A crucial component of “method” in our approach involves close attention to the structures and relationships that affect the success or failure of the research mission. In traditional ethnography, the anthropologist is a student of the involved culture, so to speak, and the indigenous expert is the teacher. But the Expeditions applied anthropology calls for reciprocal learning and sharing of expertise in identifying a problem, defining a researchable question, conducting research, and using results.

Our researchers are involved in shaping theory, design, and data collection to fit the requirements of the field situation and those of the field partners. In these relationships, our researchers can be called “consultants”, “evaluators”, “administrators”, “principal investigators”, etc.  Building and using strong, testable theory is the most important element for creating or selecting research methods in applied anthropology. Theory and methods are always bound together. The ways theories are constructed and presented should suggest ways to test them. For Expeditions, theories imply directions in intervention or policy to be acted on, once the research is done or even while it is being conducted.

Testing theory in the field, through research and intervention, improves an empathic understanding of the field situation, improves the cultural conditions to be modified or influenced, and improves human responses to both. In that sampling design compatible with ethnographic theory and methods we use and provide systematic sampling procedures in terms of the dynamics of (sub-) cultures, contributing to concepts as “society (groups of a  - ) as a going-on culture”, grasping complex identity issues. In doing so we apply in our research snowball sampling, intensive case finding – geographical sampling, targeted sampling and the nominative technique.

Progress in theorising social science over the past twenty years has produced an inclusive, overarching approach to understanding societies as complex cultures and complex systems. These systems are made up of many components and sub-systems that function at interconnected levels of social organisation, from the entirely local to the most global. Continual interactions between people create social patterns, social processes and social structures. Applied anthropology uses anthropological data, perspectives, theory and methods, to identify, assess and solve social problems. The unique perspective of applied anthropology is that we are wedded not to specific designs and instruments, but to inquiry, exploration and discovery that guides the most effective selection of theory, methods and data-collection techniques for a given situation. The greatest strength of our focus is that it provides ethnographers with the methods and tools to understand culturally based needs, values, perceptions, beliefs, knowledge, models and reasons for behaviour – and to use these for designing programs of change.

From that perspective, Expeditions has carried out diverse international and national research projects with a special interest in analysing narratives (narratology) and translating quantitative research in anthropological insights (“connecting the dots”) which are than used as starting points for further qualitative analyses. For us applied anthropologist the most important thing is the fact our research makes a difference concerning diverse challenges of contemporary social issues.
Expeditions deals with five types of applied anthropology research; frequently used in a combination due to the goals of the involved assignments. The five types concern:
Type 1: Policy Research
Research intended to assess the effects of a policy to adapt or change it or to generate new policies. Policy research usually involves conducting ethnographic research and making suggestions for policy change through single events (e.g. workshops, conferences). It also involves describing the effects of implementing a set of policies on a target population and demonstrating the process of change as well as the need for policy change. In these approaches, the researcher speaks to the policymakers, but is generally not actively involved either in the process of policy-making or in penetrating the locations, networks, or policy clusters within which policy is made. The recognition that those who produce scientific knowledge for policymakers must be involved in significant ways in the policy-making process has been at the forefront of thinking in anthropology for the past two decades. It is only recently, however, that anthropologists have provided written examples of their direct involvement with policymakers at governmental and other levels.


Type 2: Evaluation Research
Research intended to improve or evaluate the efficacy or outcome of a program. Generally, the evaluation identifies cultural patterns, networks, or other factors likely to help a program or be important in determining consistency of implementation and outcome. In many instances, the anthropologist is not directly involved in developing or implementing the program and does not have the responsibility for translating research into program models or activities. At times, however, especially in participatory empowerment or action research evaluation models, the evaluation researcher plays a  role in implementation and thus should have some experience in managing the class of programs targeted by the evaluation.


Type 3: Cultural Intervention Research
Unlike evaluation research, this involves the applied anthropologist directly in the development, conduct, and evaluation of a culturally based, theory-driven intervention. Here, the researcher conducts research that identifies cultural factors important in guiding interventions and uses the findings to generate or identify appropriate intervention theories. The creation and conduct of the intervention, based on cultural knowledge and theory development, also falls to the anthropologist, who, like the participatory evaluator, must know a great deal about methods of program implementation. Teamwork is advisable in cultural intervention research.



Type 4: Advocacy or Action Research
Specifically directed toward identifying, critiquing, and addressing imbalances in allocationof power, economic resources, social status, material goods, and other desired social or economical
elements in a community, society, or globally. Advocacy research may include evaluation, policy research, and research and development. The end result is to increase, organise, and activate resistance in community groups, with unions, with groups representing underrepresented or excluded populations, and with those with limited (or perceived as limited) power to change their own conditions. Anthropologists engaged in advocacy research tend to do so from a “liberal” or “critical” perspective; thus, culturally based theories guiding advocacy research must recognize structural barriers to promote equity and consider such general factors contributing to social inequities as class and caste, power, gender, age, sexual preference, linguistic usage, and social race as well as those specific to local/national settings. We prefer the term “advocacy research” because “action research” is a term now ubiquitous in social science literature; it refers to iterative research leading to any “action”, rather than action guided by critical thinking.

Type 5: Participatory Action Research
Research that involves several critical elements including: a long-term partnership with those who are going to take action (for example: to improve their program, to create and use a curriculum, to develop a new way of mobility in a city, etc.); continuous interaction of research with the action through joint researcher/actor data collection, analysis, reflection; and use. In the other forms of research outlined above, the means (research) leads to the end (an evaluation, a program, a policy change, etc.). In participatory action research (PAR), the means is the end, and the conduct of research is embedded in the process of introducing or generating change. PAR is locally specific and is intended to further local goals with local partners. Since action depends on good information, the quality of the information obtained through PAR should ideally be outstanding. More than any other form of research, PAR is subject to the constraints of time, local politics, and other contextual factors. Thus, participant action researchers must be excellent group facilitators as well as researchers and should be familiar with techniques for conducting research with groups and individuals (group pile sorts, group interviews, group elicitation techniques, etc.) in order to maximise the rigor of the research. For Expeditions PAR is, first and foremost, in use with reference to qualitative techniques including group interviews and cooperative inquiry, narratives and story-telling. Our applied research is than embedded in a setting in which a theme as an issue has been identified and a group is present to address it.