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A study in travel – 5 lessons to help you plan your research trip

08 January 2020
MB travel image

Sir Roland Wilson Foundation PhD scholar, Melanie Broder shares her lessons after traveling to Israel and the United States. Melanie’s research conducts case studies of deterrence theory as a national security response to cyber challenges. She is conducting case studies of deterrence theory in Israel, the United States and Finland.

Lesson 1: Plan your travel to match your research needs

Consider your responsibilities outside your research. Because I am a carer, my time overseas must be compact while still gathering as much quality data as possible.

To achieve this, I planned my first trip to coincide with Israel’s Cyber Week—a major gathering of academic, government, and industry experts in the cyber security field. This meant my intended interviewees were all in the one venue, allowing me to target many people and establish networks.

Lesson 2: Practice your pitch and prepare to defend it

In a room full of international experts, you need the perfect pitch. Many of the people I spoke to about my research challenged my research design and methodology, likely success, and outcomes.

I learned to prepare answers to the tricky questions so people would listen. There aren’t many people in cyber security in Australia I can engage with, especially when compared to an international gathering of research. A practiced pitch meant I could speak with these experts confidently and answer their questions.

Lesson 3: Make sure your accommodation meets your needs

I tried to save money by staying in an Airbnb that had a reasonable rating and seemed like a good price. Lesson learned!

The Airbnb didn’t have a desk, which meant I would need to try and write on the bed or couch. Then, the empty lot next to my room turned into a construction zone so loud I couldn’t hear my audio recordings. That was a deal breaker for me that led to me booking a different place to stay. It certainly pays to do your research on accommodation.

Lesson 4: Work through your data on the spot

I was able to learn from other people to ensure I could capture the best possible data. My research involves interviews with experts who were often speaking their second or third language. If I’d left my interview transcription I could have missed many nuances from my interviewees. I was fortunate my PhD convenor advised me to immediately take down any notes and impressions to use in addition to my recorded interviews.

I also transcribed my interviews immediately afterwards. A is a time-consuming process, but it meant the interviews were fresh in my mind.

Lesson 5: Things will go wrong. Resilience is key!

You can prepare thoroughly, but some things just happen. As well as changing accommodation, I found the public transport difficult to navigate, and my laptop converter didn’t work because of a voltage issue. On top of that, I fell ill in the last week of my trip and ended up needing medical care. I spent the last the two-and-a-half days of my trip in my hotel room, blasting the air-con and being very grateful for a French doctor who gave me strong antibiotics.

When things go really wrong, you need to be able to sort yourself out—and know when to ask for help. Know your contacts at home, the travel staff at ANU STA, and your insurance protocols. It also helps to know your consulate contacts—have the numbers in your phone and backed up on your computer or in a notebook. Also have digital copies of important documents like your passport, driver’s license and insurance policies in one place. All of these little steps will allow you to deal with the worst case scenario should it arise.

The Sir Roland Wilson Foundation is a partnership between The Australian National University, Charles Darwin University and the Australian Public Service.