6. Methods and Methodologies

STEPS Learning > Course: Pathways to Sustainability > Methods and Methodologies

So far we’ve explored the conceptual foundations of the Pathways Approach, and seen some of its applications. In this section, we introduce the kinds of methods and methodological approaches that you might use to put the Pathways Approach into operation in your own research and policy analysis.

The Pathways Methods portal

This module should be used alongside the STEPS Centre’s “Pathways Methods” portal, which participants are encouraged to visit and explore.

Visit the Methods portal

Here you will find a range of ‘methods vignettes’ (examples of methods) and case studies that show how STEPS researchers have used the Pathways Approach in empirical research and policy analysis.

Learning outcomes

At the end of this module, a successful participant should be able to:

  1. Define the key methodological considerations for operationalizing the Pathways Approach in applied research and policy analysis.
  2. Give examples of methods that have been successfully used in practice for Pathways based research and policy analysis.
  3. Independently select and adapt existing methods in order to conduct Pathways based research and policy analysis.

In this section

6.1: Methods and methodologies

6.2: Case study: Maize innovation in Kenya


6.1: Methods and methodologies

Essential reading

Questions to guide reading

  1. What do the authors mean by “social appraisal”?
  2. How is this different from a social object of appraisal?
  3. What two conditions do the authors argue condition processes of social appraisal?
  4. The authors distinguish between analytic and normative aspects of their argument. Can you identify these different aspects of their argument within the paper? How does they translate into their discussion of appraisal designs?
  5. How do the component parts of the authors’ arguments link back to the concepts and perspectives you have engaged with on this course?
  6. How are these conceptual considerations addressed in the authors’ discussion of social appraisal designs?

Lecture: Prof Andy Stirling, Methods and methodologies

Additional reading

Assessment activity 1

The Pathways Approach places analytical emphasis on narratives and framings. Using the STEPS Pathways Methods portal, can you identify a method or methods that would assist in this?

For each method you identify, consider the following questions:

  1. What are the kinds of contexts in which this method might be applied?
  2. How would you go about collecting data?
  3. How would you analyse this data?
  4. Based on the different considerations set out in the STEPS methods portal, discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your chosen method in relation to the following methodological considerations: a) Appreciating different pathways; b) Analysing wider context in governance, politics and institutions; c) Attending to issues of power, uncertainty and plurality.
  5. How would you deal with the need to recognise and reflect on the influence of your own values, beliefs, narratives and framings that you bring to the analysis as a researcher or policy analyst? How helpful is the method in assisting you with this reflexive process?
  6. Are there any other methodological considerations you can identify in relation to your chosen method?

NOTE: This task can be repeated in relation to other methods on the STEPS Methods Portal, or other methods selected by you or your instructor.

Alternative (or additional) assessment activity

Based on your own research interests, develop an outline research proposal. This can either reflect research or policy analysis that you are actually intending to do, or it could be used as a hypothetical activity.

Within your research proposal, try to articulate the following:

  1. What is your overarching research question or hypothesis?
  2. What sub-questions might you need to answer in order to answer your overarching question?
  3. Using the STEPS Pathways Methods portal, can you identify an appropriate method or methods that can assist you in constructing your overall methodological approach?
  4. Set out your overarching methodology, including details of the component method/s you have selected and why they are appropriate. Where possible, try to link these back to the sub-questions you articulated in answer to question 2 above.
  5. Finally, discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your methodology and component methods, including attention to their strengths and weaknesses in relation to the following methodological considerations (see STEPS Methods portal for more detail on these considerations): a) Appreciating different pathways; b) Analysing wider context in governance, politics and institutions; c) Attending to issues of power, uncertainty and plurality.

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6.2: Case study: Maize innovation in Kenya

Essential reading

Seven briefings on the STEPS Centre’s project on maize, related to methodologies:

1: Environmental Change and Maize Innovation Pathways in Kenya: Seeking Resilience through Diversity

2: The STEPS Pathways Approach

3: MCM (Multi-Criteria Mapping) Maize Project Method

4: Maize Security does not equal Food Security? Breaking the ‘Lock in’ to the Dominant Maize Pathway

5: Orphans or Siblings? Opportunities and Constraints in Alternative Dryland Staple Crops

6: Living in Parallel Worlds? Bridging Formal and Informal Seed Systems

7: Getting the Value Without the High Risk? The Rise of Horticulture in Sakai

Authors: Thompson, J., Brooks, S., Odame, H., Millstone, E., Nderitu, S., Karin, F., Morgan, M. and Adwera, A. (2010) Brighton: STEPS Centre.

Questions to guide reading

  1. What were the key quantitative and qualitative methods used in the two main phases of research and how were they linked together in the study?
  2. How was multicriteria mapping used to analyse the pathways in and out of maize and what points of convergence and divergence did it reveal between the assessments of the key informants?

Lecture: Dr John Thompson, Methods case study: Maize innovation in Kenya

Additional viewing

Two videos related to the maize project:

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