Expanding the role of social science in conservation through an engagement with philosophy, methodology, and methods

Katie Moon, Deborah A Blackman, Vanessa M. Adams, Rebecca Colvin, Federico Davila Cisneros, Megan C. Evans, Stephanie R. Januchowski-Hartley, Nathan J. Bennett, Helen Dickinson, Chris Sandbrook, Kate Sherren, Freya A. V. St. John, Lorrae Van Kerkhoff, Carina Wyborn

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    1. The Special Feature led by Sutherland, Dicks, Everard, and Geneletti (Methods Ecology and Evolution, 9, 7–9, 2018) sought to highlight the importance of “qualitative methods” for conservation. The intention is welcome, and the collection makes many important contributions. Yet, the articles presented a limited perspective on the field, with a focus on objectivist and instrumental methods, omitting discussion of some broader philosophical and methodological considerations crucial to social science research. Consequently, the Special Feature risks narrowing the scope of social science research and, potentially, reducing its quality and usefulness. In this article, we seek to build on the strengths of the articles of the Special Feature by drawing in a discussion on social science research philosophy, methodology, and methods. 2. We start with a brief discussion on the value of thinking about data as being qualitative (i.e., text, image, or numeric) or quantitative (i.e., numeric), not methods or research. Thinking about methods as qualitative can obscure many important aspects of research design by implying that “qualitative methods” somehow embody a particular set of assumptions or principles. Researchers can bring similar, or very different, sets of assumptions to their research design, irrespective of whether they collect qualitative or quantitative data.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)294-302pp
    JournalMethods in Ecology and Evolution
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


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