Fieldwork in Complex and Hostile Places

Subject DEVT90042 (2016)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2016.

Credit Points: 25
Level: 9 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2016:

May, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start 16-Apr-2016
Teaching Period 02-May-2016 to 09-May-2016
Assessment Period End 04-Jul-2016
Last date to Self-Enrol 19-Apr-2016
Census Date 06-May-2016
Last date to Withdraw without fail 10-Jun-2016

August, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start 25-Jul-2016
Teaching Period 08-Aug-2016 to 15-Aug-2016
Assessment Period End 10-Oct-2016
Last date to Self-Enrol 27-Jul-2016
Census Date 12-Aug-2016
Last date to Withdraw without fail 16-Sep-2016

This subject has a pre-teaching period:

  • During the pre-teaching period students must complete the International Red Cross/Red Crescent 'Stay Safe - Personal Security' module online prior to commencing the subject and present their certificate from the Red Cross to the subject coordinator on entry to the class on Day 1. To register and access the online training, go to
  • During the pre-teaching period students are also required to complete readings and prepare a draft reseacrh plan.

This subject has a quota of 30 students:

  • Selection Criteria: This subject requires submission of a Researcher Self-assessment form to the subject contact 10 days before the Pre-teaching Period Start date. Places in the subject will be allocated in order of satisfactory submissions received, with preference given to students in Master of International Relations or Master of Development Studies, and to students who have impending travel overseas that need specific training to operate in complex or less secure environments.
  • Confirmation of enrolment will be notified to students, and unsuccessful applicants will be removed from the subject and advised via email.

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: Total of 96 hours: 3 day intensive of lectures at Parkville campus (21 hrs), 4 day practical and lecture intensive at Dookie campus (68 hrs) and final day of lectures and group work at Parkville campus (7 hrs).
Total Time Commitment:

Total of 340 hours


Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge:

Students enrolling in this subject ideally should have undertaken coursework in Research Methods at undergraduate or Honours level or have gained introductory level knowledge of research methodologies through career experience.

Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website:


Dr Scott Flower


Coordinator: Dr. Scott Flower
Program Officer: Dina Uzhegova

Subject Overview:

Fieldwork is demanding and poses unique risks to the security and safety of the researcher and research participants. Fieldwork also relies on the researcher’s ability to clearly understand their research design and methods and access, collect and manage data in the field. This 10 day intensive subject prepares students for undertaking detailed fieldwork for extended periods overseas in less secure and/or complex environments. Students will develop a working knowledge of what is required to develop an integrated Research Plan, Ethics Application and Fieldwork Risk Management Plan as required for postgraduate research theses. Designed to deliver theoretical and practical skills, the subject is taught by a combination of academics and professional security consultants.

Dr Flower teaches the academic components of research methods for fieldwork subject over 7 days (i.e. mixed methods design, data collection and management, ethics for vulnerable participants and principles of risk management and travel security).

For three days, Red R Australia will deliver the practical field training component at the Dookie campus. Red R is recognised as an accredited training provider by four United Nations bodies and Australian Government agencies (AusAID, DFAT). Red R trainers are experienced humanitarian workers and ex-military personnel.

The subject builds upon the introductory level of knowledge students learned in undergraduate and honours level research methods subjects, and focuses on applied research methods.

Learning applied research methods and field-craft skills will enhance student’s ability to make original contributions to knowledge. The subject equips students with a working appreciation for the major methodological, ethical and logistical challenges they are likely to confront during fieldwork. The subject is structured to be of relevance to students in social science and humanities based disciplines, and to provide skills relevant for careers in International Development, NGOs and Government agencies.

The following elements are covered in the practical training:

  • Security Context
  • Field Preparedness and Evacuation
  • Residence Assessment Exercise
  • Basics of Negotiation
  • Coping with Insecure Environments: Stress Awareness
  • Field Communication Equipment and Communication Protocol
  • First Aid: Essentials for life support (EAR/CPR, major bleeding control & evacuation/repatriation)
  • Image and Acceptance
  • Vehicle Check Points/Road Blocks
  • Field Security (Crowds and Mobs, Hostage Survival, Vehicle Check Points/Road Blocks, Sexual Assault, Weapons Awareness)

The practical component enables students to apply their new knowledge regarding equipment, organisation, physical and mental states, risk management and contingency planning. (i.e. what to do on arrival in-country, how to fine-tune plans, flexible organisation, importance of travelling light for mobility).

Practical skills taught through experiential scenarios include but are not limited to:

  • Patterns of behaviour and predictability
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder self-assessment procedure
  • How to not be a target (e.g. how and why a researcher is seen)
  • What to do regarding the presence of small arms (i.e. what indicators to understand regarding their use and when under fire or in the vicinity of fire how to take cover)
  • How to avoid and/or cope with threats of physical violence and physical violence

This subject is offered as an elective for MC-IR Master of International Relations, 097AB Master of Development Studies. Students enrolled in other courses will need to obtain written coordinator approval to enrol in the subject. DEVT90042 is also offered as a Community Access Program (CAP) subject.

Learning Outcomes:

Upon successful completion of this subject, students are expected to:

  • have an acceptable draft Research Plan, Ethics Application and Risk Management Plan completed and ready for submission;
  • understand the University of Melbourne’s Risk Management, Security and Travel Guidelines;
  • understand the range of ethical issues involved with fieldwork oriented research, including knowledge of how to approach and complete a Human Research Ethics Committee application;
  • understand the process of planning and conducting extended fieldwork research;
  • be able to understand and select specific research methods and analytical tools to undertake applied research in complex and hostile environments;
  • have a Basic Security in the Field (BSITF II) qualification from the United Nations (UN). Holding a BSITF II qualification is a pre-requisite for employment with the UN;
  • be able to demonstrate through assessment and practical scenarios their awareness of the key security challenges and issues confronting researchers in the field;
  • have an advanced understanding of complex environments and be able to manage risks whilst undertaking effective research;
  • have an improved ability to make plans and decisions regarding fieldwork as a component of an overarching research strategy.

A 3000 word informal reflective piece (25%) due 14 days after the intensive course concludes, and a 7000 word high-level Research Plan (75%) due 45 days after the intensive course concludes.

Hurdle Requirement: As this is an Intensively-taught subject, attendance at all lectures and practical training sessions is compulsory. Regular participation in class is required.

Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 10% per working day. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked. All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.

Prescribed Texts:

A reading pack containing the core readings for each day will be made available for purchase from the University Bookshop. The core textbooks used for the course are:

  • Designing and Conducting Mixed Methods Research (Sage 2011)
  • Surviving Field Research (Routledge 2009)
  • Operational Security Management in Violent Environments (2010)

NOTE: An additional reading list will also be provided

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

Upon successful completion of this subject, students are expected to:

  • have an understanding of the advantages, disadvantages and dangers of using different research methods in different ways;
  • Have acquired awareness of issues relating to cross-cultural communication;
  • be able to synthesise theory with practice and apply knowledge to real life scenarios;
  • acquire effective writing skills;
  • An introductory level of knowledge of quantitative and/or qualitative research methods.

An application process for this subject applies. Please contact Dr. Scott Flower for further information.

Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: 100 Point Master of Development Studies
100 Point Master of Development Studies - Gender and Development Specialisation
100 Point Master of International Relations
100 Point Master of Journalism
150 Point Master of Development Studies
150 Point Master of Development Studies - Gender and Development Specialisation
150 Point Master of Journalism
200 Point Master of Development Studies
200 Point Master of Development Studies - Gender and Development Specialisation
200 Point Master of International Relations
200 Point Master of Journalism

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