For my PhD Dissertation, I will be conducting ethnographic research. Continuing the qualitative research that I have been conducting for the last seven years, I will be working alongside young women in rural northeast Georgia to compile information about their family planning decisions. Seven years ago when I started the origins of this project for my undergraduate honors thesis, my sample was limited to the women that I graduated high school with in my hometown. Since then my sample has expanded to women in the surrounding counties with the sample age ranging from 14-50 years old.
Methodologically, I will be conducting both traditional and digital ethnography. For the traditional ethnography, I will spend 12 months collecting data through observations of women’s daily lives, conducting interviews with community members, and recording detailed fieldnotes of my observations. Once my funding is secured, I plan to train and hire women in the community to conduct interviews to gain valuable insight from their diverse backgrounds, positionality, and experiences.
The digital ethnography will involve investigation into Facebook groups dedicated to teenage mothers. Similarly to the traditional ethnographic work, I will collect information about the interactions between users in the groups. Throughout the data collection process, both in the physical and digital worlds, I will be abductively coding the data to find patterns in the experiences of the women.
Ultimately, the goal of this project is to provide evidence to advocate for the local, state and federal actions that the interlocutors involved in this study share would be an improvement to their social situation as young rural women making family planning decisions. Especially now, when millions of dollars are being funneled into providing social supports to mostly urban women and which supports are decided by those in government offices, it is imperative to my personal research goals to use my skills as a researcher to highlight the voices of the women being directly impacted by these policies.
The partnership that I have created with a small portion of this diverse population of rural women will hopefully continue to grow beyond this dissertation, and I hope to dedicate my career to improving community-based research projects in rural areas, particularly those that lead to the institutional changes that this population desires.