Assessing Methodological Choices And Ethical Concerns Sociology Essay

Throughout the old ages of 2003 and 2004, an extended research on the worlds of child military personnel in Sierra Leone was conducted. Myriam Denov was the chief research worker of a research squad that congregated local research workers, working at the Sierra Leone unit of Defence for Children International ( DCI-SL ) , every bit good as Richard Maclure, who, like Denov, is a research worker from the University of Ottawa. Since the undertaking was concluded, Denov and Maclure have published several texts in academic periodicals and books, researching outstanding subjects that were portion of their survey on kids ‘s engagement in armed struggle in Sierra Leone.[ 1 ]For the intent of this essay, Denov and Maclure ‘s article “ Turns and epiphanies: mobilization, life histories and the devising and unmaking of two kid soldiers in Sierra Leone ”[ 2 ]will be examined and analyzed in item, given that this is the text where the methodological picks they made are more expressed ; however, proficient information of their undertaking collected from the concluding research study presented to the support bureau will besides be considered.[ 3 ]

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Interpretation, the act of interpretation and doing sense out of something, creates the status to apprehension, which involves being able to hold on the significances of an taken experience for another person.[ 4 ]

Child military personnel is a really complex phenomenon, normally described in simplistic footings by the media and besides by the international assistance community. The research workers challenged the most common positions, such as the 1s that merely take into account psychological factors and perpetuate the image of child soldiers as cruel and hateful psychopaths ; or the 1s that overlook the bureau of the kids and stress the manipulative power of warlords. To avoid such reductionisms, Denov and Maclure opted for a life-history attack ; presuming that this biographical method would enable them to understand the blunt passages that child soldiers experience in the procedures of mobilization and, subsequently, demobilisation.[ 5 ]Supported by a theoretical model that included the constructs of “ turning ” and “ single version ” , developed by David Mandelbaum, and “ epiphany ” , as it was defined by Denzin, Denov and Maclure sought to clarify single experiences that could be translated into corporate and societal footings.

It is the purpose of the present survey to analyze in deepness the methodological array employed by Denov and Maclure in their work on child military personnel in Sierra Leone and history for its strengths and failings, bearing in head the aims it wanted to accomplish and the existent consequences it has accomplished. Sing that their research dealt with really sensitive issues and included the engagement of kids[ 6 ], ethical issues must besides be contemplated.

2. Theoretical model

2.1 Life-history attack

In the past few decennaries, developments in the field of biographical methods have been particularly fecund and some writers even recognize the happening of a narrative bend[ 7 ]in the academe, given the current great involvement in life as a method of research. In consequence, biographical methods are now widely employed in the Fieldss of history, anthropology and folklore, psychological science, sociolinguistics and sociology. As it normally happens when some technique becomes progressively popular in academic circles, the preference for these methods led to an abundant literature concerned with theoretical and proficient inquiries on biographical methods. Under the labels of narrative, life history, life narrative, storytelling, unwritten history and autobiography, a theoretical confusion emerged. Susan Chase was able to form some of the chief conceptual differences when she wrote that:

Life history is the more specific term that research workers use to depict an extended autobiographical narration, in either unwritten or written signifier, that covers all or most of a life. But life history can besides mention to a societal scientific discipline text that presents a individual ‘s life. In that instance, life narrative may be used to depict the autobiographical narrative in the individual ‘s ain words. Yet some research workers treat the footings life history and life narrative as interchangeable, specifying both as birth-to-present narrations.[ 8 ]

Probably cognizant of the methodological contentions related to the term life-history, Denov and Maclure did non advert it in their article. In “ Turns and epiphanies ” , the writers merely use the term life-history, ne’er life-story, but do non explicate their pick. Even though the limited length of the article format can be a restrictive factor, the methodological picks Denov and Maclure made are cardinal to the research undertaking and, therefore, locating the life-history method within the argument of biographical methods would merely hold enriched their work.

When depicting the methods they used, Denov and Maclure explained that, in order to derive the first-hand history that characterizes biographical attacks, semi-structured, one-to-one interviews were conducted by Denov and Sierra Leonean research spouses from DCI-SL. One of the most often used qualitative methods, the semi-structured interview can be seen as a via media between the structured and unstructured attacks.[ 9 ]It normally comprises a pre-defined set of subjects and inquiries that the research worker considers relevant to the development of the undertaking ; at the same clip, it allows new inquiries and subjects to come up during the existent interview. When compared to a structured interview or other comparatively straightforward methods, such as studies and questionnaires, the semi-structured interview is advantageous in the sense that it is more flexible and it allows the interpersonal interaction to play a more important portion in the research. On the other manus, a more sophisticated preparation is necessary to transport out semi-structured interviews, seeing that the interviewer has to be truly careful non to be directing and act upon the replies of the interviewee.

The interviews for Denov and Maclure ‘s research were conducted in Krio, Sierra Leone ‘s tongue franca. As biographical interviews normally are, they were all recorded ; later they were besides translated and transcribed into English. In the hunt for an in-depth reading of the stuff, the word-for-word written text is really of import for the research worker. Denov and Maclure stated that they were looking for “ non merely a ‘thick description ‘ of their [ the former kid soldiers ] experiences during and following armed struggle, but besides their contemplations and readings of these experiences ” .[ 10 ]Therefore, the research workers transporting out interviews were trained to move in a manner that was supposed to promote the kids to depict, reflect and besides construe their ain experience.

Overall, the biographical attack seems really suited for this undertaking, seeing that displacements in kids ‘s individualities were a cardinal object to the survey. As some writers have noted, biographical methods are rather appropriate when covering with reflexiveness, individuality and individuality in societal scientific disciplines[ 11 ]. Based on the premise that “ concrete capable unrecorded lives with significance and these significances have a concrete presence in the lives of these people ” , biographical methods are designed to enable research workers to “ bring out how these topics give subjective significance to their life experiences ”[ 12 ]. Since it focuses in the person ‘s subjectiveness, the life-history attack is peculiarly used in surveies centered on individuality inquiries.

An extra strength of biographical methods is that they have besides been really utile in authorising voices that, until late, were left unheard. Admiting that an person ‘s history can try to explicate the changing nature and continuity of societal dealingss and societal constructions[ 13 ]is a silent acknowledgment of that individual ‘s significance. Therefore, women’s rightists have been using biographical methods to turn to gender issues and do certain that adult females ‘s positions are considered.[ 14 ]Furthermore, autochthonal people ‘s motions have besides benefited from biographical methods and managed to oppugn amalgamate readings of history and draw attending to cultural concerns that had been historically left in the background.[ 15 ]

Denov and Maclure ‘s position on kids is besides an authorising 1. When they opted for questioning male childs and misss, they went against the premise that participant observation and descriptive anthropology are the best methods to analyze kids[ 16 ]; they admitted that it was deserving listening to what these kids had to state. This authorising attitude is explicit in the very foundation of their research undertaking and it permeated the whole development of it. In their concluding study, the writers declared that “ these kids were viewed as ‘experts ‘ and their single experiences, voices and engagements were sought out and promoted throughout the research procedure ” .[ 17 ]It is of import to province that Denov and Maclure portion the same position advocated by Virginia Caputo, that consider kids as manufacturers of civilization, as active societal histrions ; in a word: agents.[ 18 ]

It was a big graduated table undertaking that involved eighty former kid soldiers, who were interviewed twice in the class of the two twelvemonth continuance of the research – the 2nd session being months apart from the first 1. The big figure of participants is supposed to do the survey representative, in the hope that the personal histories can be related to wider societal facts and constructions. There were 40 misss and 40 male childs, all selected by the same standards.[ 19 ]The fact that the sample was every bit divided between both sexes is non a happenstance. As it will be explored subsequently, the research squad was peculiarly watchful to the manner gender affected child soldiers ‘ experiences and take to work with a balanced group.

2.2 Turns, versions and epiphanies

In “ Turns and epiphanies ” , Denov and Maclure chose to research the life histories of merely two former kid soldiers, a male child and a miss, whose anonym in the article are Mohamed and Isata. Both life histories are reported in the article in a chronological order, with some citations of the transcripts of the interviews conducted with the two kids. Nevertheless, “ understanding involves the ascription of significance, insouciant connexion, typicality, and non simply elaborate description ”[ 20 ]; therefore, the writers besides used some constructs in the hope that they would enable them to account for the most meaningful facets of each life-history.

“ Turn ” and “ single version ” are constructs developed by David Madelbaum that can be used as tools in a more detailed life-history attack. Harmonizing to Madelbaum, “ the chief periods of a life are marked by the chief turnings, the major passages, that the individual has made ” .[ 21 ]A turning implies new functions, new interactions and new self-conceptions and, therefore, involves the cultural, the societal and the psychosocial dimensions. It can be derived from one individual event or experience, the alleged “ turning point ” , or it can be a merchandise of a gradual displacement.[ 22 ]Adaptation is described by Madelbaum as “ a built in procedure ” that takes topographic point when a adult male or a adult female have to change some of his or hers “ established forms of behavior to get by with new conditions ” .[ 23 ]Both constructs relate to the person ‘s individuality and his or hers societal interactions.

Norman Denzin defines epiphanies rather slackly, saying that they are “ interactive minutes and experiences which leave Markss on people ‘s lives ” .[ 24 ]However, the writer provides a classificatory strategy of epiphanies, which Denov and Maclure besides utilized. The categorization proposed by Denzin comprises four signifiers of epiphany: ( 1 ) the major epiphany, which touches every cloth of a individual ‘s life ; ( 2 ) the cumulative epiphany, which signifies eruptions or reactions to experiences that have been traveling on for a long period of clip ; ( 3 ) the illuminative or minor epiphany, which symbolically represents a major, debatable minute in a relationship or a individual ‘s life ; ( 4 ) the re-lived epiphany, which relates to those episodes whose significances are given in the re-experiencing of the experience.[ 25 ]

While reproducing transcript transitions of the interviews made with Isata and Mohamed, Denov and Maclure lineation and sort some experiences recounted by the kids as turnings, version and epiphanies. Although Isata and Mohamed lived two different and alone lives, they had some similar experiences. Denov and Maclure point out that both kids experienced their first bend when, at the age of nine, they were abducted by the Revolutionary United Front ( RUF ) . In the kids ‘s narration, the writers identify a gradual version to the RUF ‘s militarised environment, as Isata and Mohamed developed their ain ways to cover with a new world. These implied different functions for the kids ; as a male child, Mohamed shortly became a battler and Isata, as a miss, was subjected to sexual force, besides holding to transport out day-to-day undertakings that included cookery, rinsing and transporting arms and ammo. Therefore, it was a major epiphany in Isata ‘s life when she besides became a battler. And it was a 2nd turning in Mohamed ‘s life when he developed a particular relationship with his commanding officer, one that involved friendly relationship and esteem. Both kids went through a wrenching turning, when the struggle ended and they faced demilitarization and demobilisation procedures ; in other words, the unmaking of their militarised individuality as a kid soldier.[ 26 ]Isata and Mohamed besides experienced a relived epiphany, as their powerful militaristic individuality was being dismantled. Feelingss of fright, guilt and loss became stronger ; both kids shared frights of being stigmatized and condemned for their yesteryear as RUF battlers. Ultimately, Denov and Maclure indicated that, under new conditions, a major turning in these kids ‘s lives was now required.

After size uping the two single life-histories individually, Denov and Maclure proceeded with a macro analysis of the war context and the deductions it brought to the lives of Isata and Mohamed and other Sierra Leonean kid soldiers. The writers described what they consider to be the two epiphanies of child military personnel ; the mobilization procedure, regarded as an epiphany of submergence and individuality formation, and the demilitarization procedure, seen as an epiphany of detachment and individuality regeneration. Denov and Maclure accurately stated: “ although intensely personal, epiphanies are frequently linked to broader historical and societal kineticss that frame single lives ” .[ 27 ]

Throughout the article, Denov and Maclure demonstrate their ability to utilize biographical methods ; maintaining clasp of an basically sociological frame of mention and being able to show that original cognition of societal constructions and procedures can be derived from the survey of single life narratives.[ 28 ]However, the writers do non wholly explore the subjectivenesss that are peculiar to a biographical narration. Although Denov and Maclure opted for a life-history attack, they do non look to hold to the full embraced it. An advantage of biographical methods is the countless possibilities it opens to more subjective dimensions that other methods do non look to allow entree to. There are rich facets of the storytelling that are left undiscovered by the writers ; Denov and Maclure do non account for the manner the kids tell their narratives, the manners in which they recount their experience. Furthermore, the reader can non cognize if any mark of organic structure linguistic communication was seeable when Isata and Mohamed recounted their lives, neither can one cognize about the happening of intermissions, silences, accent, laughs or cryings in the kids ‘s testimonies.

3. Ethical considerations

From the minute when one individual ‘s life became person else ‘s object of survey, ethical concerns have to be taken into history. One has to be cognizant of the power dissymmetry that can take topographic point between the research worker and the researched ; chiefly due to the fact that the research worker is normally the 1 in control of the research procedure. That can go apparent during an interview, where the research worker is the 1 that chooses the relevant subjects for treatment and the 1 that asks the inquiries. These power dissymmetries can besides be aggravated by other societal inequalities, derived from differences in gender, ethnicity or age. It is of import for the research worker to look for ways to react to such dissymmetries or, at least, history for them.

Denov and Maclure were cognizant of the fact that, in add-on to the instabilities between research worker and researched, there were other beginnings of power dissymmetries and they were witting of the age difference as a power factor – grownups by and large have authorization over kids. It is possible to see the pick for a semi-structured interview as a manner of reacting to this disparity ; seeing that the flexible and dynamic nature of this method can make a comfy environment for the kids. Furthermore, guaranting namelessness and confidentiality by non uncovering the kids ‘s names and utilizing anonym in publications, besides safely maintaining the transcripts of the interviews or even destructing the recorded tapes, are ethical informed actions.

Another of import ethical issue is obtaining voluntary and informed consent. As Paul Thompson has argued, “ research topics have the right to cognize that they are being researched, the right to be informed about the nature of the research and the right to retreat at any clip ” .[ 29 ]In Denov and Maclure ‘s study to the support bureau it is stated that no interview was conducted without informing the nature of the undertaking to the participant and obtaining his or hers full consent ; which meant that

For kids under 18 old ages old their ain consent and that of a parent/guardian had to be obtained. A written consent signifier was provided to each participant. However, in some instances, parents/guardians and their children/wards would merely give verbal consent and would non set anything to paper. For those who were willing to take part in the undertaking but were unwilling to subscribe a papers, and for those who were nonreader, the consent signifier was read to them, after which they were given a transcript to maintain.[ 30 ]

It is sensible that the ethical guidelines to obtaining informed consent admit that the written signifier is non the lone valid one, given that are instances where the most appropriate type of consent would be an audiotaped or videotaped one ; where the written word is non regarded as peculiarly of import. Other important confidences are the right to decline to reply any inquiry and the right to retreat at any phase of the research procedure. An extra of import warrant the research worker should supply is a long-run mechanism for participants to reach the research worker or the research worker ‘s establishment to show concerns at a ulterior day of the month and/or to retreat their informations from the research procedure.[ 31 ]

In Denov and Maclure ‘s research there was besides the issue of the sensitive nature of their object of survey. The research workers were cognizant that sharing potentially traumatic and painful events could do changing degrees of hurt in the kids. It is another ethical norm that the research worker is obliged to make no injury to the survey participants and the manner the Denov and Maclure found to esteem the kids was to heighten sensitiveness and consciousness within the research squad. Discoursing these debatable issues on an on-going footing throughout the research procedure was their response to this possible job.

When covering with former kid soldiers, Denov and Maclure were besides witting of the gender inequalities that “ reflected the prevailing and frequently violent forms of patriarchal hegemony that historically have permeated socio-political and economic life in Sierra Leone and were outrageously manifested during the civil war ” .[ 32 ]It is singular that they formed a balanced research squad and besides opted for an every bit divided sample. Not merely during the civil war, but besides in the post-conflict state of affairs, Sierra Leonean misss were left in a worse place than male childs. In the terminal of “ Turns and epiphanies ” the reader is informed that Mohamed is taking categories and seeking to larn a new civilian business, while Isata, as a effect of raped induced gestations, is fighting to raise two childs. There are likely other misss confronting state of affairss similar to Isata ‘s and Denov and Maclure ‘s findings on this subject can be helpful in the publicity of gender-orientated development plans.

The continuity of the gender dissymmetries in station war fortunes were one of Denov and Maclure ‘s findings. It was portion of the aims of this action-oriented research that its findings could be used as future guidelines to community based plans and policies for the rehabilitation and reintegration of former kid soldiers into community life. The support for their research was provided by the Canadian International Development Agency ( CIDA ) , which is the organisation responsible for planning and implementing most of Canada ‘s development cooperation plans. It is known that the fund supplier can act upon the research undertaking and endanger its credibleness ; however, in “ Turns and epiphanies ” , it is non possible to place any methodological or ethical jobs caused by the kind of funding the research received. The research was conducted in 2003 and 2004, while CIDA ‘s “ War-affected young person undertaking ” was initiated in 2004 and terminated in 2007. It is really likely that Denov and Maclure ‘s research has had some kind of deduction to this undertaking, that was carried out by CIDA and its local spouses. The “ War-affected young person undertaking ” , throughout its three-year continuance, allocated $ 6 million among Angola, Uganda, Burundi, Sudan, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone. Harmonizing to CIDA ‘s undertaking database, the “ War-affected young person undertaking ” provided injury guidance, basic instruction, accomplishments preparation and awareness-raising in HIV/AIDS for former kid soldiers. If Denov and Maclure ‘s findings were taken into consideration, it is possible that they were utile to the execution of the development plan.

There is a opportunity that Denov and Maclure ‘s research had positive effects in the lives of the male childs and misss that took portion in their undertaking. The positive facets of their interaction with the former kid soldiers do non merely rest in the hope that policy shapers will really do a good usage of their research study, but it besides lies in the possibility that their work was a beginning of authorization for those kids that were encouraged by Denov and Maclure to reflect upon their ain experiences. Some research workers have identified chances for kids, particularly striplings, to derive from the research experience. Donna Eder and Laura Fingerson, in their article “ Interviewing kids and striplings ” , reference several surveies that involved interviews with striplings, where the participants reported profiting from their ain engagement – the chief ground for that being the opportunity to “ believe through issues of importance to them by speaking about them with interested grownups ” .[ 33 ]When the research worker is successful in making a non-judgmental environment for the interview, the participants can speak unreservedly about their concerns and engage in the single procedure of mending some lesions of the yesteryear. This deep procedure, nevertheless, can merely take topographic point when there is trust between the research worker and the participant.

In “ Turns and epiphanies ” , Denov and Maclure point out as grounds of the stopping point and trusting relationship that it was developed between the research workers and the kids the fact that, even after the undertaking had been concluded, many participants continued to see and socialise at the offices of the Sierra Leonean research squad at DCI-SL.[ 34 ]Besides after the undertaking was terminated, the research squad organized a community conference in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, in July 2004, to circulate the findings of the research to the kids who had participated in the survey. In that juncture, the male childs and misss besides provided some feedback on the research workers ‘ findings and initial readings.[ 35 ]This attitude goes along with Denzin ‘s statement that advocates that the primary duty of the research worker is ever to the people he or she surveies. Denzin besides believes that

The lives and narratives that we hear and survey are given to us under a promise, that promise being that we protect those who have shared with us. And, in return, this sharing will let us to compose life paperss that speak to the human self-respect, the agony, the hopes, the dreams, the lives gained, and the lives lost by the people we study.[ 36 ]

In the peculiar instance of surveies with kids, the observation to the rules of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is besides a necessary ethical attitude. It is possible to corroborate that Denov and Maclure ‘s research undertaking respected the point of positions of the male childs and misss involved in it. More than that, it is likely that their work contributed for the best involvements of the kids.

4. Decisions

Denov and Maclure acceptance of a life-history attack is consistent with their research undertaking, which aspired to

Enhance apprehension of the procedures by which these kids became implicated as participants in Sierra Leone ‘s barbarian war, the mode and grade to which both of them assumed individualities as kid soldiers, and their subsequent attempts to set to new individualities and to re-adapt to civilian life following the terminal of belligerencies.[ 37 ]

When informed by an interpretivist epistemology, the employment of a biographical method is regarded as one of the most appropriate methods to sensitively analyze people ‘s sense of individuality.[ 38 ]Denov and Maclure were successful in their usage of the life-history method for the ground that they were able to bring forth informations from the interviews and sophisticatedly analyze and gestate them ; with the assistance of impressions borrowed from Madelbaum and Denzin. Sociological, historical and political considerations were present in their analysis of the struggle in Sierra Leone, and “ connexions between single life narratives and wider models of apprehension ”[ 39 ]were efficaciously drawn.

However, as it was mentioned before, Denov and Maclure did non research the subjectivenesss of the narrations of Mohamed and Isata. There ‘s no reference to intermissions, silences, accent, laughs or cryings in the kids ‘s histories. Neither did the writers search for mute or unsaid facets of their experiences. Although this failure to hold on more elusive facets of the narrations constitutes a failing of Denov and Maclure ‘s article, it is possible to understand their silence as an option made with the purpose of avoiding the wickedness of overinterpretation. The research worker must be careful non to distance the interviewee from their ain words[ 40 ]and, possibly, that was what the writers were seeking to debar when they neglected the more subjective dimension of the narrations.

After measuring Denov and Maclure ‘s research under an ethical point of position, it is possible to province that they accounted for the most of import ethical considerations and expressed regard for the kids that were involved in the undertaking. When reading “ Turns and epiphanies ” , one might detect the interpersonal nature of some of the ethical confidences that have to be provided when set abouting a research that involves biographical methods. Trust plays a major function in biographical researches and, in this instance, it was non different. The interpersonal relationships were established seeking the development of the research undertaking, but besides the authorization of the kids. Supplying conditions to authorise the participants is a good scheme to minimise the inevitable power dissymmetry that takes topographic point between the research workers and the participants. Denov and Maclure were successful in taking this way and esteeming the people whose lives constituted the object of their research.

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