4. What should I do with the answers? - Ka aha ahau ki ngā whakautu?
Step 4 is the first step under 'Re-Present', looking at the care we take when we want to tell others what we've found and how others can help us understand and interpret our research findings.
Representation is the art of telling our participants’ stories and lives in a way that is true to them. In this way, representation is about making Māori visible within research. This is different from, say, objectification which seeks to present a ‘real’ or objective truth about participants. We are not merely holding up a mirror to reflect a reality. Rather, from the outset our research questions, our methods and our way of analysing data set the scene for a representation within which we, as researchers, are an intimate part. Our concern therefore, within Kaupapa Māori, is to continue to question whether how we are analysing our data and representing our participants is strengths-focussed, rather than deficit-based and therefore re-colonising. The theoretical framework of Kaupapa Māori strongly shapes our approach to analysis.
Steps 4, 5 and 6 are about different parts of the reporting process and decisions at one step may affect decisions at other steps. For this reason you may want to read all three steps together.
When you have some draft research findings it may be timely to show them to stakeholders, especially those people you consulted when you first started out thinking about your research questions and any people who participated in your research. Sense-making meetings are just what they sound like - opportunities for stakeholders to gather together to consider if and how your research findings make sense. The presentation of your research findings can be in a draft report or a powerpoint presentation or some other format you know will work for the people you've gathered together.
At a sense-making meeting remind people how your research came about; for example, where the research question came from, who you consulted, how the research method was decided on, any funding you received, and who's been advising you along the way. It's important for people to be reminded about these things even if you expect them to remember these background details from previous conversations you've had with them. Remember that people have busy lives and your research might not be occupying too much of their thinking as they go about their day-to-day business. It may also be that some people only remember or know part of the story behind your research and will appreciate being brought up to speed about it before being asked to say what they think about it.
When you present your draft findings to people let them know what sort of feedback you'd like, so they have realistic expectations about how they can help and what difference their feedback might make. I usually have two things I'd like to know from people at a sense-making hui:
- Are the research findings what they expected, including whether there's any information that's missing from the findings?
- Do my explanations for the findings make sense, and how else might the findings be explained from their point of view?
With these two questions my sense-making meeting is about reporting back on the findings of my research, and also letting people know how I'm making sense of the findings. Care needs to be taken at any sense-making meeting to make space for people's feedback. Their feedback will either confirm that what you're thinking about your findings is sensible, or that you need to go back and revise your thinking in part or whole.
The draft findings for a recent project I was involved fell into five themes. For the sense-making hui an outline of each theme was written up on a large sheet of paper. After the welcomes, introductions, and overview of the project the people at the hui were asked to get into groups of 4-5 and each group was asked to spend time discussing the findings from a theme. Groups spent 15 minutes on this and then presented back to the hui about what they'd discussed. This then encouraged anyone at the hui to provide their ideas about the theme, and we were there to answer any questions. In the end we gained good insight into whether each theme made sense as well as some valuable additional information to help us interpret the findings. Perhaps most importantly from this sense-making hui, and others we've organised, we were able to check that our re-presentations made sense within a Māori world.
Another way of getting a sense-making check is by taking early research findings back to those who've been advising you throughout your research project. Your 'advisory group' might be one or two people, or perhaps many people. A large project I worked on had three advisory groups: an academic advisory group, a Rōpū Mama (a group of young Maori mothers), and a Kahui Kaumātua (a group of elders). Our research team meet with these groups separately and also brought them together on occasions. We sought their advice about looking after the research participants and their whānau, as well as what questions to ask, what topics to focus on in our publications, and whether our research findings made sense.
The value of advisors is that they walk alongside you throughout your research project so can help out in many ways, not just when you want feedback on your research findings. They will also have more intimate knowledge of your research project than stakeholders can be expected to have. Even so you should also be clear with advisors about what you'd like their feedback on, and what you'll be doing with that feedback (e.g., using it to revise the presentation of your findings). This will help them focus their time and energy in ways that'll be most useful to you.
Reviewers are people who aren't necessarily acquainted with your research project but who you ask to do a more formal reading of a draft research report. These people can tell you whether your reporting makes sense to someone coming to it for the first time. They may also provide you with a critique of the way you're introducing your research, your explanation of your method, your presentation of your findings and the interpretation of the findings you make in your discussion. This feedback will be useful to you when you revise your research report. Try and find reviewers who'll be your 'critical friends'; that is, people who'll offer you supportive and constructive criticism.
When you're trying to write a research report that community people will be able to read and understand you might chose a reviewer who is a community person, and who you know will give you honest and constructive feedback about your writing and reporting.
Stakeholders, advisors and reviewers may also be able to give you good advice about how to present your research so that it will reach your intended audience. Some of the ways of doing this are talked about in Step 6. How should I tell people what I found? - Me pēhea te whakamohio atu i ngā hua?
The next step is deciding who needs to know about what you've found in your research project. The decisions you make in the next Step 5 may mean you come back and present what you've found in different ways for different audiences. Check out Step 5. Who needs to know what I found? - Ka whakamohio atu ngā hua ki a way?
Questions about Step 4
- How have you decided to present your draft research findings back to stakeholders? Why did you make this decision?
- What is the kaupapa (purpose) of your sense-making meeting? What feedback do you want from those attending?
- Has your research been supported by advisors who can now give you feedback about your draft findings?
- Do you have a critical friend you can ask to read your draft report and give you some feedback?
Writing your research report
There's no specific place to write about the feedback you get on your draft findings. Mostly what you'll be doing is using the feedback you get from stakeholders, advisors and reviewers to revise your findings and interpretation of them (i.e., your Discussion section). You can write an acknowledgements section where you pay tribute to those who helped you during this stage. You can also formalise the sense-making meeting as part of your research method and report on the feedback you receive as another set of findings.
I've been in situations when someone in a meeting has said something that's turned out to be really important, or a turning point in the way I've thought about things. When this has happened I've cited (included) these new insights as 'personal communications' in my reporting and provided a referenced the person and the date of the meeting (e.g., W. Brown, personal communication, February 12, 2014).
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.