Ethical Dimensions of Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems

4.4 Methods Choices and Classification Strategies


4.4 Methods Choices and Classification Strategies

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Choosing Research

Oftentimes when we travel, we determine where we want to go before we know how we are going to get there. Much the same can be said how we approach research. We know the kind of knowledge we would like to gather, or effect we would like to tease out of a certain set of materials, before we know how we are going to get there. Methods selection itself can shift over the duration of the experimental process (though, hopefully not during an experiment!) of a given investigation. As we travel through the research process, we gather data about observations. This data is shaped by our selection of methods, and also conforms to our classification schemes.

As researchers, how we collect data and how we choose to categorize data are two other processes through which values become embedded in research. This suggests that we should pay close attention to how we justify our methods selection, understand the limitations of what our methods allow us to argue, and are able to justify our categorical and organizational choices.

Rumour has it that the gardens of natural history museums are used for surreptitious burial of those intermediate forms between species which might disturb the orderly classifications of the taxonomist.
– David Lambert Lack

Methods Selection

Choice of methods for either data collection and/or analysis reflects the context of the researcher and impact significantly the intellectual merit and framework of the nanotechnology research. “The methods selected for investigating phenomena depend on the questions one asks and the kinds of knowledge one seeks, both of which may reflect the social interests of the investigator” (Anderson 2009). Also, certain methods may not be as applicable in a given situation as others. Comprehensive assessment of methods selection should be clearly stated and justified in the research proposal, included an analysis of possible methods biases.

Classifications and Ontologies

The classification of an observation or phenomena, particularly when the classification strategy is being developed, the adequacy of certain definitions, the granularity of classifications, etc., can have significant impacts in later developments, lead to certain oversights, and even lead to misleading conclusions.