Case of Participatory Development in Morocco
When Afsaneh Haddadian, a PhD student at the Jackson School of International Studies at UW, went to Morocco to study Participatory Democracy, she engaged a grounded theory approach.
The research, she said, was “inductive, but not blind theorizing.” Haddadian relied on the work of scholars on deliberative and participatory democracy and participatory budgeting.
Organizing data – employing a system
[pullquote]There must be a system, you need to approach your data in a systematic way.[/pullquote]Given the inductive approach, Haddadian kept her research questions fairly broad and open-ended. She set off to interview a myriad of stakeholders: intermediary NGOs (development professionals), local elected officials, central state representatives, neighborhood associations, and citizens.
“A lot of data gets thrown at you and you have to be ready to organize them while you are in the field,” Haddadian warned her fellow graduate students at the QUAL seminar. “There must be a system, you need to approach your data in a systematic way.”
Tips for planning and staying organized in the field
Haddadian shared some concrete tips for practical considerations in the field – from her own experience and from Professor Sara Curran’s Qualitative Data Analysis class:
- Build transportation time into your interview schedule;
- Plan for recording interviews, but prepare to take notes as well – some people will not be comfortable with recording;
- A priori reflection – before each interview, take a moment to write down notes about what you expect to learn – this is good for generating “a-ha” moments.
- Track your interviews in a table – source’s name, role/title, date of the interview, location, and other relevant details;
- Code your data – this can be done in a table format as well; Haddadian offered her own example of a three-column table featuring a “thick description” of a segment of interview, immediate reflections (initial coding), and interpretation/analysis notes column (focused coding).
- Code memos – notes that clarify and elaborate on the data coding;
- Theoretical memos – theorizing notes about the codes and their relationships;
- Operational/procedural memos – such as researcher self-reflection or plans for how to conduct the field work itself.
To avoid bias, Haddadian recommended triangulating data with as many varied sources as possible and emphasized writing self-reflection memos to capture a researcher’s own biases and reactions to people and circumstances in the field and to data collected.
Haddadian is still in the midst of analyzing her data. The field work and research design were not a linear process in her experience and she found herself with a shifting research question once she was in Morocco. In her interviews with women leaders, she uncovered an interest in the role of gender for participatory development in Morocco.
Since her return from field work, Haddadian is planning on incorporating a few new tools in her dissertation writing process. She wants to include vignettes, biographical illustrations of people she interviewed in the field, that can help explain the phenomenon she is studying through a key stakeholder’s experience. Haddadian is also hoping to use qualitative data analysis (QDA) software to more easily draw connections between codes and search her data across categories and interviews.