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Methods and Approaches in

Environmental Studies
Shaping the Questions We Ask:
Perspectives, Frameworks and Theories
Perspectives, Frameworks and Theories
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Perspectives are the lenses through which we
look at the world. Built into them are certain
assumptions focusing attention on some phenomena
and not others
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Frameworks organize and structure the central
concepts of a perspective
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Theories posit specic relationships among
concepts and variables based on a logic derived
from a perspective and framework
Perspectives, Frameworks and Theories
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PerspectivesPopulation/Technology/Environment,
Decision-theory/Rational Actor (i.e., economic
perspectives); Collective Action
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Frameworks POET/IPAT, Attitude-Behavior (A-B)
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Theories Commons dilemmas arise when a resource
is commonly held and no set of rules exists or is
imposed to ensure successful management of the
resource
Perspectives, Frameworks and Theories
Example
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Perspective: Social Construction of Reality
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Assumptions: Humans experience reality subjectively
and negotiate with other social actors the meanings
of things. How we dene things, rather than their
actual physical properties, is most important
!
W.I. Thomas: If people dene things as real they
are real in their consequences
Perspectives, Frameworks and Theories
Example (cont.)
Application of Social Construction of Reality perspective
in Environmental Studies:
Social Construction of Nature (SCoN)
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Assumptions:
Meanings are not inherent in the nature of things...because
there are no natural meanings inherent in the world that is
there. (Greider and Garkovich 1994)
people act on the basis of the meanings they attribute to
events and conditionssocial responses to hazards and
disasters are a$ected by both the nature of the disruption in
human/environmental relations and the appraisals people
make of those disruptions (Couch and Kroll-Smith 1994)
Perspectives, Frameworks and Theories
Example (cont.)
Social Construction of Nature (SCoN)
!
Framework:
Key concepts: Identity, Denition of the Situation, Negotiated
Meanings (esp. of nature, natural events or conditions, or
objects in nature)
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Theory:
Species relations among the frameworks concepts
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Hypothesis:
Californians viewing the current water scarcity condition as
part of a new normal are more willing to adopt water-saving
habits than those who see it as a temporary state of nature.
Three Functions of Theory
1. Prevents being taken in by ukes

Theories might point out that an observation is an


exception to the rule
2. Make sense of observed patterns in ways that
suggest courses of action.
3. Shapes and directs research e$orts.
The Deductive Approach
1. Specify the topic.
2. Specify the range of phenomena your theory
addresses.
3. Identify and specify your major concerns and
variables.
4. Find out what is known about the relationships
among the variables.
5. Reason from steps 1-4 to arrive at a testable
hypothesis.
Steps in the Deductive Approach
1. Specify the topic:
Californians responses to drought
2. Specify the range of phenomena your theory
addresses:
2014 California drought is the phenomenon
3. Identify and specify your major concerns and
variables:
What type of understanding or denition of the
drought is required to motivate behavior change?
(understanding can be broken down into
perceptions of blame, responsibility, e"cacy, etc.)
Steps in the Deductive Approach
4. Find out what is known about the relationships among the
variables
5. Reason from steps 1-4 to arrive at a hypothesis:

Californians viewing the current water scarcity condition


as part of a new normal are more willing to adopt water-
saving habits than those who see it as a temporary state
of nature.
The Inductive Approach
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Observe aspects of social life.
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Discover patterns that point to universal principles.
The Inductive Approach
Suppose youre curious about why Californians are not taking the
drought seriously.
!
Step 1: Observe aspects of social lifeFor this step you might look
at comments people are leaving on online articles about the
drought
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Step 2: Discover patterns that point to universal principlesIn this
step, your analysis of the comments might reveal that comments
downplaying the seriousness of the drought tend to point to the
amount of water used by agriculture; so, you might conclude
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Placing blame elsewhere allows one to continue business as
usual in the face of a problem.
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When the locus of control is perceived to lie in political or
economic structures, individuals are unlikely to take personal
action
Linking Theory and Research
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Deduction - deriving expectations or hypotheses from theories.
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Induction - developing generalizations from specic
observations.
THEORY
GENERALIZATIONS
OBSERVATIONS
HYPOTHESES
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