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Incomplete Fieldwork/undergrad research and Grad School Applications


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I am graduating this term with my BA in anthropology and did a fieldwork internship. Unfortunately, the person in charge fell ill during the season and it caused many delays for the fieldwork. As a group, we were unable to finish our excavations. Individually, a few of us who had to do surveying with things like GPS and a total station, were forced to cut corners.

Unfortunately, I did not predict this and signed up to present my research/fieldwork at the statewide meeting. This was supposed to be my networking/professional experience/foot in the door as well as a way to have work to include with my grad school applications, but due to the aforementioned problems, my entire research/paper cannot be fully completed. Basically, what I have now is half a map and no true way to draw conclusions from this. With the supervisor deathly sick, we had to rely on last year's research (also incomplete and inconclusive), for all of the members it was our first internship and archaeological experience, so we were going in blind and had to re-invent the wheel. Basically, we had nobody to mentor us through the process and our research suffered heavily for it. 

I still can go out to the site, but would need to bring someone with me due to its location and the fact that it will be very slow-going if I do everything myself. I'm considering asking someone from the internship if they wouldn't mind, in exchange for pay, but am wondering if I maybe am taking this too seriously. At this point in time, I don't have complete research of the site, and am worried that both the conference and my presentation will be a failure and my paper/last 4 months will not at all be viable or anything respectable for professional or grad school use. Am I being crazy?

TL;DR Many delays during fieldwork which prohibited completing research for my paper that I signed up to present at an annual state conference as a means to start networking with professionals and professors and use this as part of my grad school application. Wondering if I should pay someone to come out with me for one more day so I can wrap up the fieldwork and actually have something presentable that doesn't make me look lazy or ignorant. 

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  • 1 month later...

My experience and gut tells me that if you can't get the help to "complete" your project then I would simply share a status update of where the project is, what you've accomplished, the challenges you've faced, and what your recommendations for next steps are. You are working on a BA, and you are an intern. You are not the project lead and cannot/should not be chastized for "failing" to complete something outside of your control. What I have found helpful when I was working on projects like yours and the set-backs you've encountered was to talk about the experience and process of doing research as much as the "end results".

For example, at CSU Sacramento we were given a final paper that needed to include original ethnographic research, and I decided to interview different martial arts instructors in the region to talk about their lineages, their relationships with their seniors/juniors and their instructors. A key problem I came to appreciate in the process was how knowledge is created/codified/certified/verified. And while I hardly did anything groundbreaking or new, I learned how you ask questions and how to interview people and navigate your way through different ethnographic situations.

I think your work, as "incomplete" as it is, would be useful to share for someone who is also perhaps struggling to work on projects as an intern or who would like to know more about the process from your perspective and how people actually circumvent and solve problems. Lack of funding, tools, etc. is all something valid to discuss and explore!

Keep the faith. ❤️ Keep at it! Your work matters and so do you.

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