Scots Overseas: Research Blog 01

Some reflections and a review of my Laidlaw summer project after my first two weeks of research.
Scots Overseas: Research Blog 01

Throughout my research so far, I have conducted 33 interviews with Scottish expats who have collectively lived across 5 continents and 25 countries. In addition to this, Billy Kay - who has written and broadcasted about the Scottish diaspora for over 40 years - was kind enough to invite me to his home in Newport-on-Tay for coffee and a discussion about the Scottish diaspora. Below is a (very rough) map of my participant's whereabouts at the time of our individual interviews - I keep this map on the wall behind my desk and update it daily.

(A dot distribution map of my interviewed participants)

One significant challenge about my research so far has been the rather hit-or-miss nature of my recruitment. Although I use multiple ways and means to find participants, my primary method is through advertising on Scottish and British expat community groups on Facebook. The main flaw of this: a lot of pending group requests, and a lot of messages which land in the group admin's junk folder. Although plenty do reply, the issue arrises when a significant geographical region goes underrepresented simply because a group admin doesn't check their spam folder. This happened to me with a Scottish expat group in South Africa, which happened to be the only Scottish-specific expat community group in the whole continent. Moreover, there doesn't appear to be any Scottish-specific expat group for the whole of South America.

In the other direction, by far the most thriving and well looked-after Scottish expat group is a pan-Australian one with 6.6k members. From one advert alone, I received 70 messages and comments asking for interviews! Naturally, you have to divide that number by five to roughly estimate out how many people will actually follow through and meet with you, but I still received a healthy amount of respondents. Between the Australian group and other very active groups such as in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, I was able to achieve a more than satisfactory participant turnout. But, of course, each country's representation in my research is constrained the way things pan out with the state of various Facebook groups. I have a lot of gaps to fill because of this.

Other than that issue, I have been thoroughly enjoying my research and it has been going to plan so far. Besides the great interest of actually finding out about the lives of Scots overseas, it has also been really nice to simply chat with participants too. Having such a social research project has certainly been a blessing, and is a great motivator to get up and get started for the day (especially when I'm up early to catch the Australians as they are just going to bed). Sometimes I've been the only Scottish accent that a participant has heard in months, and some have got rather homesick and upset when they first realise that I myself am Scottish. It can be rather saddening to witness this, but considering that my research is intended to be implemented to help Scots feel more connected to their heritage and homeland, this experience in itself is a driver for me to succeed in my project.

Lastly, even after only a mere two weeks, my research has greatly shaped my vision for my career. I would sincerely love to go into research and academia when I graduate, and this Laidlaw summer project has proven to me that research can be much more than just literature reviews. I'm excited to see where it goes from here.