Critical success factors for agricultural knowledge management

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CHAPTER FOUR RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

Introduction

The previous Chapter discussed the literature review related to the topic under study. This chapter discusses the research methodology employed by this study. Research methodology is a systematic way to solve a problem, it is the study of methods by which knowledge is gained, it aims at giving the work plan of research, it is a science of studying how research is to be carried out, and it involves procedures by which researchers go about describing, explaining and predicting phenomena (Rajasekar, Philominathan and Chinnathambi 2006). Research methodology encompasses research methods. Bhattacharyya (2009:17) defines research methods as the techniques employed by researchers in conducting research operations. Research methodology deals with the research methods and takes into consideration the logic behind the methods used (op. cit).
Research methodology gives the work plan of research, it takes into consideration the research design, gathering of data and its analysis, as well as theorizing the social, ethical and political interests that affect the researcher (Burgess 1984). It takes a broader view as it includes all the methods by which knowledge is gained and gives the work plan of the research (Rajasekar et al. 2006). According to Bhattacharyya (2009:17), research methodology may differ from one research problem to the other. However, research methodologies are set to answer several questions. According to Kothari (2004:8), research methodologies seek to answer the following questions: why a research study is being undertaken, how the research problem has been defined, in what way and why the hypothesis has been formulated, and what data is to be collected. They also answer the following questions: what particular method has been adopted and why particular technique of analyzing data has been used.
The current chapter starts by giving details of research methodology; it describes the different types of research methodologies. The chapter discusses the research purpose by describing why the current was conducted. The chapter then describes the research design (study population, sampling techniques and data collection methods). Further, the chapter describes the measurements used in measuring variables, reliability and validity, and description of data analysis techniques. Furthermore, the chapter discusses ethical considerations and originality of the current study. It finally discusses the scope of the study and ends by giving a chapter summary.

The research process

After defining and stating the research problem, the researcher has to undergo a series of steps collectively known as research process. According to Kothari (2004), the research process shows the steps necessary to effectively carry out research and the desired sequencing of these steps Figure 4.1 shows the series of actions or steps involved in a research process.
Research methodology is shown on the top of Figure 4.1 as it gives the overall plan of the study. Burgess (1984) describes research methodology as a work plan of the entire research process and to give details on how each step has to be undertaken. Among others, the research methodology involves the preparation of research design, data collection and data analysis. In the current study the research methodology and its constituting sections is discussed in this chapter.
The research methodology is followed by the research purpose. This section describes why the research is being conducted. It gives a summary of different purposes of research activities and ends by giving the purpose of the current study. Details of the research purpose are given in Section 4.3.
The other step for the current research process is the research paradigm. Research paradigms are important in research process because they help to determine what should be studied, how it should be studied, how it should be done, and how the attained findings and meaning are assigned. The current study used the pragmatic paradigm whose details are given Section 4.4. The research approach follows after the research paradigms. The two research approaches: “quantitative and qualitative” are given and described in details. The section tells how each approach facilitated collection of data for the current the current study. Details of research approaches are given in Section 4.5 of this chapter.
The research design follows after the research approaches. The research design gives details of the arrangement of conditions for collection and analysis of data. It gives details on data collection techniques and tools to be used for data collection.
The research process ends up by evaluating the research methodology. The evaluation is meant to identify challenges faced and how the researcher managed to collect data in such conditions. It assesses weather ethical issues were maintained throughout the study. The research evaluation is given in section 4.17 of this chapter.

Research purpose

There are three basic purposes of inquiry: exploratory, descriptive and explanatory (Kothari 2004; Mwanje 2001). Exploratory research aims at generating new ideas and gathering information for clarifying concepts (Krishnaswami 2002). Descriptive research is a fact finding investigation with adequate interpretation (Krishnaswami op. cit). Descriptive research collects information that can be used in predicting behavior. When a research is conducted for diagnostic purpose, it aims at discovering what is happening. Krishnaswami (op.cit) points out that diagnostic research aims at discovering what is happening, why it happens and what can be done about it. Finally, research is for experimentation purposes. Experimentation is the most sophisticated, exacting and powerful method for discovering and developing an organized body of knowledge and it aims at generalizing the variable relationships so that they may be applied outside the laboratory to a wider population of interest (Kothari 2004).
The overall purpose of this study as given in Section 1.6 was to investigate how agricultural knowledge systems can be strengthened for improving rural livelihoods in Tanzania so as to recommend a model for enhancing access to agricultural knowledge among actors. Chapter Two proposed a number of constructs and moderators which influence the efficiency of agricultural knowledge systems. Thus, the purpose of the current study is to describe how the proposed constructs and moderators can enhance access to agricultural knowledge among actors. Basing on the objectives of the study, this study is both descriptive and explanatory in nature.

Philosophical paradigms

The term paradigm is derived from the history of science and can be traced back to the work of Thomas Kuhn in 1962 through his work entitled “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” which examined the history of the natural sciences to identify patterns of activities that shape the progress of science. In his book, Kuhn (1962) defined paradigm as a set of beliefs, rules and standards, procedures and practices that guide the world view of a group of researchers. It is a philosophical template or framework that guides the production of knowledge (Kuhn op. cit). Weaver and Olson (2006) describe paradigms as patterns of beliefs and practices that regulate inquiry within a discipline by providing lenses, frames and processes through which investigation is accomplished. Paradigms guide the researcher in philosophical assumptions about the research and in the selection of tools, instruments, participants, and methods used in the study (Lincoln and Guba 2000). According to Ponterotto (2005) paradigms help to determine what should be studied, how it should be studied, how it should be done, and how the attained findings and meaning are assigned to them.

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 Types of philosophical paradigms

There are various paradigms used to guide research. Paradigms can be categorized into positivism, post-positivism, constructivism–interpretivism, critical theory and pragmatic paradigm (Mackenzie and Knipe 2006; Ponterotto 2005; Lincoln and Guba 2000). Paradigms differ in terms of ontology, epistemology and methodology. Ontology addresses the nature of reality (Klenke 2008) which influences the way research is conducted. The other paradigmatic element is epistemology, Klenke (2008) states that it deals with the origin, nature and limits of human knowledge it also addresses how we come to know reality. Further, it focuses on the nature and sources of knowledge and how it can be acquired. Paradigms also differ with respect to research methodologies. Within each paradigm, several research methodologies are possible, each drawing on a number of methods or techniques for data collection and interpretation (Lincoln and Guba 2000). According to Klenke (2008), methodology identifies the particular practices used to attain knowledge. It describes how knowledge is created; different paradigms use different practices to create knowledge. Nature of knowledge and knowledge accumulation paradigmatic elements describe the how knowledge is created.
Positivism paradigm was introduced by Kuhn (1962). According to Kuhn (op. cit), the positivism research paradigm adheres to the view that only “factual” knowledge gained through observation, including measurement, is trustworthy. According to Krauss (2005), in positivism studies the role of the researcher is limited to data collection and interpretation through objective approach and the research findings are usually observable and quantifiable. The current study employs both qualitative and quantitative approaches; this makes positivism paradigm not suitable for the study.
Post-positivism is similar to positivism in relation to the goal of predicting phenomena within the approach of realism, the correlation of assessing causative factors to that of consequences, and the implementation of an objective role of research (Ponterotto 2005). Positivism and post-positivism are quite diverse in relation to overall ideology (Ponterotto op. cit). In post-positivism there is an increased use of qualitative techniques in order to `check’ the validity of findings (Denzin and Lincoln 2000). Post-positivism is flexible in nature and aims at providing an alternative perspective to the realm of conducting research (Crossan 2003). Post-positivism holds the theory that there is indeed an objective reality, but this reality is not obtained without interjecting a multifaceted perspective into the scope of measurement (Ponterotto 2005). Post-positivism focuses on the importance of utilizing multiple measurements in addition to observations for both methods assist in the identification of bias prevalent within interpretations (Trochim 2006). In general, positivism aims at verifying a theory while post-positivism promotes theory falsification (Lincoln and Guba 2000). The current study intended to build a model rather than falsify existing models. This makes post-positivism not suitable for the the study.
The other philosophical paradigm employed in research is the interpretivism. This paradigm is associated with the philosophical position of idealism, and is used to group together diverse approaches, including social constructionism, phenomenology and hermeneutics; approaches that reject the objectivist view that meaning resides within the world independently of consciousness (Collins 2010). Interpretive researchers assume that access to reality (given or socially constructed) is only through social constructions such as language, consciousness, shared meanings, and instruments (Myers 2013). Interpretive researchers do not predefine dependent and independent variables but focus on the complexity of human sense making as the situation emerges, they attempt to understand phenomena through meanings that people assign to them (Myers 2013). According to (Creswell 2009), interpretive researcher tends to rely upon the participants views of the situation being studied and recognizes the impact on the research of their own background and experiences. Interpretivism, by its nature promotes the value of qualitative data in pursuit of knowledge suggesting that reality is socially constructed (Chowdhury 2014). Thomas, Nelson and Silverman (2010) point out that interpretivist epistemology is based on the fact that events are understood through the mental processes of interpretation. The current employs both quantitative and qualitative research approaches. This makes interpretivism not suitable for this study.
Constructivist paradigm is closely related to interpretivism which addresses essential features of shared meaning and understanding whereas constructivism extends this concern with knowledge as produced and interpreted (Thomas et al. 2010). With constructivism, individuals construct their own knowledge within the social-cultural context influenced by their prior knowledge and understanding (Thomas et al. 2010). Under constructivist paradigm the researcher has to maintain the parameters of a constructivist epistemological discourse. The current study has not adopted constructivism because it relies on qualitative approaches only.
Researchers can be led by a participatory/transformative research paradigm. This paradigm arose during the 1980s and 1990s from individuals who felt that the post-positivist assumptions imposed structural laws and theories that did not fit marginalized individuals in our society or issues of social justice that needed to be addressed (Creswell 2009). The participatory worldview holds that research inquiry needs to be intertwined with politics and a political agenda (Creswell 2009). The paradigm allows the researcher to have negotiations with participants in creating knowledge. Participatory research paradigms are more collaborative and involve an action research methodology that is not applicable for the current study. Researchers may use a pragmatic lens in conducting research. According to Creswell (2009), pragmatism as a worldview arises out of actions, situations, and consequences rather than antecedent conditions. Creswell states further that pragmatism conveys its importance for focusing attention on the research problem in social science research and then using pluralistic approaches to derive knowledge about the problem. According to Goldkuhl (2004), pragmatic researchers seek to answer the following questions:
What action is performed? Who is the actor?
What is the result of the action?
What is the time-context of the action? What is the place-context of the action? Who is the receiver of the action/result?
What are the intended effects – purposes of the action? What unintended effects are arisen from the action?
Pragmatism employs both qualitative and quantitative approaches in deriving knowledge about the problem and responding to these questions. This gives researchers freedom to decide on what techniques to adopt during data collection basing on the research problem in question.

Philosophical paradigm for the study

The current study adopted a pragmatic paradigm. The paradigm was adopted because it provides an opportunity for different worldviews, and different assumptions, as well as different forms of data collection and analysis in the mixed methods study (Creswell 2009). When using pragmatic lens to research, methods are matched to specific questions and purpose of the research (Mackenzie and Knipe 2006). Pragmatic lens uses qualitative and quantitative methods as complementary strategies to different types of research questions or issues; it is more suitable when neither quantitative nor qualitative research alone can provide adequate findings for the research (Ritchie and Lewis 2003). The current study could hardly employ a single research approach and it was for this reason pragmatism was adopted.

Research approaches

Research approaches are plans and procedures for research that span the steps from broad assumptions to detailed methods of data collection, analysis, and interpretation (Creswell 2009). Selection of a research approach is based on the nature of the research problem or issue being addressed, the researchers’ personal experiences, and the audiences for the study (Creswell 2009). Kothari (2004) categorizes research approaches into quantitative, qualitative methods and mixed method research. Quantitative methods involve generation of data in quantitative form which can be subjected to rigorous quantitative analysis in a formal and rigid fashion and it is sub-classified into inferential, experimental and simulation approaches to research (Kothari 2004). The purpose of inferential approach to research is to form a data base from which to infer characteristics or relationships of population (Nallaperumal 2014). On the other hand, experimental approach to research seeks to determine if a specific treatment influences an outcome (Creswell 2009). Lastly, simulation approach to research involves the construction of an artificial environment within which relevant information and data can be generated (Kothari 2004).
Qualitative approach to research is concerned with subjective assessment of attitudes, opinions and behaviour (Kothari 2004). Qualitative research is concerned with qualitative phenomenon; it aims at discovering the underlying motives of human behaviour (Nallaperumal 2014). Such an approach to research generates results either in non-quantitative form or in the form which are not subjected to rigorous quantitative analysis (Nallaperumal 2014). Qualitative research approaches use focus group discussions and key informant interviews to collect information and usually pose open-ended questions to interviewees.
Most social science research employs mixed research approaches. This approach to inquiry involves collection of both quantitative and qualitative data, integrating the two forms of data, and using distinct designs that may involve philosophical assumptions and theoretical frameworks (Creswell 2009). Mixed research approaches provide a more complete understanding of a research problem than either approach alone and strengthen the validity and reliability of research results (Creswell 2009; Jewels and Ford 2006;).
This study employed mixed method research. The approach was selected because neither quantitative nor qualitative approach could provide a more complete understanding of a research problem. As stated by Ritchie and Lewis (2003), many of the research questions require both qualitative and quantitative approaches for better understanding of the nature of issues to be studied. This study examined both number and nature of the phenomenon. Creswell (2009) points out that when the study has to examine numbers and nature of phenomena mixed approaches become more appropriate. The current study evaluated the performance of AKS and determined factors influencing performance before proposing for a suitable model to enhance access to agricultural knowledge among actors. Ritchie and Lewis (2003) point out that it is not possible to carry out comprehensive evaluation without employing mixed research approaches. It is for these reasons mixed research approaches were adopted for the current study.
According to Driscoll, Appiah-Yeboah, Salib and Rupert (2007), in mixed method research can be implemented sequentially or concurrently. It is sequentially when data is collected in iterative process that data collected in one phase contribute to that collected in the other. In sequential designs, either the qualitative or quantitative data are collected in an initial stage, followed by the collection of the other data type during a second stage (Castro, Kellison, Boyd, and Kopak 2010). The sequential design to mixed method research integrates data during interpretation with a primary focus of explaining quantitative results (Terrell 2012). Concurrent designs are characterized by the collection of both types of data during the same stage (Castro et al. 2010). The purpose of concurrent designs is to use both qualitative and quantitative data to define relationships among variables of interest (Castro et al. 2010). The current study employed both sequential and concurrent designs. Mixed method research was employed through concurrent design by involving both open and closed ended questions in the survey questionnaire. It involved sequential designs through conducting the survey with closed and open ended questions at the first phase followed by in-depth interviews and focus group discussions in the second phase. Results from the main survey, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions were mixed together during presentation of findings and when results were interpreted while those from secondary data were merged with other results during interpretation and discussion of findings in Chapter Six.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
DECLARATION
ABSTRACT
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
DEDICATION
LIST OF FIGURES
LIST OF TABLES
ABBREVIATIONS
CHAPTER ONE BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
1.1 Introduction
1.2 Contextual setting
1.3 Background to the statement of the problem
1.4 Statement of the problem
1.5 Aim of the study
1.6 Significance and contribution of the study
1.7 Scope and delimitations of the study
1.8 Operational definition of terms and concepts
1.9 Originality of the study
1.10 Overview of the research methodology
1.11 Ethical issues
1.12 Thesis structure
1.13 Summary of the Chapter
CHAPTER TWO CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Theories in research
2.3 Constructs understudy
2.4 Models and their roles in research
2.5 The proposed research conceptual framework
2.6 Chapter summary
CHAPTER THREE LITERATURE REVIEW
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Positioning knowledge in the information hierarchy
3.3 Knowledge management in the agricultural sector
3.4 Critical success factors for agricultural knowledge management
3.5 Agricultural Knowledge System (AKS) and Agricultural Knowledge and Information System (AKIS)
3.6 Positioning agricultural research in AKS
3.7 The role agricultural training institutions in AKS
3.8 Agricultural advisory and extension system in AKS
3.9 Farmers in AKS
3.10 Private sector in AKS
3.11 Communities of Practice in AKS
3.12 Governments’ interventions in AKS
3.13 Knowledge seeking behavior of actors in the agricultural sector
3.14 The role of ICTs in AKS
3.15 Chapter summary
CHAPTER FOUR RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
4.1 Introduction
4.2 The research process
4.3 Research purpose
4.4 Philosophical paradigms
4.5 Research approaches
4.6 Research design
4.7 Selection of the study area
4.8 Study population and sampling
4.9 Research strategy
4.10 Pilot study
4.11 Data Collection Tools
4.12 Measurement of variables
4.13 Data analysis
4.14 Reliability and validity
4.15 Ethical considerations
4.16 Research evaluation
4.17 Chapter summary
CHAPTER FIVE PRESENTATION OF RESEARCH FINDINGS
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Profile of the respondents
5.3 Types of AKS used in the study area
5.4 Categories of agricultural knowledge acquired by actors in AKS
5.5 Factors hindering and stimulating the accessibility of agricultural knowledge
5.6 Agricultural knowledge sharing among actors in AKS
5.7 ICTs in supporting agricultural knowledge management and AKS
5.8 Role of the Government in enhancing access and use of agricultural knowledge
5.9 Significant variables that influence AKS usage among actors
5.10 Chapter summary
CHAPTER SIX INTERPRETATION AND DISCUSSION OF RESEARCH FINDINGS
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Characteristics of respondents
6.3 AKS used by actors in agricultural sector
6.4 Agricultural knowledge acquired by AKS actors
6.5 Factors hindering and stimulating accessibility of agricultural knowledge among AKS actors
6.6 Agricultural knowledge sharing process among AKS actors
6.7 Usage of ICTs among AKS actors
6.8 The role of the Government in enhancing access to and use of agricultural knowledge . 256
6.9 Variables influencing AKS usage among actors
6.10 Chapter summary
CHAPTER SEVEN SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
7.1 Introduction
7.2 Overall summary of the study
7.3 Conclusions
7.4 Recommendations
7.5 Suggestions for further research
7.6 Chapter summary
7.7 Overall conclusion
REFERENCE
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