Sustainability (and such)

Research methods

One of the best lessons in academic research is how to lift your efforts from  skewed findings (such as this quick SWOT template) to more thoughtful, objective research suitable for conference presentations and peer-reviewed journals.  Here are some quick summaries of research methods, with references.

Case studies:  A technique for illustrating how a decision (or decisions) are selected, implemented, and concluded.  Like other research methods, it investigates an empirical topic by following pre-specified procedures.  The three types of case studies used for research include explanatory, descriptive, and exploratory.   According to Susan Soy and other scholars, research steps include: Determine and define the research questions; select the cases and determine data gathering and analysis techniques; prepare to collect the data; collect data in the field; evaluate and analyze the data; and prepare the report.

Content analysis:  A technique for making inferences from texts that includes quantitative, qualitative, and computer-assisted approaches to analysis. According to Neuendorff, this is a six-part process:   “Content analysis is a summarising, quantitative analysis of messages that relies on the scientific method (including attention to objectivity, intersubjectivity, a priori design, reliability, validity, generalisability, replicability, and hypothesis testing) and is not limited as to the types of variables that may be measured or the context in which the messages are created or presented.”

Focus groups: A technique involving qualitative results from the exchange of ideas within group interviews.   According to Bill Knight and others, these are the steps:  Identification of the problem/research question; identification of population; identification of moderator/recorder; generation and pretesting of the interview guide/protocol; recruiting the sample; conducting the focus group(s); analysis of the data; writing the report; and decision-making/action.

Interviews:  Whether in-depth and semi-structured, one-to-one interviews study the experiences of participants and what meanings they attach to those experiences.  Researchers ask open-ended questions and might clarify or re-word the questions to obtain more rich detail by the respondent.  The interview is often used to obtain data about sensitive and personal themes, including social justice issues.  Here is a guide for constructing interviews including informal conversational,  general, and standardized, open-ended.

Surveys:  This technique is used primary for scanning and evaluation of populations.  The design of surveys includes attention to sampling (characteristics and number of respondents) and design (representational issues such as how many groups are selected and included, as well as frequency of survey. Here is an overview of survey research design.

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