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The Underlying Philosophical Assumptions Sociology Essay

If you want to know how much people weigh, use a scale. If you want to know if theyre obese, measure body fat in relation to height and weight and compare the results to population norms. If you want to know what their weight means to them, how it affects them, how they think about it, and what they do about it, you need to ask them questions, find out about their experiences, and hear their stories’.

Michael Quinn Patton, 2002:13.

5.0 Introduction

This chapter intends to inform the reader on the research methodology and methods used to collect and analyse data. The chapter consists of six sections. The first section addresses the underlying philosophical issues so as to provide a theoretical background for the study. The justification for the chosen paradigm, methodology and the research strategy are discussed in the second and third sections respectively. The procedure of conducting the research is described in the fourth section, while the ethical issues are presented in the fifth section. The final section concludes the chapter.

5.1 Underlying philosophical assumptions

“If we value the pursuit of knowledge, we must be free to follow wherever that search may lead us. The free mind is no barking dog to be tethered on a one foot chain.”

Theodor Wiesengrund Ardono 1903 - 1969

In designing and undertaking this study, the underlying philosophical assumptions need to be made clear. This is because the theoretical framework, choice of paradigm, personal value and world views influenced how the study was conducted and written. Any good research strives to make the assumptions explicitly to shape the perspectives of the study. This study is not totally objective or value-free i.e. the researcher should avoid any circumstances that may corrupt their analytical competence. There are differing views of what is knowledge, its validity, subjectivity, objectivity and reality of social science research (Creswell, 1998, 2007). Ritchie and Lewis (2003:13–23) outlined philosophical assumptions with implications for practice that need to be considered. Therefore, for this particular study the researcher looked into four assumptions, namely ontology, epistemology, assumptions about human nature and methodological implications.

5.1.1 Ontological assumptions

Ontology is mainly concerned with the nature of being. In social science research, the key ontological concern is the nature of “reality” and whether social reality exists, independent of human conceptions and interpretations (Snape and Spencer in Ritchie and Lewis, 2003:11). There are three distinct positions of social reality, namely realism, materialism and idealism. Hammersley (1992) argues for ‘subtle realism’, whereby social phenomena are believed to exist independent of people’s representation of them but are only accessible through those representations. On the other hand, Creswell (2007:17-18) discusses reality as being subjective and multiple as seen by participants of the study. In this view the researcher uses quotes and themes in the words of the participants to provide evidence of different perspectives. Evidence of multiple realities includes the use of numerous quotes based on the actual words of different individuals and presenting different perspectives from individuals. Buame (1996:43) argues that, “reality is socially constructed and imbued with only inter-subjective meanings”. The argument here is whether the social world exists independent of natural world, and that the existence of the social world is different because of different perceptions of individuals. It may be argued that the social world is created by individuals living in it through their perceptions and how they place meaning to their world. This study supports the assumption about realism, which, according to Ritchie and Lewis (2003), that there is an external reality which exists independently of people’s beliefs or understanding.

5.1.2 Epistemological assumptions

Epistemology is a name derived from the Greek term episteme, meaning knowledge and logo meaning theory. Thus, epistemology deals with different ways of knowing and learning about the social world and it focuses on questions such as how can we know about reality, and what is the basis of our knowledge? In undertaking a qualitative study, researchers try to get as close as possible to the participants’ world (Snape and Spencer in Ritchie and Lewis, 2003:13). Creswell (2007) claims that the most common question to ask is “what is the relationship between the researcher and those being researched?” In this case, the researcher has tried to lessen the distance between her and those being researched. The researcher spent considerable time in the field, living with the participants, observing, what participants do and say, conversing formally and informally and becoming one of them, “an insider”. Thus, the researcher tries to minimize the ’’distance’’ or “objective separateness” between her and those being researched (Guba and Lincoln, 1989:94). The researcher does, however acknowledge the fact that she takes on the position of a ‘emphatic neutrality’, a researcher who recognize that research cannot be value-free, but that assumptions should be made transparent. Snape and Spencer continue arguing that , the influence of these assumptions on the way data is collected and analyzed can be flexible (Ritchie and Lewis 2003: 13-14). Epistemology concerns itself with posing and resolving the problem of how “valid” knowledge is possible and it deals with the nature, origin, scope and limits of human knowledge (MacDonnell, 1986:46 in Buame 1996:43). It can be argued that when individuals are looking at ways of acquiring knowledge they should also think how it relates to reality. Therefore epistemological assumptions need to establish what is to be considered as “truth” by having several reports confirming a statement as are presentation of a socially constructed reality. However, “independent” reality can only be gauged in a consensual, rather than absolute way (Snape and Spencer in Ritchie and Lewis 2003:14). Nonetheless, the above argument suggests that respondents provide firsthand information which is used by the researcher to understand the phenomenon under study.

5.1.3 Assumptions about human nature

The assumption about human nature refers to how the human beings interact with their environment in which they live. It can be argued that people’s behaviour and actions are influenced by the internal and external environment surrounding them, even though people are capable of creating their own free environment. However, the researcher believes that this capability is determined by social and cultural environment prevailing in a particular context. Thus, she believes that the difference in the ways in which rural poor female entrepreneurs between Pwani and Arusha regions do exist because of the different socio-cultural contexts between these two regions. The everyday activities of rural female entrepreneurs can not be divorced from the environment they are operating. The environment they live and operate impacts on their behaviour and may also influence the experiences they gain in that particular environment. This perspective might be better understood in terms of the following example; people from different geographical areas and different socio cultural influence may have different perceptions of entrepreneurial success.

In this case, the researcher views human nature as captured in the characteristics of entrepreneurship and the activities involved. The problem for researchers is the association of non-economic issues, which may have an ever greater impact on how people undertake their entrepreneurship activities. It is assumed in this study that, free-thinking as people may be, they cannot ignore the socio-cultural in which they are embedded. No human being, nor any human action, is thought to be immune to the influence of its social and cultural context (Buame, 1996:44). Thus, studying human activities require a specific method.

5.1.4 Methodological assumptions

According to Creswell (2007:17), methodological assumptions ask the question; what is the process of research? The researcher uses inductive logic, studies the topic within its framework and utilizes an emerging design. In conducting the study, the researcher looks into the data details before ‘conformability’ and ’validations’, where she describes in detail the context in which the study was undertaken and uses the opportunity to improve research questions to best fit the research problem. The choice of adopting a deductive or inductive method depends on how one sees the social world. There are factors which may determine which approach to adopt depending on their experience and how they see the world .The use of an inductive approach allows the researcher to have an insight of the social world. This can be done by using methods such as participant observation, in depth interviews and conversations. On the other hand the use of deductive approach is to test hypothesis by using questionnaires and surveys. These simply relate to the different views of the social world and different beliefs about how the phenomenon can and should be studied practically. The purpose here is to emphasize the different stances that social researchers may take on these issues and to show how different beliefs give rise to different research practices.

The qualitative methodology for this study is inductive and emergent, in the sense that issues became refined in the research process. It is guided by the researcher’s knowledge and experience in conducting field work and analysing data, as the concepts emerge from data that assist in theory development. This process witnessed changes in the focus of the study, which resulted in research questions being amended, at different stages of the study, and enabled the research issues to be better addressed.

5.2 Justification for chosen methodology

“Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted.”

Albert Einstein, 1879 – 1955

The aim of choosing qualitative methodology is to try to better understand the phenomenon under investigation. The aim is not to count but to see the bigger picture. This study is both exploratory in nature and it seeks to tap into the lived experiences of the respondents. As Creswell (2007) argues, many changes have occurred on the landscape of qualitative research over time that qualitative research has become widely acknowledged as a legitimate mode of inquiry into social, behavioural and health sciences, than it was over ten years ago. Further, he acknowledges the developments in qualitative projects being funded, more academic materials have been developed and more academic writers have surfaced. Since then the interpretive qualitative research approach, focusing on the self-reflective nature of how qualitative research is conducted, read, and advanced, has become largely dominant in the qualitative discourse and, in many ways, has been integrated into the core of qualitative inquiry. This view is shared by Denzin and Lincoln (2005) who state that there are other aspects of qualitative research which play a more central role in designing qualitative inquiry, for example, the role of the researcher, or the person reading the research.

Other writers, especially from an ethnographic background, have embraced the interpretive “turn” and have called for a methodological dialogue to address questions of disciplinary power, theoretical future of the field, alternative theoretical approaches, discontinuance of theoretical traditions, new methods of training and preparation and alternative writing of publications possibilities (Koro-Ljungberg and Greckhamer, 2005).

5.3 Research strategy

The study emphasizes the need to understand the background, experiences and the process of entrepreneurship in a way that may assist in the formulation of suitable policies beneficial to female entrepreneurs, as well as improving the practice and enhancing the process of entrepreneurship. According to Harris (in Creswell, 2007:68), it is important to investigate the phenomenon systematically so that the results will portray the holistic picture of the lives of the people under investigation. The study involved analyzing the values, behaviours, beliefs, practices and the language of the cultural–sharing group. For this particular study, adopting an appropriate approach in order to conduct the study was of great importance. So the researcher adopted an ethnographic case study approach so that she can observe, converse and interview the respondents closely.

5.3.1 Choice of study approach

A number of fundamental features guided the choice of approach adopted in this work. They include the context in which the study is undertaken, the sources of data collection, the type of data to be collected, the choice of cases and finally, the interpretation of analysed data (Hammersley, 1998:2). The study intended to examine how women in rural areas undertake very small businesses in developing countries like Tanzania; accordingly an ethnographic approach was used to undertake this investigation.

Ethnography has been defined in different ways by different authors. Fetterman (1998:1) refers to ethnography as the “art and science of describing a group or culture”. He goes on to say “the description may be of a small tribe group in an exotic land or a classroom in the middle of suburbia”. Conversely, Creswell (2007:68) describes an ethnographer as a person who is interested in examining shared patterns. In this study, an ethnographic approach is used to understand the effects of culture on practices.

As pointed out earlier, this study will employ the ethnographic case study approach. Gilliam (2000:1) defines a case study as a unit of human activity embedded in the real world which can only be studied or understood in context, which exists in the ‘here and now’; that merges in with its context, so that precise boundaries are difficult to draw. This is a research strategy which investigates the phenomenon in its real life context. This study adopted the approach of multiple cases and descriptive or exploratory (causal). These multiple cases enabled the researcher to draw from as many sources of data as possible to enhance the understanding of the phenomenon and to assist in making a reasonable ‘dependability’ of the results, in analytical terms (Creswell, 2007:8). For these reasons, the researcher believes that undertaking the study in a specific context to analyse a specific phenomenon will benefit from an ethnographic case study approach. She concurs with Fetterman’s (1998:19) argument that “ethnographers endeavour to describe as much as possible about a culture or a small group, where the description might include the group’s history, religion, politics, economy and environment”. The approach will facilitate this study to acquire the holistic picture and will help in the understanding of the phenomenon under study. In this case the influence of socio- cultural factors on female entrepreneurial activities in rural Tanzania.

5.3.2 The challenges of using ethnography

“…social events and processes must be explained in terms of their relationship to the context in which they occur”

Martin Hammersley 1998:8.

The criticism of ethnography is based on the methodological debate that ethnography does not meet the criteria of being scientific. This notion occupied the discussions about ethnography in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Secondly, there is the question whether or not ethnography has moved away from quantitative research and models of natural sciences. In fact, it is conducted in such a way that it assists the understanding of the cultural perspectives of particular human actions. Also, ethnography attempts to discover new concepts and principles, which were not even the focus of the earlier work (Hammersley, 1998).

There is an ongoing debate on the failure of quantitative research to capture the true nature of human social behaviour (Hammersley, 1998:9). Over time quantitative researchers have questioned the scientific status of ethnographic studies. The main criticism is based on the lack of precision in ethnography; the use of methods of data collection such as unstructured observation and structured interviews; the use of small samples in natural setting and emerging difficulties of replicating ethnographic studies.

Nonetheless, the use of ethnography to conduct research in developing countries, where the tradition of research is just beginning, is the best option. This argument is supported by Hammersley (1998), Huberman and Miles (2002:65) that, by entering into a close, and relatively long–term contact with people in their everyday lives, we come to understand their beliefs and behaviour more accurately, in a way that would not be possible by means of any other approach. They go on to stress that the goal of ethnographic research is to discover and faithfully represent the true nature of the social phenomenon.

Ethnographic case study seemed the most appropriate approach to adopt compared to other approaches which have limitations in their application. Examples of such approaches are surveys and experiments, as Blumer (1969) argues in his methodological writings of the Chicago Sociologists. He cites experimental and survey research for failing to grasp the distinctive nature of human social life, and the key feature of naturalistic research strategy that he recommends is ‘getting closer’ to a naturally occurring social phenomenon. On the other hand Hammersley (1989:127-128) uses metaphors to describe this approach as ‘lifting the veils’ and ‘digging deeper’ while Matza (1968) advocates ‘naturalism’, arguing that its core is a commitment to capture the nature of social phenomenon in their terms. These views are also shared with other authors in the field such as Lofland, (1972); Schatzman and Strauss, (1973); and Fetterman, (1998). With the chosen case study, the ethnographic approach is the most appropriate for this study, as compared to other methods such as surveys or questionnaire-based.

Moreover, doing research in the developing world may present difficulties, as the environment and background of the respondents might limit how the respondents will participate in the study. Approaches like surveys, where mail or telephone surveys are carried out in the environment in which the study is undertaken, would not be practical as many people, and in particular women, have no access to telephones and some of them cannot read or write. Questionnaires may be ambiguous in foreign environments, but also the limitation of questionnaires’ low response rate may be the reason behind the lack of representation of the study population (Dana and Dana, 2005:80). The research instruments developed for the study may influence the output of research. In countries like Tanzania, it is important to develop research instruments which will not be too foreign to the respondent. The success of the researcher’s task of data collection will depend how he or she better uses already- known instruments used in daily lives, like interviews, telling stories and conversation. This study aims at increasing the understanding of women entrepreneurs and how they undertake their activities in their existing environment.

5.3.3 Justification of research aims and research questions

Based on the research aims outlined in section 1.2, the following research questions were developed and seem to be relevant to the study. Table 5.1 below shows the relationship between specific objectives and research questions.

Table 5.1 Research aims and research questions

Specific objectives

Research questions

1. To understand the background experience of the rural women entrepreneurs in Tanzania

i. what are the respondents’ personal characteristics, family background and education background

ii. what are their life experiences at home and after leaving home

iii. what are the business experiences, motivation and business ideas

iv. how did they start their first business

2. To explore nature and size of enterprises undertaken by the rural women entrepreneurs

i. how did they start up their business

ii. at what age did the start their business

iii. what type of business undertaken and products sold

iv. where did they get their initial capital

v. how much do they sell in a given time period

vi. how do they interact with others in the entrepreneurial process

3. To explore the entrepreneurial activities process in the rural areas

i. how did they get business premises

ii. how do they carry out buying and selling transactions

iii. what are the business development supports

iv. how do the rural women entrepreneurs spend their typical day

4. To examine the constraints faced by rural women entrepreneurs and how they overcome them

i. what are the financial, social, cultural and institutional constraints facing rural women entrepreneurs in undertaking entrepreneurial activities

ii. how do they overcome those constraints

5. To apply the findings to develop relevant information that may assist in improving the entrepreneurial performance of women in rural areas

i. how individuals would like things to be

ii. how to improve the performance of supporting institutions

iii. what are the effects of culture, traditions, norms and customs on socio-economic performance of rural women

This study was carried out in three rural villages, two villages in the Pwani region and one village in the Arusha region. These villages are Kongowe from Kibaha district, Ruvu Darajani from Bagamoyo district and Patandi from Arumeru district. The two villages in the Pwani region were selected purposively, on the basis of being in one of the poorest regions in the country. Also these villages were chosen as a continuation of a study conducted by the same researcher in 2003. The choice of Patandi village was based on the fact that the Arusha region is one area which is economically successful. Moreover, as this study explores the impact of socio-cultural factors on entrepreneurship, another reason for selecting these villages is that the researcher wanted to examine the process of entrepreneurship between contrasting regions in terms of geographical location and economic well-being. Furthermore, all the three villages are located along the main trunk road leading to other regions and neighbouring countries. Kongowe and Ruvu Darajani are found along the Morogoro road, which is the main transport artery in the country. It is the major link to countries like Malawi and Zambia. On the other hand, Patandi is found along the Moshi–Arusha road which leads to nearby countries such as Kenya and Uganda.

Lastly the three villages have markets where both women and men operate. Kongowe and Ruvu Darajani have permanent market places where entrepreneurship activities are carried out every day. Patandi on the other hand has a market which operates at full-scale two days a week and on a very small scale on Mondays to Saturdays. The market is closed on Sundays. This selection did not take into consideration the climatic conditions and other geographical characteristics prevailing in the three villages.

5.3.4 Study population

The target population for this study was female micro-entrepreneurs who are petty traders in their village markets. They may operate inside the market or around the market area depending on the set up of the market. These are female micro-entrepreneurs who buy and sell small items for everyday life. This category of the population is typical in most village markets in the country. The studied respondents were individual female micro-entrepreneurs who own and manage micro-enterprises.

5.4 Research procedures

This section describes how the research was conducted in terms of the pilot study, field experience, sampling procedures and data collection.

5.4.1 Pilot study experience

During the pilot phase the researcher tried to use tape-recordings but with very little success. Once the researcher asked if she could record a conversation, everything changed; from the posture, language, tone, and even responses were made to suit the recording environment. The researcher then decided not to use any recording device throughout my field work. Because all the interviews with women entrepreneurs were conducted at the site of business, there was a lot of distraction and background noise, which made me change the times of interviews to early mornings or late evening, just before closing. This had its repercussions and presented limitations on the respondents in terms of fatigue, and for the researcher, in terms of time and resources. At several points the researcher began to wish that she had used a survey, but she shielded away from the possibility very quickly. The positivist approaches would not be suitable or appropriate because of their limitations ontologically and epistemologically. Secondly there are no post offices in the villages and respondents would never be bothered to respond to questionnaires because of an inability to read or write. Nonetheless, being a researcher is not an easy role, there is always suspicion that something is not as it seems to be. This attitude, exhibited amongst the study populations, could make an approach like a survey, less successful. Hence, although the interviewing was difficult, the researcher became convinced it was the best way to acquire useful, relevant data.

Because of the limitations of documentary sources, this study, to a large extent, depended on the responses from the respondents and the experience of the researcher obtained from participation and observation of the respondent’s daily activities in the village markets. During the pilot stage, a focus group discussion was conducted in order to have a deeper understanding of the socio-cultural impact on entrepreneurship. The responses obtained from a group were different from the responses obtained from face-to-face individual interviews, and there was the challenge of respondents not wanting to lose face in front of their colleagues. I then decided to abandon it as an approach and immersed myself in observation, conversation and in-depth interviews.

5.4.2 Fieldwork experience.

During the course for my study as a research student, the researcher was informed by methodological classes on the importance of using qualitative research as the most appropriate methodology when studying a social phenomenon. The aim was to understand and interpret the researcher’s understanding from the respondents’ own view and the meaning they place on their social world. As an ethnographer, the researcher interacted with respondents in their daily lives and learnt how their systems work, what are their rules, language and conduct. This helped to easily interact and develop socio-relationships which allowed free conversation most of the time. The approach helped the researcher to later develop more informal conversation in a way which did not look like a question and answer session. When interacting with respondents, the researcher has to maintain innocence and be naïve with the aim of wanting to know what was going on. The researcher carried out conversations by being a good listener to the stories of the female entrepreneurs as narrated. Now and then the researcher would ask for clarification of how the socio-cultural factors influenced how they conducted their business activities. The researcher also observed carefully what was going on around her, including the interaction between the women and other respondents, such as with the local government officials, and other persons who were not the direct respondents to the study. The researcher observed the process of entrepreneurship unfolding in front of her eyes. This kind of approach, which aims at cognitive and insightful understanding (Buame, 1996:57), has its origin in Webers’s Vestehen, where the objective is to “understand”.

As said earlier, the aim of an ethnographic study is to get as close as possible to the respondents while maintaining the social distance and avoiding turning native. The approach helps to get to know the respondents’ beliefs, values, morals, ideas, experiences and the way they conduct their entrepreneurial activities. Spending a prolonged time in the field had its advantages. It allowed the researcher to form relationships with respondents which were beneficial to both sides. The respondents could trust the researcher and provide more reliable information than if it had been otherwise. The participation in their market life enabled the researcher to understand some aspects even without needing clarification, so the chances of misinformation were reduced. The interviews were conducted after a lot of information had been gathered through critical observation and from the information obtained from other sources, such as the local government office. The data from the local government office was not entirely reliable, that the researcher largely depended on the information given from the horse’s mouth: the respondents themselves.

5.4.3 The sampling strategy and sample population

“The research question shapes the selection of a place and a people or program to study”

David Fetterman, 1998: 32.

In developing countries, where there are limitations on developing sampling frames, a common sampling technique used is purposeful sampling. This technique has been used in studies like Women Entrepreneurship Development and Empowerment in Tanzania by Makombe (2006). This proved very helpful in Patandi because the number of female micro-entrepreneurs operating each market day ranged from 2,500 to 5,000. For Kongowe and Ruvu Darajani, where the number of women micro-entrepreneurs was small, the task of locating the respondents was easier. The women, who were selected from a large population of micro-entrepreneurs, met the criteria which were: age, type of micro-enterprise operated the different performance levels of the enterprise, ownership and management of the enterprise, and any other contrasting features, like physical disability and the presence of dependants when undertaking their entrepreneurial activities. The case was different at Patandi village where sampling was done after prolonged observations of the different sections of the market. Respondents were observed in a group and separately and then those who met the criteria were included in the sample. These criteria were chosen in order to examine whether they had any significance influence on the way the rural female micro-entrepreneurs undertake their daily activities and to diversify the sample size.

The set criteria were important because they allowed female micro-entrepreneurs of different ages to be included in the sample. The type of enterprise operated allowed for diversification of different types of micro-enterprises undertaken by these female. The ownership and management of enterprise excluded those who were employed so as to allow the researcher to study the enterprises and draw conclusions on how the socio-cultural factors may have impacted on how these female micro-entrepreneurs undertake their activities. The selections based on religion and ethnic origin were dropped because there was a concentration of indigenous tribes and popular religious faith depending on the locality of the respondents. The issues of ethnicity and religion were used to show the general picture of the background of respondents.

In all the three villages, the researcher first contacted the local government village officers as an entry point. They provided useful ground information on the status of micro-entrepreneurship in their villages. Some intended respondents were not reached because they had stopped operating, temporarily or permanently, during the fieldwork process. As there was no register of female micro-entrepreneurs, the researcher had to depend on the presence of the women entrepreneurs on their operating premises.

A total of thirty operating female micro-entrepreneurs were selected from the three villages. Ten respondents were selected from each village. The number was convenient for comparison across cases. A further nine non-operating female micro-entrepreneurs were selected using snowball sampling because it was not easy to get willing non-operating entrepreneurs to participate in the study. Their number was again for convenience purposes, three from each village. The selection allowed maximum variation and diversity within setting and across settings.

In sampling respondents, the first task was to locate the female micro-entrepreneurs to participate in the study. After much consideration of time and finance, the researcher decided to study female entrepreneurs who operate in their local markets. This was the only place where there was a concentration of female entrepreneurs, undertaking a wide range of economic and socio-activities. In the researcher’s experience as a voluntary worker with female micro entrepreneurs, the first source of information was to go to operating MFIs in the village. To the disappointment of the researcher, the register of females who take loans with the relevant MFIs was not made available because of data protection issues. Therefore, the only information obtained was the list of females who obtain loans from the local government office which did not correspond with the actual number of female micro-entrepreneurs who operated in the village markets. There were a substantial number of loan recipients who did not do any business. They belonged to loaning groups and, if they could pay back their loans, the MFIs did not have any objection. The women who took loans did not give their work address only their home address. At least all active respondents could be found in or around the market. It was found that as a procedure and some sort of assurance, all loans were to be seconded by the local government office.

The problem came that there was no proper record of who applied for the loan and who got and who did not get the loan. Females got loans in groups, which were not business but socially connected, like family or friends. The local government officers knew all the women who operated in the market because they collected daily revenue. After the researcher introduced herself and produced a letter of introduction from the University and the Ministry of Education in Tanzania, she was then introduced to the market leaders, who later on introduced her to the operating women entrepreneurs. That was the case for Kongowe and Patandi. The situation was different for the village of Ruvu Darajani, where there was no organization of female micro-entrepreneurs so the researcher was introduced to them directly. At some point the researcher had to introduce herself directly to the respondents.

Very few women had formal businesses, while the majority had informal businesses, which included economic activities too small to be registered and not under any government formal controls, like taxes. Almost all the businesses examined fell under this category except Grace who operated a registered lady’s hair dressing salon. They included businesses like food vending, tailoring, selling farm products, genges, small shops, fish mongering, and all petty trading activities. Based on the aim of the study, it did not matter whether they had a registered business or a permanent business address. The formal status of the respondents had no bearing on the theoretical implication. However, building the relationship first was very important to avoiding mistrust and the researcher also used this time to study how the female entrepreneurs operated in the village markets.

5.4.4 Data collection

Data were collected from November 2006 to January 2008.The researcher collected data from the three sites at intervals. There were interruptions in the extended interviews with the respondents here and there from neighbours and/or passers-by and during the whole process such as respondents attending to various social activities instead of going to their business premises; but all these were part and parcel of the respondents’ lives. The noted interruptions included family illnesses, funerals, weddings, religious celebrations and, in the case of the Pwani region, traditional celebrations. In these circumstances collecting data proved to be more difficult and called for considerable patience.

Conducting field work in a poor country like Tanzania involves unique circumstances and difficulties. Most people especially in rural areas have been involved in programmes like poverty alleviation; HIV/AIDS; and also election campaigns for political parties and local government. When conducting such surveys or programmes, the organizers have always included an aspect of payment to get people on their side, or to get the information they wanted; so in some cases respondents were given soft drink in order to get information. However, due to limited resources, the researcher was not able to offer these inducements. The researcher had to express herself and clearly explain the purpose of the research that it was not in any way related to any profit making body. At the end, respondents agreed to cooperate without anticipating any kind of payment from the researcher. The research relied on primary sources of data which are the respondents and their settings. Other sources such as documentary materials helped to give a general picture of what was going on in the study sites, although the documents had some deficiencies in terms of being updated, completeness and accuracy.

Data collection was done in three phases in every village. The first phase involved getting access and building rapport. The first week of my field work was used to do an exploratory study of the field and its settings. The aim of this exploratory stage was to familiarize myself with the respondents and their environment. That time was also used to establish the necessary contacts formally or informally. This helped in laying the foundation for a better working rapport and developing relationships that will help avoid mistrust and suspicion. Lastly, the situation analysis was carried out to get an indication of the patterns and themes which are likely to emerge from the research.

Figure 5.1 Sampling procedure

Source: Author

5.4.5 Gaining access

Gaining access and gaining trust are two different things. In my case, gaining access was not a problem. As soon as the researcher presented an introductory letter from the Ministry of Education that she was doing research, the village local government officials took her on board. They introduced me to all the relevant people as far as the village market is concerned. As said earlier, these officers are not always popular. The researcher needed another entry which was not official to gain access to the respondents and their activities. That took time, with the exception of Kongowe, where the researcher met an old colleague who was a teacher like myself and he introduced me to some of the respondents and made access easier. For Ruvu Darajani and Patandi, it started like going on a blind date, not knowing what to expect.

Most respondents were suspicious of people they know nothing about. People were talking and word got around that the researcher was involved in a study, but there were different versions of “the study” the researcher was involved with. But when they saw the research every day, some of them started speaking to her, asking about herself and those became my gate-keepers. There were more than three in each village because the researcher did not want to be in conflict with any socio-circles they belonged to. When the researcher became one of them, they showed trust and confidence in her. Sometimes they shared with the researcher the most intimate information about themselves or others. They came to know that the researcher did not mean any harm and they wished her well in her study.

5.4.6 Interpersonal observation

The first weeks of field work were used for field acclimatization and exploration of the locations to be studied. In order to gain a perspective of events the researcher endeavoured to establish contact with people she knew previously to assist her in developing a rapport with respondents and to develop relationship which may promote trust.

5.5 Ethical issues

The research was carried out according to the Research Ethics Policy of The Robert Gordon University, and the Data Protection Legislation Act in Tanzania. For this research, ethical approval was obtained from the University prior to the field work. This guaranteed that all participants were fully briefed and protected throughout the research process. Respondents were assured of complete confidentiality during data collection, analysis and evaluation of findings, presentation and reporting of findings. Respondents were asked for their consent in the whole process of collecting, analyzing and writing research report. Furthermore, respondents were requested to give consent if the research is presented and published. In undertaking this study ethical considerations were considered right from the initial stages of the research process, that is, the proposal. This was observed in identifying the research problem, which was how the socio-cultural factors influence the performance of rural female entrepreneurs. This problem was identified as being important to the respondents and the entire population of women entrepreneurs in the studied setting.

Before beginning field work the researcher requested permission from the Ministry of Education to conduct research. The researcher then proceeded to seek permission from the three villages to be studied. The village authority was also notified of the time scale, the impacts and the outcome of the research. The researcher also developed an informed consent form which was read to the respondents, rather than providing the form for respondents to read, as some of the respondents did not know how to read and write. It also maintained consistency for all respondents. The form, which is in the appendix, acknowledged the respondents’ rights to voluntarily participate in the study and to withdraw at anytime so that the respondents were not forced or coerced to participate in the study. The purpose and procedures of the study were communicated in the form. Respondents were also notified of their right to ask questions, get feedback from the findings and have their privacy respected and to be informed of any benefit arising from the study (Creswell, 2003:64 - 65).

Respondents agreed to have their real names printed on the report, but not all respondents were happy for just their first names to appear in any work which may be presented or published. The researcher made sure that accurate information was provided. As Creswell (2003:67) notes, this research is committed to the avoidance of words, phrases or language that are biased against a person because of gender, ethnic group, age, religion, or disability. This avoids untrue, deceptive and doctored results (Kombo and Tromp, 2006:132).

5.6 Conclusions

In this chapter the researcher presented the research methodology and the procedures that were used. The study was conducted in three villages in Tanzania. The main respondents of the study were the rural female entrepreneurs. The study was designed using an ethnographic case study approach. Data was collected using field observation, in-depth interviews and life stories were collected. The researcher presented the field work experiences and the role played during the data collection phase. The study will be analyzed using ethnographic content analysis whereby descriptive accounts will be presented, then data will be analyzed and an interpretation on how the social cultural factors may have impacted on how women in developing countries will be presented. Lastly, the issues of internal and external validity were presented.

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