2. Who should I ask? - Ka pātai ahau ki a wai?

Once you have your research question or hypthesis, the next task in planning your research project is thinking through the sort of information you need in order to answer your research question, or enable you to say whether your research hypothesis is supported.

Step 2 is about deciding on the people and the places you can go to in order to find out an answer to your research question. It's also about thinking through how you conduct yourself when you interact with these people and places so that everyone, including yourself, is respected and kept safe.

While the question posed in this section is about ‘who do I need to ask?’, there is also an accompanying question that’s about ‘where do I need to look?’. These two questions acknowledge that information / research data can come from people and from places. For example:

  • You might ask people to tell you what’s happening in their lives, what they know, how they experience events, or what their opinion is about something – or perhaps all of these things.
  • You may want to visit a place where an event is being held and see for yourself what’s happening.
  • You may want to examine documents or other data sources that will provide you with information.

When you were refining your research question in the first step of developing your research project you would have come across some ideas about who you could ask and where you could go to find information. Someone you talked to might have said, ‘Have you thought about looking in the …?’ Or a piece of research that you came across might have said ‘The participants in this research were …’. These snippets of information are all helpful hints about where and who you might go to for information. This is why it was recommended in Step 1 that you keep a good record of where you search and what you find on your way to coming up with your research question and hypothesis.


Here are three examples of where researchers have gone to seek answers to their research question(s).

In the late 1990s we were asked the research question

What are the needs of Maori victims of crime?

To answer this question we decided to talk to Māori who had been victims of crime and ask them directly about their experiences, feelings and needs. As we were concerned that people’s experiences might be different in different parts of the country we included people in Christchurch, Auckland and Whangarei. We set out to recruit 20 victims of crime in each city.

We also decided to interview ten key informants or experts who could talk about the needs of Māori victims of crime based on their own work in the justice system or community initiatives.

Jenny Rankine and her colleagues asked the research question

What proportion of editorial articles in suburban newspapers in Auckland and Northland explore Maori issues and the Treaty of Waitangi?

The data for their research came from three samples of editorial articles from 17 suburban newspapers. The samples were collected between 2004 and 2008, based on the articles’ inclusion of one or more keywords (e.g., sovereignty, Māori-Pākehā relations, Māori health).

Isabelle Cherney and her colleagues asked the research question

What is thei mpact of gender stereotyped toys on children’s complexity of play?

To answer this question the researchers observed children aged from 18-47 months playing in a playroom.

Choosing your source(s)

While each of these examples is about either talking to people, looking at newspaper articles, or observing children there’s no reason why you can’t include one or more of these sources in your own research project. The wheel on the right shows many of the information sources you could go to for an answer to your question. For example, you may want to answer a question like

Is there a difference between men’s and women’s participation in touch rugby?

To answer this question you may decide on a combination of asking players, observing games, talking with spectators, and looking at any official statistics that’ve been collected about who plays – including historical accounts and photographs.

Research ethics

Research ethics is about the way you conduct yourself as a researcher. You've already made some decisions about this in Step 1, even if you didn't realise it. For example, the way you interacted with people when you asked for help with your research question. How you asked for help, and how you expressed your thanks for help received reflect what you think of as acceptable behaviour. Some principles about acceptable behaviours in Kaupapa Maori research include aroha ki te tangata - a respect for people, and kia tupato - being careful

There are many guides for undertaking ethical research, including Maori guidelines and those developed by other Indigenous peoples. While many of these have been developed to guide the research practices of non-Indigenous peoples, they are also useful for helping Indigenous communities and researchers think through what their principles are for acceptable research behaviour.

Deciding on the sources you'll go to in order to answer your research question also means thinking about how you want to do research with these sources. For example, what principles will guide your research work with kaumatua (elders), with archived letters and photographs, or with population databases? Remember in Step 1 I said that you were the greatest asset in your research toolkit? Your ability to be that asset and to undertake research will depend largely on how you conduct yourself.

Defining acceptable and ethical research behaviour is not something you have to do by yourself as there are others with skills and expertise who can help guide you, such as kaumatua (elders), experienced researchers, and members of ethics committees. If you decide to do research with a community or in a tribal area the people there will also be of great help. They may have thought about these issues before, or you may be able to collaborate with them to develop principles that will guide research practice within their rohe (area).

One starting place is the community-up research practices that guide Kaupapa Māori research. I encourage you to use these as a starting point for your own thinking, and for conversations that will no doubt lead to them being changed and refined to reflect your own research journey.

Participatory and community-based research

You may have decided that you want to do a formally collaborative piece of research with a participant group, community, hapū or Iwi (tribe). Such a decision will take you beyond consulting and into collaborating on, and co-producing research. There are several research models for doing this type of research, most of which are based on action research principles and practices (e.g., Participatory Action Research (PAR), Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR)). These are research models or methodologies rather than methods as doing PAR or CBPR still leaves open the choices you'll need to make in Step 3 about the methods or tools you want to use in your research project.

The difference with these participatory methodologies is that the people who'll be participating in your research, or those who live in the area where your research will be done, will walk very closely beside you during the research project. For example, you'll make decisions together, support each other to understand the research findings, and take joint responsibility to ensuring that the research outputs and reports get to the people who need to know them. Often the purpose of the research is to directly inform action (e.g., the development or modification of a service or an initiative). You can find more resources about these participatory methods here.

Next step

Once you’ve decided who you can ask or where you can go to get answers to your research question, the next step is thinking about how you’re going to collect information. In other words, what research tools or methods you will use.

The methods or tools you want to use will then guide your decisions about, for example, how many participants you need to involve or how many documents you need to look at, how you’ll select them, and what process you’ll use to gather data. The methods and tools will also give you an idea about how you’ll analyse the data you collect so that it gives you a good answer to your question.

The next step in your research project, Step 3. How should I ask? - Me pēhea te pātai ki ngā tangata?, is here.

Questions about Step 2

  1. What sources of information will help you answer your research question? Of these, what sources of information do you want to use in your research project?
  2. Who has helped you think about acceptable and ethical research behaviour?
  3. What are the ethical principles that will guide your research?
  4. Are the principles the same or different for different sources of information?

Writing your research report

For your research report you can write about:

  • Information sources. In this section you describe the information sources (people and places) you've decided to go to for your research project, and provide some reasons for why you've chosen each source.
  • Research ethics. In this section you describe the ethical principles that underpin your research project, including any information that will help people understand the each principle.


Cherney, I.D., Kelly-Vance, L., Glover, K.G., Ruane, A. & Ryalls, B.O. (2003). The effects of stereotyped toys and gender on play assessment in children aged 18-47 months. Educational Psychology, 23(1), 95-106.

Cram, F., Pihama, L. & Karehana, M. (1999). Meeting the Needs of Māori Victims of Crime. Report to Te Puni Kōkiri/Ministry of Māori Affairs. 104pp.

Rankine, J., Moewaka Barnes, A., Borell, B., McCreanor, T., Nairn, R. & Gregory, A. (2011). Suburban newspapers' reporting of Māori news. Pacific Journalism Review, 17(2), 50-71.

Helpful links


From: Cram, F. (2013).  He Rangahau Kaupapa Māori: A guide to undertaking a Kaupapa Māori research project. Auckland: Katoa Ltd. Available from www.katoa.net.nz.