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Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies: A Primer



Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies: A Primer

Gunilla Oberg

ISBN: 978-1-444-34833-0 June 2011 Wiley-Blackwell 184 Pages

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Environmental issues are inherently interdisciplinary, and environmental academic programs increasingly use an interdisciplinary approach.

This timely book presents a core framework for conducting high quality interdisciplinary research. It focuses on the opportunities rather than the challenges of interdisciplinary work and is written for those doing interdisciplinary work (rather than those studying it). It is designed to facilitate high quality interdisciplinary work and the author uses illustrative examples from student work and papers published in the environmental literature.

This book's lucid, problem-solving approach is framed in an accessible easy-to-read style and will be indispensable for anyone embarking on a research project involving interdisciplinary collaboration.

Readership: graduate students, advanced undergraduates, and researchers involved in the interface between human and natural environmental systems

Foreword x

Preface xi

Chapter 1: Introduction 1

Challenges and opportunities 3

On quality 4

Background 5

A note on terminology 7

Notes 9

Chapter 2: Beyond CP Snow 11

Quantitative and qualitative studies 12

Improved understanding and quality 13

Drawing on commonalities 14

Context dependence and quantifi cation 18

Interpretation and context 21

Notes 23

Chapter 3: Questioning to learn and learning to question 24

Part I: Interdisciplinary expectations (Questions 1 to 3) 25

Part II: Transacademic aspirations (Questions 4 and 5) 26

Part III: Academic rigour (Questions 6 to 10) 27

Notes 29

Chapter 4: Why do you conduct interdisciplinary work? 30

Where do you position yourself on the refl ection scale? (Question 1) 30

To what end are you using knowledge from different disciplines? (Question 2) 37

What makes your work interdisciplinary? (Question 3) 42

Notes 46

Chapter 5: Why do you interact with society? 48

Academic knowledge and decision-making 48

Who participates in which part of the study and how? (Question 4) 51

Why do you interact with society? (Question 5) 56

A word of warning: Don’t be snobbish 58

Notes 59

Chapter 6: Rigorous but not rigid 61

On quality assessment 63

Confusing form and credibility – an example 64

Communication 67

Notes 73

Chapter 7: Marking your playground 74

Framing 75

Aim 79

Operationalizing the aim 82

Confusing interdisciplinarity with "Everything" 84

Notes 85

Chapter 8: Evidence that holds for scrutiny 86

How or why? 87

Common procedures 90

Mixing various types of empirical evidence 100

Notes 100

Chapter 9: Anchoring your canoe 101

Clarifying your sources 102

Anchoring your frame 103

Anchoring your method 106

Notes 110

Chapter 10: Analysis 111

Defi ning “analysis” 112

Clarifying the own, the new 115

Relevant literature – your canon 116

Common knowledge 119

Original research 119

Textbooks 122

The style of recognized scholars 124

Passive and active voice 126

Notes 129

Contents ix

Chapter 11: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder 131

Headings 132

Where do I place the refl ections? 135

Where do I describe the context? 136

References 137

Notes 141

Chapter 12: Being interdisciplinary 142

Creating an open and respectful climate 143

Hierarchies that impair 144

Humbleness and courage 147

Outstanding studies 148

Dialogue, feedback and how to manage supervisors 149

Notes 150

References 152

Primary sources 152

Secondary sources 154

Index 158

“Although it does not reveal a prescriptive path for interdisciplinary work, for our group, this volume served as a valuable catalyst for thinking about interdisciplinary research. We look forward to future conversations that build on Öberg’s examples of how to navigate problem-oriented, interdisciplinary research.”  (The Quarterly Review of Biology, 1 September 2012)