Documenting methodology

In my fifth writer’s toolkit post I set out a plan for writing an introduction for a research report after initially developing my abstract to both guide and focus my writing. In this post I use the same SmartArt tool in Microsoft Word to think through the layout of a methodology section for the same research report. The difference between methodology and method is explored on a separate page.

I’ve chosen to write up the methodology using the four principles of Te Ara Tika, a Māori ethical framework to guide Māori health research developed by the Pūtaiora Writing Group in 2010. These four dimensions are whakapapa (relationships), tika (research design), manaakitanga (cultural and social responsibility), and mana (justice and equity). Each of the principles has three levels: minimum standard, good practice, and best practice. Because I conducted Kaupapa Māori (by Māori, for Māori, with Māori) research, I’ve been guided by ‘best practice’ as this is closest to Kaupapa Māori research.

I’ve used SmartArt to think through some of the methodological implications of each principle, using Te Ara Tika as a guide. While this diagram is meant as a writing guide, it could also be included as an illustration within the Methodology. Each of the principles is then be described in a Methodology section for the report (see below). First the principle is generally outline, and then second the application of the principle within the research project is described.


Methodology is about the principles that guide research practices (McGregor & Murname, 2010). The four principles that guided this research were from Te Ara Tika, the Māori health research ethical framework; namely, whakapapa (relationships), tika (research design), manaakitanga (cultural and social responsibility), and mana (justice and equity) (The Pūtaiora Writing Group, 2010). The methodological implications of each of these principles are explored below.

1. Whakapapa

Within Māori health research ethics “whakapapa refers to quality of relationships and the structures or processes that have been established to support these relationships” (The Pūtaiora Writing Group, 2010, p. 6). Best practice in Māori health research is about the empowerment of Māori to be kaitiaki (caretakers) through the establishment of a transparent process in which the research being conducted has the potential to deliver tangible outcomes for Māori.

In this project the principle of whakapapa was enacted through the establishment of kinship connections between the researcher and the participants. This was done through processes of whakawhanaungatanga (relating to one another). This enabled the kaupapa(agenda) of the research to be made clear so that participants were able to make an informed choice about their involvement and what they would share. The potential of the research to have good outcomes for Māori was largely through the input of research findings into Māori health policy within the Ministry of Health (the contracting agency for the research).

2. Tika

“Tika provides a general foundation for tīkanga and in the Māori context refers to what is right and what is good for any particular situation” (The Pūtaiora Writing Group, 2010, p. 8). Kaupapa Māori research is explicitly accountable to Māori (with this accountability being privileged over accountabilities to non-Māori funders or contracting agents). This accountability to Māori is from the initial planning of the research through to the reporting of findings and any subsequent advocacy. The use of Māori methods (including Māori responsive methods and tools) helps ensure that the research is valid; that is, able to represent Māori realities well.

The hui (meeting) method used in the present project enabled participants to engage directly with the research questions and negotiate what they wanted to talk about, and how. While the development of the research project was by a Māori team in the Ministry of Health, and the design of the project was by a Māori research team, this additional step to involve participants in the collaborative design of how they would share information enabled the researcher to also be accountable to them. Participants were therefore enabled to share their knowledge and expertise in ways that were acceptable to them.

3. Manaakitanga

“The concept of manaakitanga encompasses a range of meanings in a traditional sense with a central focus on ensuring the mana of both parties is upheld. In this context it is associated with notions of cultural and social responsibility and respect for persons” (The Pūtaiora Writing Group, 2010, p. 10). Māhaki is defined as ‘respectful conduct’, which is linked to the faith and trust researchers and participants have in one another (whakapono). Within these researcher-participant relationships Māori spirituality and philosophy is recognised and valued.

The protocols used to open the research hui, including karakia (prayer), set a culturally safe space for the researcher and participants to discuss issues that included those related to spirituality and other holistic components of Māori health (Pere, 1988). The researcher was responsive to the way in which participants wished to share information, and used whiteboards in the meeting rooms to record brief hui notes. These notes were then shared back with participants at the end of the hui to ensure that the representation the researcher had formed during the hui was accurate.

4. Mana

“Mana…refers to power and authority bestowed, gained or inherited individually and collectively. In the context of this framework mana relates to equity and distributive justice” (The Pūtaiora Writing Group, 2010, p. 13). Within Kaupapa Māori research mana refers to the sharing of power and control with research communities, including the acknowledgement of their intellectual property (e.g., through joint publications) and their guardianship of data and knowledge.

One rationale for using a hui method and following cultural protocols during the research was that these provided a context in which the participants were co-collaborators in the research. While the participants were not directly involved in the analysis of the research findings, care was taken in the hui to debrief with participants what the researcher thought the key messages or themes from the hui were. In addition, a draft report of the hui findings was distributed to participants shortly after the hui.

In summary, the four principles from Te Ara Tika provided guidance for the current research. The principles have been separately described here but are intimately interwoven. Together they provided a cultural space for the researcher and participants to come together for the research kaupapa. The relationship connections made within this space enabled the researcher to listen carefully (ata-whakarongo) to participants’ kōrero (talk) and then re-present their information in ways that acknowledged their mana. This process is summed up in Te Ara Tika as moving research from a place of tapu (restricted), to a place of noa (unrestricted).

TAPU kia tūpato Āta – whakaaro Āta – korero Āta – whiriwhiri Āta – haere NOA

RESTRICTED careful consideration precise analysis robust discussion determine these conditions proceed with understanding UNRESTRICTED


McGregor, S. L., & Murname, J. A. (2010). Paradigm, methodology and method: Intellectual integrity in consumer scholarship. International Journal of Consumer Studies , 34 (4), 419-427.

Pere, R. R. (1988). Te Wheke: Whaia te maramatanga me te aroha. In S. Middleton (Ed.), Women and education in Aotearoa, Volume 1(pp. 6-19). Wellington: Unwin & Irwin.

The Pūtaiora Writing Group. (2010). Te Ara Tika Guidelines for Māori research ethics: A framework for researchers and ethics committee members.Auckland: Health Research Council of New Zealand.