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How to ask sensitive questions in conservation: A review of specialized questioning techniques

Nuno, Ana, St. John, Freya A.V. (2014) How to ask sensitive questions in conservation: A review of specialized questioning techniques. Biological Conservation, 189 . pp. 5-15. ISSN 0006-3207. (doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2014.09.047) (KAR id:46119)

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Tools for social research are critical for developing an understanding of conservation problems and assessing the feasibility of conservation actions. Social surveys are an essential tool frequently applied in conservation to assess both people’s behaviour and to understand its drivers. However, little attention has been given to the weaknesses and strengths of different survey tools. When topics of conservation concern are illegal or otherwise sensitive, data collected using direct questions are likely to be affected by non-response and social desirability biases, reducing their validity. These sources of bias associated with using direct questions on sensitive topics have long been recognised in the social sciences but have been poorly considered in conservation and natural resource management.

We reviewed specialized questioning techniques developed in a number of disciplines specifically for investigating sensitive topics. These methods ensure respondent anonymity, increase willingness to answer, and critically, make it impossible to directly link incriminating data to an individual. We describe each method and report their main characteristics, such as data requirements, possible data outputs, availability of evidence that they can be adapted for use in illiterate communities, and summarize their main advantages and disadvantages. Recommendations for their application in conservation are given. We suggest that the conservation toolbox should be expanded by incorporating specialized questioning techniques, developed specifically to increase response accuracy. By considering the limitations of each survey technique, we will ultimately contribute to more effective evaluations of conservation interventions and more robust policy decisions.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1016/j.biocon.2014.09.047
Uncontrolled keywords: bias; decision-making; illegal; measurement error; survey methods; uncertainty
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history > QH75 Conservation (Biology)
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation > DICE (Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology)
Depositing User: F.A.V. St-John
Date Deposited: 15 Dec 2014 11:54 UTC
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 13:55 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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