Tool name * Methods for Governance analysis

The methods outlined here can be used to collect information under the main headings of the governance analysis framework, particularly the cross-cutting themes and sub-themes identified in the case study. The first two methods can be used in the beginning of the research to gain an overall understanding of the context and key issues, followed by semi-structured interviews and questionnaires to gain a deeper understanding of the perspectives of individual stakeholders, and stakeholder workshops can be organised at a later stage of the research to collect new information and verify research findings.

The selection of methods to apply in a particular case study will depend on the context, research questions as well as the amount of research effort available. However, the selected methods should be applied to collect information relevant to the cross-cutting research themes and sub-themes identified to be relevant in a particular case study.

1) Document analysis: going through reports, meeting minutes, policy documents, newspapers etc. to collect information relevant to the research themes.

2) Participant or non-participant observation: observing an event or process (meetings, workshops, consultation process etc.), to collect information relevant to incentives and cross-cutting themes and sub-themes identified. The researcher can both participate in the event or process, or attend the event or process purely as an observer. To make the best use of participant or non-participant observation, the researcher often prepares a list of topics and questions relevant to the research themes, which will guide the collection of information during the event/process. The information collected can be recorded in field notes or in a research diary (containing information collected as well as the researcher’s synthesis and reflections).

3) Semi-structured interviews: semi-structured interviews are one of the most common methods used in governance studies. Semi-structured interviews are based on the use of an interview guide, which comprises of a list of questions and topics to be discussed during the interviews. For governance research using the governance analysis framework in appendix 1, the interview guide can comprise of the cross-cutting themes and sub-themes identified to be relevant in the case study. However, the questions raised by the researcher during the interview process are not restricted to a set of predetermined questions. If there are relevant issues and topics that emerge from the actual interview process, the researcher can explore these issues and topics with the interviewee. In conducting semi-structured interviews, the interviewer intervenes when the conversation moves too far from the research themes. Wherever possible and with the consent of the interviewee, the interviews are taped for further analysis. After the interview, the researcher prepares an interview report which records key information collected, organised and structured in accordance with the research themes.  Below is a list of common advice that applies to semi-structured interviews:

Find suitable gatekeepers (who are trusted by the people you want to interview and can introduce you to potential interviewees)
Prepare a short self-introduction (about the researcher, the purpose of the research and why you want to talk to the interviewee)
If possible, introduce yourself as an independent researcher when conducting this governance research

  • Start interviews with little information in the beginning, let people talk about their stories. After 5-10 minutes or towards the end of the interview, you can ask more challenging questions
  • Conclude interviews with questions looking into future prospects
  • Length of interviews: varies but usually keep within 2 hours

It will be preferred to have one researcher dedicated to both conducting and analysing the interviews; but for difficult interviews (e.g. with multiple interviewees), it may be better to have two researchers
How to conduct interviews is always a learning-by-doing process, therefore it will be better to start with the interviewees who you can go back to (allowing for mistakes)

4) Structured questionnaires: this can be done in person, by mail/phone etc.

5) Stakeholder workshops: workshops for stakeholder representatives to discuss and debate key issues relating to the cross-cutting themes and sub-themes identified. Stakeholder workshops are usually mediated by a facilitator. It is an opportunity to observe the interactions between individuals representing different stakeholder groups to gain an understanding of the similarities and differences between the perspectives of different stakeholder groups.

In applying these methods in social science research, there are some common issues that the researcher should be aware of and address properly during the research process:

Confidentiality and privacy: the results of a social science research may sometimes have practical consequences for the informants involved (eg information collected from fishermen may be used to regulate fisheries). Therefore when necessary, caution should be taken to protect the identities and interests of the informants. A common practice is to give assurances of anonymity to the informants. Furthermore, the informants’ personal data (eg name, user group, place of residence) can be coded so that any records of the interview conducted (eg interview reports) cannot be used to trace the identities of the informants.

Informed consent: the principle of informed consent requires that the researchers fully inform the informants regarding the intent, scope, and possible effects of the study as they seek to obtain their consent to participate in it. Informants should also be given information on the measures to be taken to protect their identities and interests.

Positionality: while recognising that there is no ‘value-free’ social research, efforts should be taken to remain as neutral as possible when applying the research methods (particularly semi-structured interviews and stakeholder workshops). Even if the researcher’s professional association may places him/her in a certain position (eg conservationists), it is useful to state to the informants that during this particular governance research, it is all about listening to the informants’ stories and perspectives. Every effort should be taken to avoid imposing the researcher’s own perspectives on the informants.


Category All, Governance
What step(s) in analysis framework
What step(s) in Governance framework 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
inputs n.a.
Data Quality Required n.a.
Modification Required n.a.
Expertise Required n.a.
Spatial and Temporal n.a.
Outputs n.a.
License cost issues n.a.


Literature: References & Manuals *



More detailed information on common methods used in social science research can be found in Bernard (2006)[1], Hay (2005)[2], McGoodwin (2001)[3], and Valentine (2005)[4].


[1] Bernard HR (2006) Research methods in anthropology: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. United States: Altamira Press


[2] Hay I (2005) Qualitative Research Methods in Human Geography. Australia: Oxford University Press.


[3] McGoodwin JR (2001) Understanding the Cultures of Fishing Communities: A  Key to Fisheries Management and Food Security. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper 401.


[4] Valentine G (2005) Tell me about…: Using interviews as a research methodology. Pages 110-127 in Flowerdew R and Martin D (eds.) Methods in Human Geography: a guide for students doing a research project. Harlow, UK: Pearson.