• methodological pluralism, beyond any single discipline
  • episemological agility
  • Action-oriented + reflexive learning
  • knowledge co-production
    • the ‘collaborative process of bringing a plurality of knowledge sources and types together to address a defined problem and build an integrated or systems-oriented understanding of that problem’ (Armitage et al. 2011)
  • transdisciplinarity required to apply research to policy and practice
    • diverse teams as a way to integrate “multiple ways of knowing” (ways of looking)
  • Earth System Science

Research Methods

System Scoping

  • descriptive and exploratory
  • can be the precursor to many other analyses
    • can help identify what data to collect and actors to engage

Surveys and Interviews

  • descriptive, exploratory and explanatory
  • foundational to other methods
  • often used at the local level in place-based studies, but are applicable across a variety of scales.

Facilitated Dialogue

  • exploratory and explanatory
  • connection with action-oriented research
  • often make use of visioning or imagining the future to liberate participants to transcend the constraints of the present and so explore potential pathways to a better outcome.

Action Research

  • exploratory and explanatory
  • participatory and designed for action, but steeped in complexity
    • emergent and evolving quality

      there is no insistence in action research on an initial research hypothesis against which to gain evidence, nor a requirement that methods are defined in their entirety at the beginning. Allowance is made for surprise and shifts in focus through following and illuminating the detailed pathways of what happened and how.

    • includes “subjective evidence”

Behavioral Experiments

Network Analysis

  • descriptive, exploratory and explanatory
  • relies on other data collection methods (surveys, interviews, participatory data collection)
  • rigorous, systematic approach to studying how relationships and their structuring influence social-ecological systems (SES)
  • provides insight to understand systems
  • embraces the importance of relationships

decision analysis based on optimization

  • descriptive, exploratory, explanatory and prescriptive
  • a systematic approach to evaluating information about alternative choices, when multiple options are possible, with many possible outcomes and different trade-offs.

Decision analysis methods in SES typically use models to predict how various choices made by actors affect the evolution of the SES and how the system in turn affects the individual or collective objective.

Summary Tables


Book - The Routledge Handbook of Research Methods for Social-Ecological Systems