Methodological Decisions in Context: The Dilemmas and Challenges of Novice African Scholars
AbstractThis paper emerges out of a panel discussion during a PhD week and subsequent 8th International Environmental Education Invitation Seminar held at Rhodes University in 2004 and 2005 respectively. It illuminates some insights into our struggles (as novice African researchers) in trying to respond to contextual realities as we research education and social change in African contexts, seeking insight into what counts as legitimate research in this context. The paper considers our struggles at conceptual, methodological, analytical and data generation levels, and in a politics of research. This is done by means of examples drawn from five current doctoral research projects being undertaken in east and southern African regions, using a review framework that represents fairly common dimensions of PhD research. We conclude that research, when defined rigidly within research disciplines/paradigms (as have been defined in some – primarily Western – research trajectories) may fail to take into account African social and contextual realities when applied uncritically. We argue that there is need for researchers in Africa to consider a multiplicity of approaches if research is to be meaningful in, and responsive to, social and contextual realities. In particular, we argue for taking account of socio historical and socio-cultural contexts in creating African epistemology in and through research.
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