In undertaking a year abroad, I was required to examine, analyse and research an element of French culture. As analyzing the ways in which people dispose of waste is generally linked to the culture of the individual or groups of individuals I saw some overlap with methodologies I have used in the past.
Interviews are often conducted as a powerful way to understand people (Al-Yateem, 2012). The nature of waste is intrinsically linked to people and hence interviews have the ability to further understand the motivations of an individual, potentially revealing the motivations of a larger group.
The nature of the interview process is more labour intensive and therefore fewer responses can be gathered compared to methods such as questionnaires, which do not require the same amount of interaction between viewer and participant. However, the responses may be more or less involved depending on whether the subject is of notable interest within their daily life (Ross, 1974).
Participant selection has been narrowed down in the past through a willingness of people and organizations to take part in the interviews. As in the experiences of Teske, it is often difficult to reach the leaders within an organization whose responsibilities are the greatest and time the most valued (1997).
In conducting the interviews themselves I have found it is very important to remain impartial, never arguing or condemning the opinions of the interviewee (Ross, 1974). Although, despite taking a neutral stance, in this type of research, it is always a possibility that the interviewee might withhold information that would reflect poorly on themselves.
Observation is a good way to study a group of people within their native environment and to understand events from their perspective (Baker, 2006). In undertaking observational research there is a lot of concern about ethical problems, as well as validity and reliability issues (2006). In past observational research I put great focus on not omitting data in order to confirm my pre-established beliefs and constantly aimed to prevent my personal bias from altering the investigation (May, 1997).
As a Visual Communication student I have also felt comfortable in incorporating personal photography and film documentation into my observation research. This form of research is often very successful as photography can often aid in showing what is beyond the capacity of the written word (Ross, 1974).
Both observation and visual analysis of the waste disposal at UTS would allow for accurate documentation of the environment and users habits as often these actions are subconscious or as stated previously, might not admit the ways in which they dispose of organic waste.
Spanish academics put out a research paper on aggressive behaviour studying the effects of viewing videos of Bullfights on Spanish Children. They used both observation and questionnaire methods to examine determine the psychological effects of viewing bullfights on children 8-12 years old in Madrid from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds. They determined that observing violent scenes increases one’s tolerance of displays of aggression and in turn increases an individual’s level of acceptance (Grana, 2004). This research shows that exposure creates acceptance, critical in implementing recycling plans. Additionally, that a variety of research methods yield a more accurate result.
Al-Yateem, N. 2012, ‘The effect of interview recording on quality of data obtained: a methodological reflection’, Nurse Researcher, vol. 19, no. 4, pp. 31-35.
Baker, L. 2006, ‘Observation: A Complex Research Method’ in Library Trends, Vol. 55, No.1, pp. 171–189.
Graña, J,L., Cruzado, J,A., Andreu, J.M., Muñoz-Rivas, M.J., Peña, M.E., Brain, P.F. 2004, ‘Effects of Viewing Videos of Bullfights on Spanish Children’, Aggressive Behaviour, vol. 30, no.1, pp. 16-28.
May, T. 1997 ‘Participant observation: Perspectives and Practice’ in Social research: Issues, methods and process, Buckingham, Open University Press, pp. 132-156.
Ross, R. 1974, ‘Obtaining Original Evidence’, in Research: An Introduction, New York, Barnes and Noble, pp. 74-79.
Teske, N. 1997, ‘Methodology Appendix’ in Political Activists in America: The Identity Construction Model of Political Participation, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge UK, pp. 152-162.