of an interview that seemed especially intriguing, or several observations that circle around the same problematic. You may already have an idea about how you are going to analyse your example, but keep that in reserve. For now, simply try to present the data in a way that captures the reader’s curiosity.

The text should begin with a brief project outline (½ p.); provide an overview (list) of all empirical material (2 pp.) as well as the ‘chunk of data’ (5 pp.). The assignment should be sent by email to the course conveners by DDMMYY at the latest. All participants are expected to read each other’s assignments.

Day 2:

This session of the workshop continues from Day 1. Assignment for Day 2 (to be held at an relevant interval from Day 1).  The focus of this session is on how one links analytical concepts to theories in an effective and consistent way. This discussion will be based on comments from peers and teachers on the pre-circulated texts.  Texts by the teacher of the course (or their colleagues) may supplement the papers of the PhD students to broaden the discussion and highlight the difficulties we all have in making analytical sense.

Assignment for Day 2: Re-write your first paper in a longer, more polished analytical version (15 pages) on the basis of comments and suggestions from Day 1 that sets the account within an analysis that fits into the overall narrative or argument of your thesis. Introduce analytical concepts that help to bring out issues or problems that advance our understanding of the ethnographic material and show us the direction that you may go in your thesis.  The paper should be submitted DDMMYY (10 days before Day 2) to allow your peers in the course to read it


100-150 pages (including peer papers).


PhD students who are enrolled in the anthropology programs in Aarhus and Copenhagen will automatically receive an invitation. A limited number of places might be available for external PhD students and will be announced later on.