‘We need someone to deliver our voices’: reflections from conducting remote qualitative research in Syria

Yazan Douedari, Mervat Alhaffar, Diane Duclos, Mohamed Al-Twaish, Samer Jabbour & Natasha Howard

The need to generate evidence in spaces considered insecure and inhabited by potentially extremely vulnerable individuals (e.g. conflict-affected people who may not have means to move) has led researchers to study conflict-affected settings remotely. Increased attention to remote research approaches from social scientists, due to COVID-19-related travel restrictions, is sparking interest on appropriate methods and tools. Drawing on several years’ experience of remotely conducting qualitative research in Syria, we discuss challenges and approaches to conducting more inclusive, participatory, and meaningful research from a distance. The logistics, ethics, and politics of conducting research remotely are symptomatic of broader challenges in relation to the decolonisation of global and humanitarian health research. Key to the success of remote approaches is the quality of the relationships researchers need to be able to develop with study participants without face-to-face interactions and with limited engagement ‘in the field’. Particularly given overdue efforts to decolonise research institutions and methods, lead researchers should have a meaningful connection with the area in which they are conducting research. This is critical both to reduce chances that it will be extractive and exploitative and additionally for the quality of interpretation.

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