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Note-taking and Notability: How to Succeed at Legal Doctoral Fieldwork


Fieldwork is the bridge between academia and practice. Often, this bridge is not crossed due to lack of guidance, time and practical experience. Academics are left on their own to guess what would work best. In facilitating this, this article assesses the methods used in a case study of doctoral fieldwork at the European Parliament within the civil service. Findings include identifying optimum methods to plan, develop and execute doctoral fieldwork.

This research is structured in four parts, which covers a literature review on fieldwork in the social sciences, the case study, the methodologies used, and a problem-solving section giving tips to succeed at fieldwork. Findings include a selection of methodologies which include participant observation and note-taking. These methodologies assist in improving skills such as time management, working under high pressure and delivering quality reports with attention to detail, which are fundamental for a successful academic career.

The experience covered in this article will assist academics in designing their fieldworks at all levels of their careers. The methods described are transferrable to fieldworks across legal, political and policy-making institutions.

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The Quo Vadis of Democratization in Post-Egypt Arab Spring

-155. Najjar, F., 2017. Egypt’s NGO law aims to “erase civil society”. [online]. Available at: (Accessed 5 July 2017). Nanz, P., and Steffek, J., 2004. Global governance, participation and the public sphere. Government and Opposition, 39(2): 314-335. Nassif, H. B., 2013. Wedded to Mubarak: The Second Careers and Financial Rewards of Egypt’s Military Elite, 1981-2011. Middle East Journal, 67(4): 509-530. O’Donell, G. A

Open access