4.1 What is "methodology?"
4.2 Why are methods important?
4.3 Validity and reliability
4.4 Ethical considerations
4.6 Informed consent
4.8 Research design and methods
4.9 Participant observation
4.10 Working with key informants
4.11 Collecting field notes
4.12 Unstructured and semi-structured interviewing
4.13 Structured interviewing
4.14 Questionnaires and survey research
4.15 Scales and scaling
4.16 Unobtrusive observation
4.17 Participatory approaches
4.18 Recommended readings on methods for studying the cultures of small-scale fishing communities
We need a powerful mode of argumentation, a mode that ensures we can represent our representations in credible ways. In such worlds, a systematic argument enjoys a star-spangled legitimacy. We need a way to argue what we know based on the process by which we came to know it...not as the only possible representation... but as an essential lever to try and move the world.
Michael A. Agar (1996:13)
The use of sound research methods will help fisheries officials to obtain trustworthy and reliable information about the cultures of small-scale fishing communities, while doing so in an ethically sound manner. In this section the necessity for sound methods and ethical approaches are discussed first, followed by discussions about various general methods that are commonly used in social-scientific research. And in the next section a particularly comprehensive and expeditious general method, called "Rapid Assessment," is described. Recommended readings are listed at the ends of both of these sections that will enhance fisheries officials' understanding of how to apply particular methods for studying small-scale fishing communities.
In simple terms, the essence of research methodology lies in seeking answers to the basic question: how can trustworthy and reliable information be learned about a particular behavior or practice within a group, community, or culture? This involves two closely related questions: (1) how can the phenomena be investigated in order to obtain true and useful information; and (2) how can others know what the researchers mean when they assert their ideas, propositions and theories, and should they be believed?
The first problem relates to the techniques and conditions necessary for exploration and study. The many different phenomena that can be studied require special tools and techniques for gathering knowledge about them. The same is true regarding the study of human culture and behavior, which raises particular problems and methodological needs. Most of the primary data in social-science research comes from three sources: (1) directly observing human behavior; (2) listening to and noting the contents of human speech; and (3) examining the products of human behavior-particularly those found in archives, records and libraries.
In addition to the basic tools and instruments of observation and measurement, a scientific researcher must have sets of procedural rules, including concepts and definitions, for transforming evidence into generalizations about the subject being studied. It is the goal of science to link together low-order generalizations into larger networks of propositions that make possible the prediction and explanation of the phenomena under concern. This network of propositions is called theories. Methodology refers to the structure of procedures and transformational rules whereby a researcher moves information along this ladder of abstraction in order to produce and organize increasing knowledge. "Methodology" can therefore be distinguished from "research techniques" in that the latter term refers mostly only to the practical phase of primary data collection. Methodology, on the other hand, refers to the logic involved in selecting the particular observational techniques that are appropriate to the subject, the kind of information that is desired, how the data will be assessed, and ultimately how it will be related to specific theories. Thus, the methodology that is used is what ultimately determines the validity and trustworthiness of the findings of a research endeavor.
Fisheries science, like all other disciplines, is subject to the expectations of the "scientific method," a process that is widely used to ensure that the data which is collected and the information which is learned from it are valid, reliable, and repeatable. When studying human beings living in small-scale fishing communities it is easy for a researcher to be swayed by impressions and opinions expressed by various subjects, and therefore it is important to have a means of distinguishing these impressions and opinions from more objectively obtained facts.
The scientific method may be defined as an effort to increase the understanding of a reaction, behavior, or phenomenon by: (1) defining problems clearly so that the conclusions will build on previously available knowledge; (2) obtaining the data or information essential for studying these problems; (3) analyzing and interpreting these data in accordance with clearly defined rules; and (4) communicating the results of these efforts to others. Good measures result in good science-through the process of methodological verification.
A sound scientific work must have the following components if its results are to be deemed accurate and reliable, as well as provide a base for further explanation and study:
(1) The problem or aim of the work should be clearly stated, and that problem should be researchable. The statement of the problem can be simply an hypothesis to be tested, an event to be described, or any other possible type of research goal.
(2) The terms of the problem must be defined. The definition may involve identifying elements or units that are common knowledge among the researchers, stating operational definitions (measurements, types of observations, etc.) or previously established definitions. These terms must relate to observable phenomena.
(3) The procedures or methods of observation related to the defined study must be given in enough detail so that another researcher reading the work can evaluate the adequacy and accuracy of the research observation and clearly understand how to replicate or repeat the study.
(4) The analysis of the observations and data must conform to the canons of logic employed in all sciences.
(5) Steps (2), (3), and (4) must be described so that it is possible to see what data would negate the results found by the researcher.
Use of the scientific method produces good results that reduce the problems of credibility that often are associated with social-science studies. In critiquing social-science studies of fishing communities issues of "validity" and "reliability" have often been raised.
"Validity" refers to the degree to which scientific observations actually measure or record what they claim to measure. For example, a researcher might use a thermometer to measure temperature and a ruler to measure lengths. Assuming there were no changes in the instruments used, one would expect the results to be the same after many repetitions.
In studying human behavior, however, there is considerable debate over the validity of observations of cultures. Is the offer of food to a guest, for example, really a measure of friendship and hospitality? Are the answers given in door-to-door interviews really representative of the general population's opinions and feelings? It is generally assumed that the validity of such data can be tested by assembling supporting information from other sources, as well as by collecting it over long-term stays in a community.
"Reliability" is closely related to validity as it refers to the repeatability of scientific observations. That is, can the researcher or another scientist gather the same information using the same techniques and arrive at the same conclusions? Reliability has been problematic for social scientists because the materials and methods they have used, the style and tone of the interviewer(s), and the contexts in which the interviews took place can all produce different data, even with the same researcher. Consequently, researchers have worked to maximize validity and reliability in field situations by using a mix of research methods. Hence, the combined use of non-structured long-term observations and interviews, with structured interviews, questionnaires, and surveys enhances reliability and repeatability, and the ultimate result will be better science.
Methodological problems pose serious challenges for social scientists, but an even greater challenge often concerns the ethical soundness of their endeavors. Considerations of research ethics are often raised after a problematical incident has occurred, or when field workers begin to feel uncomfortable about the conduct of their research. At such a point the ethics of their research methods may be questioned, or their position in the social group being studied may be challenged. After that, access to the research field may be changed dramatically or even completely denied. At that point, the researchers' goals may appear unattainable, and they may wonder what went wrong, and why.
The ethical concerns of fisheries officials who wish to conduct research in small-scale fishing communities are complicated by the fact that their work is intended to have a practical effect. Ethics for action are closely related to ethics for research, because both action and policy products may ensue from the research. The foundations for conducting ethical research in small-scale fishing communities can therefore be conveyed in a few simple terms: transparency, regarding what the research is about and what its ultimate aims are; confidentiality, which guarantees participating subjects that their contributions to the study will not be revealed without their express consent; voluntary consent, which guarantees participating subjects that their participation in the research is completely voluntary; and risk disclosure, which entails forthright disclosures to participating subjects concerning what the possible risks to themselves and other community members may be.
Action and policy-oriented research, therefore, must for ethical reasons be initiated in reference to the interests of the communities and various community members that are being studied, as well as to the sponsoring agencies. Therefore when a researcher asks the question, "whom am I responsible to?" clearly the answer must be "ultimately, the members of the small-scale fishing community being studied." This may confront the researchers with problems and dilemmas in their relations with their professional colleagues and superiors, which is just another reason why ethical considerations are such a challenging aspect of social-science research.
The fieldwork phase of a research endeavor will entail overcoming the social boundaries and cultural barriers that often exist between the researcher, the "subjects," and the "informants." When conducting research in small-scale fishing communities, the subjects are potentially all the members of the community that is being studied, while the informants are particular individuals that researchers work with. Breaking down protective boundaries between researchers, subjects, and informants is called "rapport building." Through this process, the tendencies of all participants in the research endeavor to protect their private personalities and individual interests will be somewhat eroded.
Subjects and informants are often given assurances of anonymity, yet this is frequently out of the researchers' hands once the data has been collected. This is particularly true in applied social and cultural studies, where the data is turned over to a sponsoring agency, which then has ultimate control over it. It is also possible for certain data or research findings to be associated or ascribed to certain individuals, even though their identities are never revealed. It is therefore imperative that the informants' personal data be coded in such a way as to protect their actual identities, and that data and results are not presented in such a way that they can be traced back to particular informants. The informants must also be informed about the limits of confidentiality, and should not be promised a greater degree of confidentiality than is realistically possible.
The principle of informed consent requires that the researchers fully inform the informants regarding the intent, scope, and possible effects of the study as they seek to obtain their consent to participate in it. This participation must be voluntary, with no threat or implication of ill will or other repercussions if potential informants decline to participate. Informed consent, however, does not necessarily require that there be a written consent form. In some instances it may be acceptable for the consent to be expressed verbally.
Obtaining informed consent requires that researchers work openly and honestly with potential informants by promoting their cooperation and trust in the study. Additionally, the informants must be made aware of the possible effects of the study in their community-both positive and negative, even though this may affect their willingness to participate. Finally, researchers must generally avoid the use of clandestine means for studying human communities.
Especially in an applied research study, it is vital for researchers to consider the potential implications of their behavior and their research in the community being studied. During the design phase of the research they must continually ask, "Will this study have negative or harmful effects?" and "Will this project be useful to the community?" Therefore, enlisting the participation of community members during the design phase of the research is often an important first step, especially in research endeavors that are likely to have action and policy implications in the community to be studied. Furthermore, from the study's actual launch through its conclusion the researchers must maintain a high degree of commitment to the overall well being of the community that is being studied.
In the complex world of human societies, communities, and cultures, who is to be believed or trusted? Is the data itself, regardless of how it was collected, proper evidence for making a case? Although some may be swayed by an eloquent argument appearing in a well-written paper, to have scientific authority an argument must contain information about the researcher, how and under what circumstances the data was collected, and how it was analyzed and interpreted. To have scientific authority an argument must therefore be systematically presented, revealing how the researchers came by what they know.
The research design involves an idealized plan or strategy for all aspects of the research, including a step-by-step plan for how instrumental data will be collected and analyzed. It should also provide guidelines for linking theoretical orientations to the methods of data collection and analysis for yielding scientifically-valid results. As such, the research design incorporates the methodological and analytical details that will contribute to the credibility, validity, repeatability, and plausibility of any study.
In the remainder of this chapter, the following commonly-utilized methods for gathering data in social-science research are discussed: participant observation; working with key informants; collecting field notes; unstructured and semi-structured interviewing; structured interviewing; questionnaires and survey research; scales and scaling; unobtrusive observation; and participatory approaches. Where appropriate, the particular usefulness or limitations of these methods for studying small-scale fishing communities are discussed. Fisheries officials will be well served by incorporating, as appropriate, combinations of these methods into their research designs for studying small-scale fishing communities. The assistance of social scientists who are experts in research design, research methodologies, and field research may also be helpful.
Participant observation entails researchers becoming immersed in the communities they are studying. Researchers take part in daily activities, rituals, interactions, and other events taking place among the people being studied as one means of learning about their culture. It involves a wide array of data collection techniques, including interviews (structured, semi-structured, and unstructured), collecting field notes, check lists, questionnaires, and unobtrusive methods. In small-scale fishing communities, participant observation may take place at sea during fishing activities, at dockside, in processing, marketing, and distribution facilities, in households, and indeed, practically anywhere the subjects may be found.
The relatively unsystematic gathering of information through participant observation is basic to all the other and more refined research methods discussed below. Preliminary data gathered by means of this method provides researchers with information and insights which are necessary for developing interview questions, questionnaires, psychological tests, and other specialized research tools. Participant observation also provides further checks for monitoring and evaluating field information and other data that is gathered by the more specialized techniques.
Participant observation requires much more than simply being in the field and passively recording what people are doing and saying. Often, after observing a particular event or behavioral pattern, a researcher must learn additional information that cannot be observed firsthand. The researcher's personal frame of reference will therefore suggest further questions to be asked, relationships between observed behavior and other types of behavior, data that should be obtained, and other materials that should be gathered in order to further inform the researcher's personal observations. By structuring observations, systematically exploring relationships, meticulous witnessing, and other methods, participant observation can be converted to scientific use.
Participant observation in rapid-assessment situations usually means going in and getting on with the job of collecting data without first spending a lot of time developing rapport. This often means going into a field situation armed with a list of questions that need to be answered and a checklist of data that needs to be collected. Although this shortened field-work limits the kind and amount of information that can be collected, a researcher's effectiveness can be increased by entering the field situation already partially familiar with the culture and community. This can be achieved by reading any available literature on the community, talking with researchers who have done work there in the past, and checking historical and vital records to gather preliminary histories.
An extension of participant observation is direct-reactive observation. This is a technique where the researcher is directly involved in observing the behavior of community members while actively taking measurements or notes, as well as frequently asking their reactions to what he or she thinks has been observed. It is an intrusive form of obtaining data but is extremely useful for gathering specific data, particularly when the data is needed rapidly. It has been used with great success in gathering exact information on work efficiency and effort, production levels, food intakes, teacher-pupil interactions, and police-civilian contact, to name a few examples. It should therefore also be a productive means of quickly learning what the members of small-scale fishing communities think about various management practices and policies that are being contemplated. Generally speaking, this is an intensive and difficult form of data collection that requires constant interaction between the researcher and the people being observed, and consequently places stress on all parties involved. It works most effectively when researchers have had enough previous interaction with the participants that their presence will not unduly distract or discomfort them.
When a questionnaire survey is being conducted, the informants are chosen randomly. This ensures that differences in opinion and behavior that occur in a community are represented in the data. However, when researchers are trying to collect specific and detailed kinds of data, they may rely on "key informants." Compared with questionnaires or surveys, which may entail a large sample of informants, a researcher's key informants may consist of only a very small sample of community members, but otherwise one which is explored in greater depth. In order for this to be an effective field method, key informants must be reliable and must be asked about things they are likely to know about. Several key informants should also be worked with, since generally speaking no one informant can provide information about all the nuances of whatever phenomenon the researcher is interested in. Ideally, key informants should represent different walks of life in order to ensure the researcher obtains the broadest perspective possible, but their greatest importance remains in providing in-depth understanding of a particular phenomenon. In other words, key informants will usually be selected more on the basis of their competence and the specific information they have, rather than on how representative of the community they are.
Key-informant interviewing is an important part of field research. Good informants are people whom the researcher can talk easily with, who understand the kind of information needed, and who will give it to the researcher or know where to get it. This kind of interviewing is used to its best advantage when closely integrated with participant observation. It is also particularly useful for gathering information about cultural practices and behaviors that have become extinct or that have radically changed over time.
On the other hand, it is important that researchers not choose their key informants too quickly, choosing them, for example, soon after entering the field. Often the first individuals who approach a researcher may be "marginal natives," that is, people who are somehow outcast or not fully accepted in the community. These may try to improve their status and importance by ingratiating themselves to the researchers, especially to researchers who appear to have connections with government. Unfortunately, in their attempt to curry the favor of researchers, they can provide inaccurate or false information, and mainstream community members may be reluctant to work with researchers who have associated themselves with the community's marginal natives. The identification and selection of good key informants in a community can therefore take some time to accomplish, and is better left until the researcher has become familiar with the community and culture that is being studied.
Collecting field notes is a basic way to record information. Field notes may include daily logs, personal journals, descriptions of events, and the researcher's own notes regarding these. Ideally, these should be written up every day to prevent the loss of important details. Field notes should also be as detailed as is realistically possible.
With the advent of modern technology, the recording of field notes has been made easier. The use of tape recorders and laptop computers, for example, allows for more accurate recording of interviews than can be accomplished by taking notes by hand, or by attempting to remember what was said or what actually occurred later, well after the fact. In addition, photography, videotape, and film can catch and retain greater detail than mere notes alone, providing invaluable information for a researcher. Of course, informants should not be recorded, photographed, or videotaped without first obtaining their permission to do so. Yet, however useful these technologies may be, they should not substitute for field notes, but instead be used in combination with them to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the community.
Unstructured interviewing is the most widely used form of interviewing for gathering information about a community and its people. Community members are interviewed informally during the course of an ordinary day-in their boats, in the fields, in their homes, while sharing food or drink, on the street, wherever convenient. Despite its casual approach, this type of interviewing still requires considerable skill on the part of a researcher if it is to be done effectively. Developing rapport, getting informants to open up and provide the information desired, knowing how to end the interview, and making sure that the information is systematically elicited, however informal its elicitation may seem, are some of the essential skills that a researcher must have when employing this method.
The degrees of control that a researcher exercises in unstructured interview situations can be arrayed on a continuum. At one end is informal interviewing which is characterized by a complete lack of structure or control. The researcher simply tries to remember conversations that were heard over the course of the day in the field, and then records them at the end of each day. Common means of recording these are by entering them into field notes, using a laptop computer, or speaking them into a tape recorder. This is perhaps the best method of unstructured interviewing when beginning participant observation, when a researcher is just becoming familiar with the people. Yet, it will also remain useful throughout the fieldwork to develop rapport with new informants and for exploring new areas of interest that arise.
The next level of control is unstructured interviewing which is conducted in a more formal manner. Generally, the informant and the researcher sit down together for the express purpose of performing an interview. There is a clear plan in the interviewer's mind, but it is highly flexible and little attempt is made to constrain the informant's responses. The idea behind this kind of interview is to get people to open up and express themselves in their own terms and at their own pace. It is generally used in situations where there are ample amounts of time available-such as in long-term field work where informants can be interviewed many times.
On the other hand, in situations where an informant may only be interviewed once, a semi-structured interviewing approach may be called for. Semi-structured interviewing generally proceeds on the basis of a written list of topics and questions that the researcher brings to the interview, which are to be covered in a particular order. While the interviewer still maintains the flexibility to follow leads suggested by the informant, there is otherwise certain specific information the interviewer hopes to obtain. This information is usually written down on a form called an interview guide, which the interviewer follows as the interview is conducted. These guides are developed from information gathered from previous informal and unstructured interviews, and this interview style is often particularly effective for gaining information from elite members of a community, members who have completed some formal education, and government-employed officials.
Structured interviewing involves exposing each informant to the same exact set of stimuli. The stimuli can be a set of questions, a list of names, a set of photographs, items of fishing gear, etc. The idea behind structured interviewing is to control the input that triggers each response, so that the responses can be reliably compared. Structured interviewing therefore permits a researcher to make comparisons across people and groups.
One form of structured interview is the interview schedule, entailing a formal set of questions that are akin to a census. Structured interviews of this type are usually important for verifying data that is gathered by other means, and can be an important part of research aimed at learning about particular communities. For example, when several different groups are present in a region it will be important to obtain population data so that stratified samples can later be drawn. Structured interview schedules may request information about household composition, including the names, sex, kinship affiliations, ethnic affiliations, religious affiliations, incomes, dates of birth, education, health problems, and occupations of various household members. Of course, in small-scale fishing communities they may also be used to obtain information about fishing methods, fishing gear, species harvested, catch levels, and participation in activities which are ancillary to fishing as well.
Using interview schedules generally requires a high degree of familiarity with the local culture and social groupings. Thus, interview schedules should only be used after significant data has been collected through participant observation and informal and unstructured interviewing. Otherwise, if administered prematurely, interview schedules may lead to awkward or inappropriate questioning, as well as misleading responses.
The most common form of structured interview is the questionnaire. Questionnaires may be self-administered by being mailed to the informant, or may be dropped off and collected later. They may be conducted over the telephone, or may be administered in person. In all cases the questions asked are the same for all informants. With the exception of questionnaires conducted over the telephone, questionnaires may be distinguished from interview schedules in that the respondents answer the questions on the form provided by the researcher, rather than the researcher recording the information.
There are a number of rules that should be followed when creating a questionnaire, be it one to be conducted in person or one to be conducted by more remote means:
(1) The questions should be unambiguous, as clear and concise as possible, and use a vocabulary that the respondents can understand without seeming patronizing or condescending.Flawed questionnaire designs come about when researchers draft sets of questions without having adequate background information. The result is a series of badly worded questions and unclear response options. Therefore it will be important for researchers to have a good working knowledge of the community and its people before designing questionnaires. Questions should begin with broad, general requests for information, and then proceed to requests for more detailed, specific information. Likewise, requests for more private or sensitive information should be preceded by requests for more general information. Only questions relevant to the study should be included, but if unsure, it is better to ask for too much information rather than too little. Finally, unless the researcher already has considerable experience administering questionnaires in the community, it is advisable to administer a trial run with only a few respondents, after which the questionnaire can be appropriately revised.
(2) The respondents must have enough knowledge to be able to have definite responses to the questions. Otherwise, they may become embarrassed and uncomfortable if they frequently have to respond that they do not have answers for the questions being asked.
(3) The questionnaire should look well planned and organized. It should not have seemingly gratuitous questions, and once a topic has been started it should be completed before moving on to another.
(4) The researcher should pay close attention to responses to contingency or filtering questions, avoiding requiring respondents to answer questions that their earlier responses have already ruled out.
(5) Clear scales should be utilized when asking ranking questions, while giving respondents wide latitude for making discriminations, for example, by providing five possible responses rather than three (e.g., use "Strongly Agree," "Agree" "Neutral," "Disagree," and "Strongly Disagree," rather than "Agree," "Neutral," and "Disagree").
(6) The list of responses should include, to the extent possible, the range of all possible answers.
(7) Unthreatening questions may be bluntly put, but those probing more sensitive matters should be phrased more indirectly.
(8) Avoid leading questions, such as questions that start with "Do you think it is wrong that..."
(9) Avoid questions that suggest or imply the researcher's values or feelings about certain subjects.
A scaled questionnaire is one that allows assigning units of analysis to categories of a variable or concept. The assignment is usually done with numbers. The questions can include thoughts about age, gender, happiness, work satisfaction, and leisure preferences, to name just a few. Almost any cultural aspect can be explored by use of a scaled measure.
As the required information becomes more abstract, moving from simple questions such as age and gender to more complex ideas such as work satisfaction, social class, or socioeconomic status, the measurement must be made with a complex instrument that has several indicators. These complex or composite measures are called scales. In measuring socioeconomic status, for instance, it is common to combine measures of income, education, and occupational prestige as the respondents see these things. None of these measures, taken individually, address the complexity of socioeconomic status, but when combined they produce a more complete picture. In essence, complex measures are used when a single indictor cannot provide enough information.
The most common type of complex measure is a cumulative index. These are made up of several questions or ideas, all of which carry the same weight. Multiple choice exams are an example of a cumulative index. In those, the idea is that no one question can provide a measure of a student's knowledge of the course material, so instead the student is asked a larger number of questions about the material. Each question is given a point value and each correct answer receives that value. So if there are 60 questions, each worth 1 point, and the student gets 45 correct, 45 or 75% is the cumulative index of how well the student did on the test. However, just putting together a series of items to form an index does not mean that the composite measure will be useful.
In a Guttman scale, as compared to a cumulative index, the measurements look for a distinct pattern in the responses. In other words, it tests for if-then correlates, such as if attribute B is present, then A must be present, and if C is present, then A and B must be also. This is based on the theory that culture traits are acquired in a certain order and show a definite pattern. Of course, this is not a perfect system and there will always be errors in the data which are usually caused by the expression of some other culture behavior, such as a desire to return to more traditional values. Yet, well-designed Guttman scales can have great power for suggesting what is going on in a particular community or culture.
The most popular form of scaling is called the Likert scale. It is essentially the 5-point scale that is commonly employed in questionnaires and is particularly useful for measuring the internal states of people-their attitudes, emotions and orientations-all of which are multidimensional. To create a Likert scale one must make a list of the potential scaling items for a concept, and then find the subsets that measure the various dimensions. There are several steps needed to create a Likert scale:
(1) Identify and label the variable being measured, such as job satisfaction. This is generally done by induction based on previous work in the community.The semantic-differential scaling method is another method that allows a researcher to analyze how people interpret things, such as inanimate objects, animate things, behaviors, or intangible concepts. But unlike the Likert scale, the semantic-differential method tests people's feelings by presenting them with a target item or concept, such as "home," "marriage," or "incest," and then provides a list of paired adjectives about the target. The informants are then asked to rate their feelings about the target item on a scale between 1 and 7, using adjective pairs like good-bad, active-passive, beautiful-ugly, etc. (depending on the type of target).
(2) Write a long list of indicator questions or statements that might provide information about the variable. Again this is based on induction from previous studies, perusal of relevant literature, or interviews with key informants.
(3) Indicator ideas can also be gathered by asking a large sample of the community what features they associate with the variable in question.
(4) Do not make the indicator items extreme. Let the informants suggest the range of emotion about the subject.
(5) Use the same rules that apply to a questionnaire to write the scale.
(6) Determine the type and number of response categories. Most Likert scales have uneven numbers of possible responses, with the midpoint usually representing neutrality.
(7) Test the scale on a sample of informants.
(8) Conduct an item analysis to find the items that form a uni-dimensional scale of the variable being measured.
(9) Conduct the full study and run the item analysis to make sure the scale is working. If it is, look for relationships between the scale scores and the other variables for the people in the study.
Unobtrusive observation includes all methods for studying behavior where the subjects do not know they are being observed. Some unobtrusive observation methods give rise to ethical questions which researchers must resolve before employing them. Below some common unobtrusive-observation methods are described:
(1) Behavior trace studies. These are studies that analyze the traces of human actions and behaviors left behind. They have included studies of garbage, wear on tiles to determine the most popular exhibit at a museum, and the average lifetime of a car in America, among others. This kind of study can produce large amounts of information that can be quantified and compared across groups and over time. It does raise ethical questions if personal information can be found out, such as in the garbage-analysis study. However, if proper precautions are followed this can be a valuable research tool.
(2) Archival research. This usually entails studying public records concerning birth, marriage, death, crime, migration, business statistics, and other factors. A truly unobtrusive study method, this can produce very useful information, especially concerning cultural trends or patterns over time. But a problem with archival information is that it may contain many errors, rendering the data that is drawn from it unreliable, especially when it is uncertain how the original information was gathered.
(3) Content analysis. This includes the analysis of any texts as qualitative data, be they fiction, nonfiction, folk tales, newspaper articles, advertisements, films, videos, photographs, or songs. These can be studied for any variables that can be correlated or interpreted in light of historical or ethnographic information. Inherent problems in this technique usually concern the databases themselves. In essence, the information contained in texts may not be an accurate or true reflection of the community or culture being studied.
(4) Disguised observation. In this observation method a researcher pretends to join a group and then proceeds to study it and record its members' behaviors without letting them know they are being observed. It is perhaps the ultimate in participant observation, and to be effective the researcher must be able to blend in physically, linguistically, and culturally with the group being studied. Of course, this method raises many ethical questions, including invasion of privacy and consent issues.
Participatory research methods are often also referred to as "popular participation" and "participatory rural appraisal," or "PRA" (see Chambers 1994a, 1994b, and 1994c). In essence, these approaches invite high degrees of participation and collaboration between the researchers (e.g., fisheries officials) and the subjects (e.g., members of fishing communities) through every stage of a research project. They also confer on the subjects high degrees of control concerning how the research is designed, conducted, interpreted, and subsequently utilized.
At the very least, these methods can be a great means for rapidly promoting rapport between fisheries officials and fishing people; at best they may be an effective way to promote more successful management while enhancing the well being of small-scale fishing communities. Readers are encouraged to explore the following annexes appearing at the end of this report, describing participatory approaches to research, management, and development which have improved fisheries management while strengthening small-scale fishing communities: Annex 10.1 by Akimichi, 10.2 by Ben-Yami, 10.3 by Freeman, and 10.5 by Stoffle.
Participatory approaches are complex, generally entailing ongoing interaction between the researchers and the research subjects over relatively long time spans. Indeed, in some cases the research effort never ends, and instead entails ongoing efforts by researchers and the research subjects to find solutions to various problems by continuously adapting these solutions on the basis of cumulative experience. The particular steps to be taken therefore vary greatly, depending on the particular community or communities that are involved and the main problems being addressed, but in general they usually entail something like the following steps:
(1) Researchers (e.g., fisheries officials) and subjects (e.g., members of small-scale fishing communities) become acquainted with one another and with one another's respective concerns. Considerable cultural learning may be entailed in this phase on the part of all participating parties, inasmuch as they may have very different subcultural orientations. The need for cooperation and reaching eventual consensus must be highly stressed from the onset.
(2) Key participants are identified among the researchers and the subjects who are willing to take responsibilities for working together and finding solutions to the foregoing problems that will be satisfactory for most concerned.
(3) Solutions are suggested for the various participants' respective concerns. Various means for assessing the potential effectiveness of these solutions are also proposed. These matters are discussed as thoroughly and repeatedly as necessary to move the participants toward a consensus concerning what should be done.
(4) Various solutions are tried out on an experimental basis, and their effectiveness is assessed.
(5) Building on the foregoing cumulative experience, the participants revise the solutions that are tried, continue to work together on a cooperative basis, and continue to revisit steps (1) through (4), above.
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