About two weeks ago, I wrote a short article about preparing for field work. I am still engaging in this process, but have moved on to a new phase that has brought a whole new set of questions to mind—questions that make me nervous.

As part of the process of preparing for field work, I downloaded data from the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics on the rates of access to the drinking water and wastewater networks, population size, and population density. I have also been able to collect data on government expenditure in the water and wastewater sector, and the sector’s contribution to the country’s gross domestic product.

In sorting through the data, I have come to learn that there is information that I need that I have not been able find through online sources. This includes data on government expenditure and access to the water and sewage networks from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Since my dissertation includes a historical element, acquiring the data is important to completing the project in the way I envision. Immediately then, my mind thinks of the worst case scenario—what if I am unable to access these data? How am I going to adjust my research plan? Are there portions of the research that I will have to abandon?

Of course all these questions arose in the approximately eight months of brainstorming research ideas, the theoretical grounding, the hypotheses to be tested, the data I would need to answer the research questions, and creating the research plan and timeline. But it is only once I began collecting the data that the reality of these questions hit me.

Now there is no reason to jump the gun and discard the portions that will require quantitative data because I have not yet exhausted all avenues of acquiring the data, such as reaching out to friends and colleagues. But it certainly would not do any harm to start thinking about answers to “What if?”