Checklist of 'Nasty Methodological Questions'
regarding development analyses and initiatives
-- / --
Prepared for Group B of the Goals, Processes and Indicators of Development (GPID)
project of the United Nations University following discussion (Tokyo, 1981). Also
distributed as Checklist of Nasty Questions: regarding development analyses
A 'nasty question' is one which one would tend to avoid asking oneself
about one's own paper/position but which would find reason to use as the basis
of (informed) criticism of a viewpoint with which one disagrees. Such questions,
when based on a real understanding of the viewpoint expressed, can most contribute
to its evolution.
1. Missing elements
- 1.1. data
- 1.2. constraints
- 1.3. unstated assumptions
- 1.4. are you alerted to ...? do you take into account...?
- 1.5. ignored
1.6. to what extent do you react to ...?
- 1.7. discipline perspectives not included
2. Distorted elements
- 2.1. facts distorted to validate evasiveness or defensiveness
- 2.2. how does your perspective distinguish between useful critiques
of opposing positions and deliberately distorted representation of those
- 3.1. whose interests are served
- 3.2. hidden agendas
- 3.3. to whom is this being polite, and why
- 3.4. who does this fail to criticize, and why
- 3.5. who funded this study, and why
- 3.6. how does your perspective ensure the generation of internal self-criticism
4. So what
- 4.1. if it is true
- 4.2. if it is accepted/implemented
- 4.3. how does this handle the viewpoints which it condemns.
- 5.1. how does the perspective envisage dealing with those holding
- 5.2. how does the view relate to other views incompatible with it
- 5.3. with what view does this stand in dialectical relationship
- 5.4. what is the negative characterization of this viewpoint.
- 5.5. to what extent does the thesis you oppose contain valid points
- 5.6. if your opponent's evaluation of the weak points in your position
is proved correct, how would this affect your position
- 5.7. how would your position be affected if the weak points in the position
of opposing scholl's of thought proved to be essential to the design of the
most appropriate learning experience whereby their adherents could transcend
5.8. how would your position continue to evolve or be renewed if opposing
positions ceased to exist
- 5.9. what provision does your position make for the continued existence
of opposing positions competing with yours for adherents
- 5.10. to what characteristic abuses, errors and excesses is your position
- how are you sure that you are able to detect them
- what safeguards are required to avoid them
- how have these safeguards been incorporated into your position
- 5.11. do any special safeguards built into your position (to guard against
particular excesses and abuses of opposing systems) run the risk of dangerous
hyperactivity if they are not matched by adequate opposition - how
is such possibly hyperactivity detected within your perspective
- 5.12. what provision is made within your perspective to permit the imposition
of constraints which are only adequately detected by other perspectives
- 5.13. is it possible that your interaction with opposing positions
(by which you could best be stimulated to improve your own) is such that
no effective communication is possible
- 5.14. given that opposing positions are both logically and operationally
incompatible with your own, has your perspective evolved any explicit dynamic
with respect to such opposition - other than its progressive elimination
or mutual isolation
- 5.15. in any dialectical relationship with opposing positions, how does
your 'position' retain a sense of identity if it is obliged to evolve
a dynamic pattern of 'movement' in response to the movement of
opposing perspectives ?
- 5.16. how would you interpret any accusation that adherents of your position
act 'aggressively' against those of opposing positions - are
you sure that they are not exibiting 'defensiveness'
- 5.17. are adherents of your position engaged in 'dialogue' with
those of others as an exercise in proselytization rather than as an effort
to acknowledge their collective identity
- 6.1. how is this view likely to be viewed/judged by the future
- 6.2. what will be the nature of the future thesis to which this view will
be the anti-thesis.
- 7.1. what are the contradictions inherent in this perspective
- 7.2. to what extent are changes envisaged in fact real changes (in terms
of intimating new paradoxes) or to what extent do they indicate change
in the sense of exchanging two sets of contradictions
- 7.3. do you understand the extent to which your perspective is itself
part of the problem with which society is faced, and does this help you
to understand the nature of its solution
- 7.4. how are you sure that the actions engendered by your position
will not merely transform the problems you presently confront into others
to which your position is inherently insensitive.
8. Unanswered questions
- 9.1. even if it is true, is anyone empowered to do anything about it
as a result of this analysis
- 9.2. are there constraints on the implementation of this perspective
within the time horizon
- 9.3. has this perspective already been overtaken by events, if not is
it likely to be overtaken in the near future
- 9.4. have you considered implications of your study for concrete, dissemination,
training and action, education
- In case of action : Have you discussed a strategy ?
- Who shall do what how, when and where (not only why ?)
- In case of dissemination : any proposals for a form of
- presentation beyond articles/books ; talks/discussions ?
- In case of training/education : any concrete proposals ?
10. Space and time limitations
- 10.1. Would your conclusions be different in other regions Could there
be an ethnocentric bias
- 10.2. Would there be a process in what you have explored Could there be
- 10.3. What features of your position can be generalized spatially, and
which features are tied to the setting within which they evolved
- 10.4. What fe,tures of your position will tend to remain unchanged overtime,
and which features will probably have to evolve
11. Social space and level limitations
- 11.1. Would your conclusions be different for other groups Could there
be a MAMU (middle-aged male university) bias
- 11.2. Could there be a level bias in your approach? What would be the
conditions, implications at the levels?
12. Limitations of intellectual style
- 12.1. Would you say your paper is primarily directed towards: Paradigm-
Data- Theory Commentary, Pragmatics discussion, analysis, formation?
If one or more of these are missing, how would you justify that, or make
up the deficit ?
- 12.2. Would you say your paper primarily sees reality in terms of actors
and structures processes processes also interaction in the past in
the future? If one or more of these are missing, how would you justify
that, or make up the deficit ? What about culture and nature, production
and distribution ?
- 12.3. Would you say your paper primarily discusses goals, processes, indicators,
tools, concrete fields? If one or more of these are missing, how would you
justify that, or make up for the deficit ?
13. Pre-logical biases
Does your paper reflect a preference for:
- 13.1. Order vs disorder, namely for fluiditity, muddle, chaos, etc.
or for system, structure, conceptual clarity, etc.
13.2. Static vs dynamic, namely for the changeless, eternal, etc. or for
movement, for explanation in genetic and process terms, etc.
- 13.3. Continuity vs discrete, namely for wholeness, unity, etc. and or
for discreteness, plurality, diversity, etc.
- 13.4. Inner vs outer, namely for being able to project oneself into the
objects of one's experience (to experience them as one experiences oneself),
or for a relatively external, objective relation to them.
- 13.5. Sharp focus vs soft focus, namely for clear, direct experience
and _or for threshold experiences which are felt to be saturated with more
meaning than is immediately present
- 13.6. This wold vs other wold, namely for belief in the spatiotemporal
world as self-explanatory or belief that it is not self-explanatory
(but can only be comprehended in the light of other factors and frames
- 13.7. Spontaneity vs process, namely for chance, freedom, accident, etc.
of for explanations subject to laws and definable processes.
In view of any such preferences, to what extent do you consider that your
dialogues with those of different preferences are predictable in content or
10-12. Derived from : Johan Galtung. Intellectual cross-fertilization
in the GPID Project ; a tentative list of GPID dimensions. 1980 ?
13. Derived from : WT Jones. The Romantic Syndrome ; toward a new method
in cultural anthropology and history of ideas. The Hague, Nijhof, 1961.