Scots Overseas: Research Blog 03

Some reflections and a review of my Laidlaw summer project after six weeks of research.
Scots Overseas: Research Blog 03

As my original six-week timeframe comes to an end, I have decided to extend my research indefinably over the summer for two main reasons. Firstly, every email I have sent to academics and government officials regarding my research was met (every time, without fail!) with an auto-reply telling me that they are on annual leave. Secondly, I rather underestimated how tedious data analysis could be - having well exceeded my target number of interviews (30 targeted, 60 achieved), I really amped up my workload. So, in the interest of making the most of my research by meeting with experts in addition to spending due time on my data analysis, I will be working for the months to come. The upside of this - I am truly gripped by my subject and would hate to leave it behind so soon.

My previous blog posts (two weeks in; one month in) my reflections focussed on my interviews, but I have since concluded my Scottish diaspora survey and would like to discuss that. The Scottish diaspora is an umbrella term, encompassing wide range of connections to Scotland including a 'lived diaspora' (expats or migrants, being born/ raised/ or having lived in Scotland), an 'ancestral diaspora' (the lived diaspora's children, and their children's children), an 'affinity disappear' (those with a self-professed connection to Scotland, not necessarily through heritage), and an 'alumni diaspora' (those who attended educational institutions in Scotland before returning). This survey was intended to be a contrasted with the 'expat' interviews ('expat' is a rather untechnical shorthand for the 'lived diaspora') to explore how Scottish identity and lives among the diaspora differ depending on location and connection to Scotland. What was intended to be a fairly secondary part of my research turned out to produce some of the most valuable data in my project.

(A draft version of my interview participant dot distribution map to be included in my research poster) 

The survey revealed some interesting and rather surprising findings, and all will be revealed in my research outputs. Upon reflection after I circulated my survey, I realised how lucky I was to be working with my particular subject group and the extent to which they assisted (and actually, validated) my research. If there has been one commonality which has spanned right across my research, it has been that Scots overseas are passionate about Scotland and love to talk about it! The enthusiasm and scale of support from my participants on social media really boosted my numbers, giving my work more credibility with the greater outreach. My survey has a total of 294 verified, usable responses, and I owe that number to the Facebook group admins and the individuals who helped share and promote my adverts. 

One challenge I will face going forward is my confidence in talking authoritatively about my research topic in an academic setting. I have high ambitions for my research outputs, and I am really pushing to get the most out of this project as well as trying to get the most out of myself. I am aiming to produce a journal article and an article in a national broadsheet, and to get there, I have been working hard to really push my knowledge and understanding, to squeeze as much productivity out of my research as possible, and trying gather a vast array of credible data to produce a strong research output. However, I cant help but think that I am naively walking into a plane which is way out of my depth. Although the Laidlaw Scholarship gives students research experience which elevates them above their peers, I cant help but to still see myself as an 18-year-old undergraduate who is trying to publish a jumped-up university essay in an academic journal. Have I done enough work or do I have the knowledge to make a genuine contribution to the field? This mentality is something I will have to work on, and I lean more pessimistically on this question.

Alas, I have thoroughly enjoyed my last 6 weeks, and my research skillset has come along way. That being said, if all else fails, I have certainly given myself a solid foundation for whatever I do next. Better yet, it has at least shown me that academic research is the path for me, and I would do it with pleasure going forward after university.