Thomas Farrington is currently a Post-Doctoral Research Associate in Management and Organisation at Heriot-Watt University. His research examines contemporary issues in business and management, with particular emphasis on marketing and cultural authenticity; management practice and business ethics; consumer identity and tourism; colonial legacies and intercultural studies. Thomas has taught at South East European University in Tetovo and at the University of Edinburgh, from which he received his doctorate, and where he was Co-Director of the Scottish Universities’ International Summer School. His work has most recently appeared in the Journal of American Studies, Research in Hospitality Management, and the Journal of Marketing Management.

One of the questions I’m frequently asked by students undertaking a dissertation is about context, and in turn, data. Students will often have a notion of what they want to look at and why it might be important, but are less sure when it comes to where they are going to look for it. With this particular hurdle, I find it best to consider the path of least resistance: what sort of places are easily accessible to you? Do you have friends, family, or colleagues that might be able to grant you access to a relevant site and community? Whether or not you are an international student, try to think globally: do you already have easy access to data in a different country? This is not to suggest spending money on travel, nor an excuse for a trip to somewhere with better weather! Although you’ll need to be flexible with timings, Skype interviews are perfectly acceptable for data collection, and might give your study an edge.

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Remember, the less dull the context for an academic study, the better for you and for the reader. Choose somewhere that interests you personally, and the data collection will be much more fun. For instance, you might choose to look at a particular type of festival, Japanese monuments, or even nightclubs. As with most things in life, attention to context is crucial, and can be the difference between success and frustration.

Picture by Eva Rinaldi under CC license.