Posts Tagged ‘problems’

  • Explain difficulties in applying the concept of carrying capacity to local human populations.

If one were to examine the needs of a given species and the resources available, it could be possible to estimate the carrying capacity of that environment for the species. This is problematic when it comes to the human population for many reasons like:

  • Resources used by humans are much more than any other species and when this source becomes limited humans begin to substitute one resource for another. The use of resources change from person to person, lifestyle to lifestyle, time to time and population to population.
  • Developments in technology increase the changes of the resource consumption.
  • The human population also import resources very often which come from outside their environment, which makes the grow beyond the boundaries set by their local resources and lets their carrying capacity increase. This however does not affect the global carrying capacity.

These variables make it almost impossible to make reliable estimates of carrying capacities for the human populations.

*Carrying capacity: The maximum number of a species or ”load” that can be sustainably supported by a given environment.

Here we can see 3 models of a population growing and approaching carrying capacity.

*Optimum population: the number of people which when working with all the available resources, will make the highest per capita economic return. it shows the point at which the population has the highest standard of living and quality of life.

Standard of living is the result of the interaction between physical and human resources and can be expressed as:

Standard of living: (natural resources X technology) / population

*Over-population: this happens when there are too many people compared to the resources and technology available for the standard of living. They suffer from natural disasters such as droughts and famine, low incomes, poverty, poor living conditions and a lot of emigration.

*Under-population: this happens when there are too many resources in one area that is too much for the people living there. Countries like this could export their surplus food, energy and mineral resources.

  • Explain how absolute reductions in energy and material use, reuse and recycling can affect human carrying capacity.

Human carrying capacity is determined by the rate of energy and material consumption, the level of pollution and the extent of human interference in global life-support systems. While reuse and recycling reduce these impacts, they can also increase the human carrying capacity.

*Recycle: when a household or industrial waste is reused and made into another product, like plastic, metals and paper.

*Re-use: when a product is used more than once by returning it to the manufacturer or processor each time. This is very energy efficient and more efficient than recycling.

*Reduce: this is when energy use is decrease for example turning off the lights when not needed or using the amount of water needed in a kettle.

*Substitution: when using one resource over the other, the use of renewable source over a non-renewable source is a major benefit to the environment.


As with all qualitative research, keep a diary while preparing for the interview, including all aspects of decision making.

  • To keep up with reflexivity
  • To assist readers of the report in making conclusions about credibility

  1. The topic is too personal – therefore the interview will not reveal the truth.
    • Possible solution: choose an interview medium that will include less face-to-face contact (telephone, e-mail)
  2. Participant bias (pleasing the researcher)
    • Avoided by: Triangulation, reflexivity – anonymius less contact interviews (eg. e-mail)
  3. Researcher bias: The researcher influences the researched in various ways – by their way of asking questions, how they respond to the answers and how the interpret data. Or for personal reasons (being intimidating etc.
    • Possible solution: triangulation, reflexivity, less personal medium.
  4. Honesty and openness: Participants to not respond to the question asked.
    Participants lie

    • Possible solutions: use a more personal face-to-face approach
  5. Use a more personal approach/or the opposite, depending on the topic under investigation

  7. Face-to-face interviews (individual or focus-groups)
    • An individual interview. Allows the researcher to ask queastions directly to the participant(s). Can eb divided into structured, semi-structured and unstructured interviews.

      Sensitive topics can be discussed without possible embarrassment or conflict involved in sharing ideas in front of others Time consuming
      The researcher can direct the questions more than in a focus group. Less interaction will possibly lead to fewer new topics discussed and less spontainity.
      Group behaviour like conformity or dominance of some is avoided.

    • Focus groups. Usually 6-10 members chosen by purposive sampling. Group leaders usually act as a facilitator of discussion, introducing topics, encouraging members to speak and try to maintain focus. Frequently used in market research but also to come up with research ideas.
    • PROS: CONS:
      Time efficient – data collection from more people at the same time Participants may hold back, or not feel comfortable sharing their answers.
      Participants may trigger others to talk more – share memories, ask each other questions. May lead to surprising discoveries Domination by the more confident – and some will be quiet
      Can be argued to be more natural in its setting than one-to-one interviews -> higher ecological validity Participants may feel a need to conform to the options of others.
  8. Telephone interviews
  9. E-mail interviews (and chat-application type of interviews)


1. Structured interviews:

Specific set of questions are to be followed – no deviations allowed.

– Appropriateness is already considered.
– Insuring that the topic is covered
– Standardized -> same questions for all -> triangulation.
– Tie efficient
– Rigidity. Artificial situation – no spontainity or flexibility –> credibility low (like magazine tests.. Forced into an answer)

2. Semi-structured interviews:

Contain a basic structure, but alteration and additional questions are allowed.

  • Most commonly used technique
  • Varies between closed and open-ended questions.

– Allows for clarification and exploring beyond the answer first given. -> increases credibility
– Good  compromise – looseness of unstructure together with the focus from the structured interview.
– Leads to rich data compared to structured interview.

– More difficult to analyze than structured interview.
– Still somewhat artificial compared to eg. narrative interview.
– Time consuming

3. Unstructured interviews:

(Conversational interviews)

Some preparations needed but allows for a free discussion of a topic.

– Can give rich data
– Useful in theory, building where not enoigh research is done to justify particular questions.
– Can be unformed and difficult to analyze
– Very depending in personality of the interviewed.

4. Narrative interviews:

Based on Burnell, 2009.
This interview is supposed to reflect on the idea that storytelling is a way to remember and make sense of experience.
The thought is that people construct their realities on these narratives with an opening, a middle and a conclusion (Bruner, 2006)

Recent phenomenon. Aims to minimizer the influence of the researcher – only a few questions asked.
Eg. “Tell me about your childhood” or “tell me how it felt when you got your diagnose..” (very open questions)
– And then the participant procede with the interviewer only as an active listner (who is not directing the narration)
– Researcher can then return to the interview situation and seek clarification but the original narrative remains intact for analysis.

– Attemps to capture an unadulterated version of reality. Exploring the complexity of individual experiments
– In the best of cases give rich data
– Demands a lot from the participant -> big participant differences.
– Time consuming (esp. Data analysis)


To consider in preparation:


  • Small samples are usually used
  • The larger the sample, the more structured approach is needed

Sampling technique:

  • Choice of participants: talkative, expressive etc.
  • Most common: purposive sampling
    • Finding the target group through selection
    • People who are sharing a common characteristic/phenomena
  • Also used: snowball sampling
    • Finding the target group through participants’ friends
    • Used especially for focus groups (could be either a group who knows each other or just met)
  • Random sampling is not used
    • A certain characteristic is chosen
    • Participants suitable for interviews


  • Consider the treatment of sensitive/personal topics
  • Confidentiality
    • Could be difficult to keep from the interviewer
    • Use of pseudonyms (changing names of interviewee) etc.
  • Reflexivity
    • Both before, during and after research
  • Participant bias
    • If feeling uncomfortable when being recorded
    • Acting different because of being recorded, the interviewer, the members in a focus group etc.

Type of questions:

  • Descriptive questions:
    • Aim; obtain large amounts of information
    • Providing an idea of the focus of the participant
    • E.g.: “What happened?”
  • Structural questions:
    • Aim: establishing meanings to concepts/events
    • E.g.: “what does this event mean to you?”
  • Contrast questions:
    • Aim: establishing how words and ideas mentioned differs/are alike
    • Allows participant to compare events and experiences
    • E.g.: “do you prefer this or that?”
  • Evaluative questions:
    • Aim: insight about participant’s feelings about something
    • E.g.: “How did you feel when this happened?”

Data recording:

  • Usually using video cameras and/or tapes
  • Traditional recording: transcribed verbatim
    • Only speech is written down
  • Postmodern transcription
    • Speech included
    • Non-verbal elements such as sighs, nods, eye-flickering etc.
    • Provides more credibility than the transcribed verbatim method!!

Interview training:

  • Gender: female or male?
  • Quantity: one or more researchers?
  • Characteristics/skills:
    • Creating a trusting/safe environment
    • Keep focus on the matter investigated
    • Focus on listening to the answers (not preoccupied with structuring questions, following the scheme etc.)

To consider afterwards:


  • Restate the setup
  • Confidentiality: explain what will  happen to the data/how it will be treated
  • That they can find out about the results later on

Member checking:

  • After conducting the analysis of results/raw data
  • Return to participants to double-check if the interpretation of the data was correct
  • Increases credibility!