On “Reflective” Writing

Our program is primarily a research methods program, but one specifically geared towards “field work.” Although our program teaches both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies, field work is the common thread. By learning to “do” research in Bolivia, you will learn about Bolivia (and the Andes more generally) in ways that would be difficult in a classroom back home.

A significant part of learning in “the field” (in this case Bolivia) is to be consciously reflective. This is why we ask students to write frequent “field notes” about their observations. Putting experiences on paper (or, in this case, a digital format) is an essential way to start “unpacking” them and making sense of them. We recommend a two-step process: First, write notes in a notebook soon after (or even during) activities or site visits (these are “jottings”). Then, organize those notes into a brief, reflective and/or analytical statement (about 2-4 paragraphs is good). This will help you be self-conscious of both what you did and what you learned from each activity.

Our schedule is somewhat flexible, as field research has to be. But we plan site visits to such places as the Fundación Gregoria Apaza (women’s development NGO), the Bolivian Vice Presidency and the congressional archives, the Fundación Flavio Machicado Viscarra (a private archive in La Paz), a trip to the campo with Fundación Suyana (a Swiss rural development NGO), an intercultural birthing center with Save the Children (a global health NGO), the UNDP Bolivia office, and several others, as well as a brief trip to city of Santa Cruz and the nearby Jesuit Missions. And, of course, your day-to-day (or “quotidian”) activities in La Paz will also be an integral part of your fieldwork experience.

Soon after your arrival, we will orient you to the city with a leisurely stroll along the Prado and a visit to the colonial district around Plaza Murillo and Calle Sagarnaga and some of the nearby museums.

The image above comes from a notebook used to register land titles during the 1953 MNR land reform. The book, and many other interesting materials, are maintained by the archivists at the Fundación Flavio Machicado Viscarra.

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