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2 - Starting

Practical and Ethical Considerations

from Part I - Developing a Methodology

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 August 2023

Hannah Hughes
Aberystwyth University
Alice B. M. Vadrot
Universität Wien, Austria
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This chapter guides the researcher through key elements of developing a research methodology for conducting research on and at global environmental negotiations and agreement-making sites. It addresses four important components: 1) Methodological: how to develop a research project; 2) Ethical: how to reflect on and comply with ethical standards; 3) Legal: how to protect, manage and store data and 4) Organizational: how to prepare research on-site. We address key cross-cutting issues relevant to all chapters of the book and the central question of how to decide whether you need to be on-site to answer your research question and advance the state of the art on global environmental agreement-making. The chapter includes three main takeaways: First, the ethical, legal, and organizational aspects of this kind of research are as important as the conceptual and methodological work that prepares scholars for data collection and participant observation on-site. Second, access, funding, and data protection need to be addressed early in the research process and should be reflected at different stages of the research process. Third, regardless of the research puzzle and methodology, conducting research on and at negotiations will always imply a high degree of reflexivity and preparedness.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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Further Reading

1.Chasek, P. S. (2001). Earth Negotiations: Analyzing Thirty Years of Environmental Diplomacy. Tokyo: United Nations University Press.Google Scholar
This book is a standard work that gives an overview over thirty years of global environmental negotiations, how they work, and how they have changed over time. It is a key source for scholars new to the field and illustrates what negotiation sites look like from an insider perspective.Google Scholar
2.Mitchell, R. B., Andonova, L. B., Axelrod, M. et al. (2020). What We Know (and Could Know) About International Environmental Agreements. Global Environmental Politics 20, 103121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
This article introduces the International Environmental Agreements Data Base (IEADB) cataloging the texts, memberships, and design features of over 3,000 multilateral and bilateral environmental agreements. The authors have created a comprehensive review of the evolution of international environmental law, including how agreements have changed over time.Google Scholar


Abend, G. (2008). The Meaning of “Theory.” Sociological Theory 26, 173199.Google Scholar
Baker, L. M. (2006). Observation: A Complex Research Method. Library Trends 55 (1), 171189.Google Scholar
Booth, W. C., Colomb, G. G. and Williams, J. M. (2008). The Craft of Research. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Bourdieu, P. (2003). Participant Objectivation. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 9, 281294.Google Scholar
Craggs, R. and Mahony, M. (2014). The Geographies of the Conference: Knowledge, Performance and Protest. Geography Compass 8 (6), 414430.Google Scholar
Death, C. (2011). Summit Theatre: Exemplary Governmentality and Environmental Diplomacy in Johannesburg and Copenhagen. Environmental Politics 20 (1), 119.Google Scholar
Flick, U. (1995). Qualitative Forschung. Theorie, Methoden, Anwendung in Psychologie und Sozialwissenschaften. Reinbek: Rowohlt.Google Scholar
Gross, N. (2009). A Pragmatist Theory of Social Mechanisms. American Sociological Review 74, 358379.Google Scholar
Hughes, H. and Vadrot, A. B. M. (2019). Weighting the World: IPBES and the Struggle over Biocultural Diversity. Global Environmental Politics 19 (2), 1437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hughes, H., Vadrot, A., Allan, J. I. et al. (2021). Global Environmental Agreement-Making: Upping the Methodological and Ethical Stakes of Studying Negotiations. Earth System Governance 10, 100121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Timmermans, S. and Tavory, I. (2012). Theory Construction in Qualitative Research: From Grounded Theory to Abductive Analysis. Sociological Theory 30 (3), 167186.Google Scholar
Vadrot, A. B. M., Langlet, A., Tessnow-von Wysocki, I. et al. (2021). Marine Biodiversity Negotiations During COVID-19: A New Role for Digital Diplomacy? Global Environmental Politics 21 (3), 169186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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