In other words, you don't start out deciding to do a survey, then looking for appropriate research questions to ask and attendant philosophies and theories. For a simple breakdown of how philosophy of knowledge, theory of knowledge, and research style combine to produce research programs, see our 2010 article "Thinking about Knowing"- this could help you write the dreaded "philosophy and theory" sections of a master's thesis, for example.
Another useful resource is this overview of qualitative research in conservation by Moon et al. 2016, including a helpful list of questions in Table 5 that will help you avoid many common pitfalls.
2. What are the research questions you want to answer?
It is essential that you have a manageable number (i.e., not more than three) clearly articulated research questions that guide all further research design. Coming up with a good research question is an art in itself (take a look at The Craft of Research for a whole chapter on how to do this).
In short, my view is that a good research question is grounded in a real-world problem, linked to other research and/or theory in the field, specific enough to be answerable with the resources you have available, and something you are passionate about answering.
3. Are surveys the appropriate method to answer your research questions?
Be sure to consider alternatives and convince yourself that surveys are a good way forward, that will help you answer your research question. If you can directly observe behavior or use existing data to answer your question, that will be easier than designing and carrying out a good survey. On the other hand, if you need to know how people think (attitudes) or feel (values) about something, then you need a survey to ask them directly to find out.
4. Who is your target population, and how will you sample from them?
Consider that your sampling design will affect the validity and generalizability of your conclusions (i.e., if you want to do inferential statistical analysis to draw conclusions about significance, you need a random sample that is large enough to be representative). William Trochin has a good, concise overview of sampling and social research design issues on his Research Methods Knowledge Base.
Issues to consider here include how you identify the target population (what characteristics must they have?), and how you identify them (what criteria will you use to include or exclude participants, and how many do you seek?). Write down all your criteria in your Methods section under Sample Selection.
5. How will you design your survey?
Here's a really nice, simple, clear overview of best practices for survey research design by Kelley et al. 2003. This is a great place to start.
Good tips on survey design, question construction, and administration in a book chapter from "Investigating the Social World" by Russell Schutt.
6. How will you analyze survey data?
The simplest way is using descriptive statistics- e.g., graphing the distribution of the results in a histogram.
A more complex way is inferential statistics- using statistical tests to draw conclusion about the likelihood of observations being due to chance, attributing numerical confidence to the results. This is a big topic; to get started, check out this guide from The University of Reading Statistical Service Centre on the analysis of survey data.
For descriptive data (verbal or written textual responses to open questions), the aim is not to condense them into a number, but to use them to represent and explore different views. Here the process of coding can be helped with qualitative analysis software like NVivo or Atlas.ti. You will chose (and should state in your Methods) whether you are using inductive coding (themes emerge from the data) or deductive (trying to match responses to categories from previous literature or theory), or a combination.
Whatever analysis approach you take, describe it clearly in your Methods, and explain why you chose it.
7. Research Ethics
Conducting research with human subjects requires the researcher to take responsibility for considering and minimizing the risks presented to participants, and make sure that clear, prior, informed consent is obtained from your participants (this means your participants understand that their participation in the study is voluntary, they understand any risks that may be presented, and they know that they can end their participation at any time of their choice without penalty). You need to think about how you will protect the privacy of your participants and how to handle their data fairly and with what degree of anonymity. It is good practice to obtain written, signed informed consent before enrolling a participant (this might be ticking a box on the front page of an online survey, or initialing and signing a separate consent form including a copy for them for in-person interviews).
Be aware that you are responsible for following ethical guidelines in the country where you conduct your research. In the US and Canada among other countries, completion of a formal course in research ethics and approval of a human subjects protocol is often required before conducting survey research.
Here is the human subjects protocol I submitted to Stanford University for my PhD research in 2006- there are lots of helpful questions here to consider. And here is the consent form I used with my study participants. Feel free to use these as templates for your own research. Answers to the protocol questions can go in the Methods section of your thesis, and the consent form can be modified and used with your study participants.
In Sweden, research should follow the Swedish Research Council Vetenskapsrådet's guide to Good Research Practice, with many useful areas to consider. Research conducted for a master's thesis generally does not require a formal application to the regional review board (meets monthly, costs 5000-16000 SEK to review applications, which must be in Swedish). Here is the Swedish law regarding research ethics, for research conducted in Sweden, that presents a sufficient risk or sensitive data.
However, researchers still have a responsibility to follow good practices. Please be aware that you may be required to demonstrate good practices were followed and informed consent was obtained in order to publish your research results in a peer-reviewed journal. See below for two examples of text published in peer-reviewed articles describing how informed consent was obtained in Sweden.
Text about informed consent: "Although the study scope exempted it from Swedish requirements for formal ethical review by an institutional review board, all procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution, and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Prior, written informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study (See consent form in S1).”
--Source: Wynes and Nicholas, in second review Feb 2019, PLOS ONE
"According to the Swedish regulations for conducting research on humans, there was no need to seek ethical clearance for this study. All participation was voluntary after informed consent, and the participants could withdraw from the study at any time. In order to protect the participants’ identity, revealing information has been removed from the results such as specific faculty, discipline, gender, ethnicity, and age. Furthermore, before data was analysed, all participants were invited to confirm their own interview transcripts and remove quotations that they did not want to share with others."
--Source: Brodin & Avery, in press
I hope these tips are helpful- happy research!
Hooray, at least one editor and one or more experts in the field have given their valuable time and attention to read and comment on your hard work, and you have a long-awaited response from the journal!
Here are some tips to help you navigate this process:
I hope that's helpful to get started!
For more in depth tips, I suggest the excellent article "How to reply to referees' comments when submitting manuscripts for publication." Peer review would go so much more quickly and smoothly if everyone followed Hywel Williams' three Golden Rules: Answer completely, answer politely, answer with evidence. See also his phrasings for suggested responses to reviewers, and tips for how to deal with common scenarios like reviewers who disagree, or who are rude.
Another good source is "10 simple rules for writing a response to reviewers," by William Stafford Noble in PLOS.
Last October, I gave a Sunday morning talk to a group of early-career researchers attending the Earth Systems Governance conference. It was a day-long program on "Developing a career in earth system governance: opening up science." I enjoyed the chance to gather my thoughts and pass along some good advice I've been given (and some earned through experience!).
Thanks very much to Ina Möller, who made a podcast from our conversation. You can have a listen here.
Here's a condensed list and links to resources I've found helpful. Hope they're useful to others!
Here’s a short summary I co-wrote with Céline Fernandez compiling the highlights of our November meeting for the LuPOD professional development program.
Tools for digital learning:
Best practices for films for educational purposes:
Issue regarding available learning material online: often no quality control. Therefore, make sure to review material before assigning, point out to students to be critical when using information online, and consider making your own material.
References and further reading:
Science should be open. Duh.
Easier said than done.
There are many reasons why this fails.
Personally, I think mostly it's well-intentioned, busy people who don't follow best practices from the beginning, then don't want to spend the time cleaning up their Rube Goldberg-esque Excel sheets later.
I've definitely been there. But I'm trying to get better, and trying to help those in my lab establish good habits.
For my last lab meeting, we discussed best practices in open data, based on this paper by my friend and colleague Lizzie Wolkovich.
Everyone in my lab is now working on curating our own data for a current project, including making a diagram of our workflow, and organizing our data cleanly, with good meta-data.
This is a work in progress, but here are a few resources I've found helpful:
1. Lizzie's paper, "Advances in global change research require open science by individual researchers," gives a great motivation for why open data matters, what stands in its way, and how to design research to be open.
2. Ten simple tips for how to design a clean spreadsheet, by @robinhouston and @SeanClarke (hint: commas, asterisks, and color-coding don't belong).
3. Thirteen more elaborate but still simple and important tips for effective data management (what you wish you knew at the beginning of your research career, instead of learning the hard way, like always using full, consistent format for dates).
4. Lizzie's "Ze Template" for organizing project meta-data (what the study is about, what files it involves, where they're located), under Creative Commons license. Yay open science, and yay Lizzie!
We're going to keep talking about this in my lab, including issues with open data in qualitative research (confidentiality, subjectivity of observations)- if you have any references on this, please let me know!
This week was the first teaching retreat for teachers in USV, Lund University's division for faculty-free centers ranging from the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies to my own department of LUCSUS, the centre for sustainability studies. About 25 teachers stayed at a former church in the town of Höör, 25 minutes by train from Lund.
Over two days, we learned new tools and approaches for teaching, and had time to share our ideas and learn from each other. Some of the main tools I learned about:
Note: This blog post now appears on the Road to Paris platform.
Johan Rockström of the Stockhölm Resilience Centre noted that the current text “still has the possibility of transformational change,” with the number one goal to limit warming as far below 2° as possible.
Taking as a given the increasing risks posed by increasing temperatures caused by continued emissions, the panel focused on how to achieve the targets currently under discussion, linking it to language in the text that would make the goal consistent with science.
Prof. Hans Schellnhuber of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research confirmed the benchmark that, for a decent chance of meeting a temperature target, the world has to get CO2 out of the system by 2050 for the 1.5 degree target, and by 2070 for 2 degrees. He stated this would require 2% reductions every year to decrease linearly to zero, further noting this was technically possible, and that Germany has been pursuing this goal faster than expected.
The current text calls for "GHG neutrality in second half of the century," which leaves the door open to the necessary zero carbon emissions, but does not ensure it.
Several panelists raised concerns about the current “greenhouse gas neutrality” language. Prof. Kevin Anderson of the University of Manchester said the language of neutrality masks the need for “negative emissions,” removal of carbon from the atmosphere using largely unproven means.
Schellnhuber echoed the concern that negative emissions were a “gamble,” further stating that every country has to go for complete decarbonization by 2050 to meet the 1.5 degree target.
Rockström agreed, stating that "decarbonization" was a better long-term qualitative goal than greenhouse gas neutrality. He further warned the audience that staying under 2 degrees is also about keeping carbon in rainforests and other ecosystems, a service that becomes riskier at higher temperatures due to feedbacks between the land and atmosphere.
For any chance of 1.5°, Rockstrom continued that the richest nations (such as the EU, US, Australia, and other OECD countries) need to lead the charge to zero fossil fuel use at 2030, in order to leave some space in the carbon budget for developing countries to transition slightly more slowly to decarbonization. He noted that this is a very ambitious target, which the current climate pledges, or intended nationally determined contributions, do not yet meet.
Kevin Anderson stressed the critical nature of aligning national pledges with the agreed target over time through a robust, regular review process going forward, which Rockstrom suggested could occur every 2-3 years, as part of regular Conference of the Party meetings.
Joeri Rogelj of IIASA noted that scenarios consistent with the 1.5 target are expected to achieve global peak emissions by 2020. Noting this date leaves no time to waste, Rogelj said, “We must start rapid emission reductions, and not count on carbon capture and storage later.”
As everyone at Le Bourget anxiously awaits the next round of text, Prof. Schellnhuber cited his long experience with the climate negotiations process, saying that the second to last text that we now have available was “always stronger” than the final text, as parties had to compromise to reach agreement. He called the current text “extremely progressive, believe it or not,” though he warned that even the current softer goal of “greenhouse gas neutrality after mid-century” could disappear in the final wranglings over the next few hours.
Looking ahead, journalist Mark Hertsgaard asked “What has to happen in the next 18 months, not just the next 18 hours, from all governments to be realistic about 1.5?”
Kevin Anderson cited a role for individuals, noting a new report showing that 50% of global CO2 emissions come from just 10% of the population. He said this means that energy demand (reducing high-CO2 activities like flying) needs to be reduced by high emitters, including “most of us in this room.”
Schellnhuber said that the Paris Agreement will send a message to civil society- and it will be the work of business, cities, investors, and all of us to finish the job. He concluded that COP21 has to make the 1.5 to 2 degree target consistent with long-term actions, and “if they do their job, we'll be fine."
The new text of the Draft Paris Agreement dropped at 21h on Thursday at the UN climate summit. From the word cloud above, you can see that it's an agreement that shall develop into a party. And where nations should take action to meet, adapt, build, support, and implement!
There was a frantic rush for printers and the document center as delegates, observers and press scurried to take in the new document, which COP President Laurent Fabius said was the second to last text, aiming to finalize tomorrow into the "universal, legally binding, ambitious, fair, lasting agreement that the world's waiting for. I think we'll make it."
Analysis by my friends at parisagreement.org (below) shows that we're down to just 48 brackets, or points of contention. The Parties are now hashing these out in a closed-door "solutions indaba", to the disappointment of keen observers.
While we wait to see what will emerge in the morning, you can see a helpful ongoing analysis of the text evolution (what's in, what's out) at the Deconstructing Paris blog, and catch up on who's said what at the negotiations (that were open to observers) with accuracy, insight, and funny GIFs at the Google doc run by COP21 heroes @LaingHamish and @ryanmearns. For the full GIF-based reaction to COP21, try Leehi's ParIsThisIt?
Draft Paris Agreement Word Cloud by Kimberly Nicholas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Our new study shows trouble ahead for feeding the world under a warmer climate, with yields for staple grains declining more sharply with greater warming if high emissions of greenhouse gases continue.
If emissions are reduced to the level represented by the current climate pledges at the start of the Paris summit (where carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere stabilize around 550ppm), yields of corn in Iowa are projected to be similar to today (or even experience a slight increase of 6%). However, continued high emissions leading to greater warming would be expected to produce a 21% decline in yields.
The news is worse for wheat yields in southeast Australia. This region already struggles with drought in a crop system that relies on rainfall, and climate models consistently project the area will get warmer and drier in the future. This combination spells potential yield declines of 50% under lower warming, and 70% under greater warming: extremely challenging conditions for continued wheat production in the region.
Average projected changes for temperature, precipitation, and yields for wheat in Southeastern Australia and maize (corn) in Iowa under two scenarios of greenhouse gas emissions. Under the lower scenario, maize yields in Iowa increase 6%, while they decline 21% under higher emissions. Wheat yields in Southeast Australia are projected to decrease 50% under lower warming, and 70% under higher warming, exacerbated by drier conditions in the future. Projections are for the end of the century (2070-2100) compared with a historical baseline (1951-1980). An interactive version of this figure, with results for each climate model and scenario, is available here. Figure by Martin Jung using data from Ummenhofer et al. 2015.
The study, published in the Journal of Climate, found that yields of staple cereal were very sensitive to changes in climate. In particular, we found that, on average, each increase of 1°C (1.8°F) in temperature resulted in a yield decrease of 10% for corn in Iowa, and 15% for wheat in Southeastern Australia. This means that limiting warming through reduced heat-trapping pollutants is important to maintain the productivity of today’s breadbaskets.
Both crops were also highly influenced by rainfall. Each decrease in precipitation of 10mm (0.39 inches) resulted in a yield decrease of 12% for Iowan corn and 9% for Australian wheat. Australia is predicted to experience substantially drier conditions in the future, which contributes to the large yield declines projected.
In addition to average yields, we examined the conditions that produced extremely high and extremely low yields in the past, since weathering these extremes are important for farmers to maintain viability.
Our analysis showed that, in the past, high yields of corn in Iowa tended to happen in particularly rainy years, with dry years spelling trouble for corn yields. Fortunately for Iowa, the changes projected for rainfall in the future are relatively small, with little difference between the higher and lower greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. However, the six computer models we used to simulate future climate make different projections, with half predicting a slight increase in rainfall (and therefore an increase in future good yields), while others predict somewhat less rain (and more tough years for corn).
High yields of wheat in southeast Australia were also associated with wetter years in the past. Such years are consistently predicted to become less common in the future: all climate models and emissions scenarios agree in predicting a major increase in extremely bad years, where more than two-thirds of years will have yields 20% or more below today’s average.
The implications of this work are that increasing temperatures and rainfall variability from greater greenhouse gas emissions pose increasing challenges for agriculture. Research led by our colleague David Lobell has shown that this trend is already evident today: there has been a yield decline for cereal crops since the 1980s of 10% for every 1°C (1.8°F) warming. Many recent studies confirm the potential for yield declines for staple cereal crops under greater warming, especially for wheat.
Different regions around the world are poised to experience climate change differently, and the risks depend on both the climate change experienced, and the human systems on the ground there. In the case of Iowan corn, the combination of the farming system and the climate poses less of a risk than wheat production in Australia, which is closer to its limits of viability today. Farmers can prepare for changes already underway, with more projected for the future, but the larger the changes experienced, the more difficult they will be to manage. This reinforces the climate change adage to “manage what we can’t avoid and avoid what we can’t manage” by reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases.
The research was conducted by an international team led by Dr. Caroline Ummenhofer of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts, USA. We studied historical yield and climate records to understand the effects of climate on crop yields in the past, and then projected how this is likely to change in the future. To do so, we used the latest climate models (six simulations developed by groups in France, Japan, the US, and Australia) and scenarios of future greenhouse gas emissions (a business-as-usual scenario of continuing high emissions of greenhouse gases, known as RCP 8.5, and a moderate stabilization scenario called RCP 4.5, which would involve emissions stabilizing at around 5 gigatons of carbon per year by the end of the century, compared with current emissions around 9 gigatons).
I'm excited and honored to be attending the climate summit in Paris as an accredited observer from Lund University. This is where nearly 200 countries will come together and aim to reach an agreement about how to change the path we're now on (a business-as-usual world headed for +4-5°C) to a more sustainable world that avoids the worst impacts of climate change.
This will be my first time attending the United Nations climate negotiations, and I am looking forward to learning more about the process and how to make my research more relevant to policy, as well as to serve as an advisor to the Youth in Landscapes initiative at the Global Landscapes Forum, and take part in the Anthronaut Experience- a virtual reality hackathon with scientists, artists, designers, and virtual reality experts to make climate science narratives a 3D experience.
As I'm busy packing my bags, I'm gathering reading material for the 16-hour train ride to Paris. Here's what I'll be reading up on:
Preparing for attending the meeting:
Keeping up with the negotiations in real time: