Methodology on Renewable Energy in Powys Wales

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This chapter identifies the justifications for, and validity of, the methods and processes used during the research.

As briefly outlined in the introduction, this research project will outline the existing and potential use of renewable energy through the planning system in Powys, Mid Wales. Currently there are a number of major projects, predominantly wind farms already present in Powys however there is scope for more as well as other renewable sources such as Anaerobic Digestion and Micro Hydro Power. The following sections will … (make sure you signpost)

What is Research?

According to the Encarta World English Dictionary (date? Page?), Research can be defined as

"Organized study: methodical investigation into a subject in order to discover facts, to establish or revise a theory, or to develop a plan of action based on the facts discovered" you need to include page numbers for direct quotations

In lame man 'layman's' terms, this basically refers to the way in which one undertakes a process of attaining information that is required for a particular reason. There are varying degrees of research methods and also to varying degrees. This could range from a person "researching" into a holiday all the way to a PhD student compiling information for their final thesis. This research project is for a Masters level thus considerable research is required ref to support?.

Clough and Nutbrown (2002) who published "A Students guide to Methodology" suggest that the research at Masters Level is not so much to prove things but more to investigate questions and explore issues. Clough and Nutbrown both define Research by the moral act within which the researcher holds responsibility for ensuring that resultant change is for the better. It is the intention of the writer to undertake this process in order to understand the renewable aspect through the planning system and to try to ascertain the short-falls, if any and how to address them. Need to use a variety of refs throughout. Try and avoid the one ref per paragraph style.

Research ethics

"Research that involves human subjects or participants raises unique and complex ethical, legal, social and political issues" (Nancy Walton, date? Page?).

Research ethics concentrates on the analysis of ethical issues that are raised when people are involved as participants in research. Accordingly, there are three main objectives in research ethics, the first and broadest is to protection over the human participants. The second objective is to ensure that any research is conducted in a way that serves interests of the individuals or groups as a whole. Ref?

The third objective is to explore the specific research activities and projects for their ethical soundness such as analysis of the management risks, protection of confidentiality and the process of informed consent. Ref?

Ethical protection for research participants can be described in a number of ways which will be explained below. These descriptions have been compiled by the "research establishment" ref?

Need to pull above together into one paragraph

Try and avoid using mini paragraphs - it can make the discussion disjointed

Voluntary Participation

Voluntary Participation generally refers to when the public are not obliged to participate in research. For example, this could be when a researcher relies upon a large number of people where no previously consultation has taken place, such as students at a university or the crowd at a sporting event. This would, in the opinion of the researcher gain more information than any other type. Need to support these ideas with refs

Informed Consent

Closely related to Voluntary Participation, is the requirement of Informed Consent which means that researchers must notify any potential participants to gain approval about the research, including details such as what their intentions are and the relevant procedures and risks involved. ref?

Risk of Harm

Parallel with the participation procedure, the researcher has a duty of care for their participant to ensure they are not subjected to any Risk of Harm. This can be both physical and/or psychological and in order to seek to prevent either, two standards can be applied in order to maintain the privacy of the participant. Unless it is a self evident fact e.g. the earth is round, you need to support points with references. Especially important as you are trying to convince the reader that you are using a valid and appropriate method.

Accordingly, the majority of research guarantees the participants confidentiality. This means that the participant's identity would not be made available to anyone who is not involved with the research. The other principal to maintain the privacy of the individual is to make the participant anonymous, thus not even the researcher being aware of the identity of the subject.

Later in the Findings chapter, it will be evident that in order to ascertain public perception of the Case Study (Wind Farm Application), a variety of voluntary participants will be asked a few basic questions after the planning committee for the determination of the application for the aforementioned wind farm. The identity of the participants will also remain anonymous however the variety of participants will be varied such as the general public, committee members and local authority officers.

According to Social Research Methods (website date?), it claims that researchers are obliged to deal with the ethical issues of participants "right to service and good research practice" which frequently uses a control group named a No-treatment control group. This group is devised of persons who neither include the participants who receive treatment nor the program that is being researched. However, if there are beneficial results from the programs, the individuals assigned to the no-treatment control group may not believe they have been allowed equal access to the services.

If there is clear evidence that these ethical standards and principles exist, the researcher may often undertake investigations that contradict the rights of the participant, however in this project, there is no reason for this to happen. Obviously, it is extremely difficult to anticipate every ethical circumstance however there needs to be some generic procedures which have been outlined earlier in this chapter to ensure researchers to consider all relevant ethical issues whilst expressing research proposals.

Establishing the Research Method

In order to establish the research methods, it must be noted that the aims and objectives are to be realistic and achievable. Upon consideration of both, the aims and objectives are achievable and therefore the appropriate research techniques must be applied. As with any research, it is not possible to cover every aspect of the topic and therefore the research questions rose in this thesis in turn influenced the choice of methodology.

(A Students guide to Methodology (Clough and Nutbrown 2002)

need to integrate references carefully - where does the above ref belong?

Clough and Nutbrown (2002) have devised three categories that can be assessed against the writer of their research and these are as follows:

Defining Limits

Clarification of research study

Empirical Issues must be identified

In order to define one's limits, the writer must be aware of their limitations and ensure that the chosen topic is of a suitable volume to successfully compile a project on.

Once the writer has identified the limits, clarity of the research study must be recognised. This can be achieved by gathering a wide range of information and literature in order to assess a variety of arguments and statistics ref?.

Finally, to identify the Empirical Issues, these must be again located through a variety of literature both historical and present data.

According to Dirks (2005), "much research is reported informally and rarely qualified by its sources" (p?). try and avoid lots of mini paragraphs - can cause disjointed discussion

Dirks (2005) goes on to state that through a succession of time, and with refinement of what has been named the scientific method, these methods of research have been analysed to ensure that the results are recognised throughout as valid. Furthermore, Dirks (2005) claims that these methods can be altered to the traditional structures of deductive and inductive logic. Anyone agree with Dirks? Sprinkle in more refs where you can

It is obvious to observe such a process in certain investigations such as a scientific experiment, in which one could attempt to derive a truth in a deductive manner. Further observation of this can be seen in social science research where a survey may inevitably lead to a factual finding of sorts.

The framework for this project is in accordance with the observations of Cook & Campbell (1979, cited in Rudestam & Newton, 2001) who identified that the research method choice for social science studies is of a 'quasiexperimental' design. This design comprises of some of the rigour of the controlled experiment but maintains the argument and logic of experimental research.

In the table 1 below, Chappell (2004, cited Robson, 2002) identifies the principal components of a research design:

Table 1: title


What is the study trying to achieve and what specific aspect or process within the concept is being investigated?


What conceptual framework is the concept embedded in?

Research Questions

What information needs to be acquired to satisfy the purpose of the study?


What specific methods will be used to collect data?

Sampling Strategy

From whom will the data be sought?

Source: Robson (2002, cited in Chappell, 2004, p55).

The primary components that are contained within this research framework have led to the production of credible and robust research.

Different types of Research

In order to achieve a credible research method, one must choose from a vast array of research types to gather information. This study is to focus mainly on the planning processes and guidance and therefore primarily classified as qualitative and not quantitative which would have concentrated on measurable issues.

The difficultly of utilising qualitative research methods, are considered, more flexible than those of quantitative methods, is to use them to make robust analysis of contemporary issues which can be complex and unconstrained (Robson, 2002). Table 2 identifies the data collection methods which were engaged throughout the researching procedure.

Need to be consistent in table titles

Source Type


Information location











Governmental Guidance




Table 2: Methods of Data Collection

Within this project, it is the writer's intention to employ the above research methods in order to achieve the best, most accurate information for the later chapters to analyse.

Case Study Research

According to Cassell and Symon (2004), "a case study consists of a detailed investigation with data collected over a period of time, of phenomena, within its specific context." Need to link this is

The writer's aim is to provide an analysis of the context and processes which elucidate the theoretical topics being studied in this thesis. The chosen topic in this instance, Wind Farms is not isolated from its context, i.e. in a laboratory, but is of importance due to the aim to understand how processes are understood and influenced by, in an influence context. Need to join these sections together and create a flowing discussion

A case study is particularly appropriate for research questions which require a detailed understanding of social or organizing processes because of the rich data collected in context. Ref?

In light of the above explanation, it is considered appropriate in this thesis is to incorporate a case study as it illustrates how the writer can identify with real life examples without attaining primary data which would prove difficult due to the limited timescale.

There are various ideas of the importance of case studies (Yin, Campbell 1994) and according to Clough and Nutbrown (2002),

"They are often seen as prime examples of quantitative research which can adopt an interpretive approach to data, studies things within their context and considers the subjective meanings that people bring to their situation." P?

According to Yin (2003), case studies, in this instance are referred to as an "explanatory" case study, and are the preferred research strategy. This is due to the fact that they are able to cope with operational links which need to be identified over a period of time instead of merely establishing frequencies of occurrence. Yin (2003) also argues that when the final research questions and hypothesis have been established, the final study may not automatically be a case study but assume an alternative form of research thus emphasising the flexible nature of case study research.

Case study research is therefore flexible in that it is capable of adapting to and probe into areas of planned but also emergent theory (Cassell and Symon date?)

Due to a number of obvious restraints such as time and location, the time allocated for field work and desk studies were somewhat restricted.

The area chosen is northern Powys (Montgomeryshire) as it was the natural choice being an employee for the council, and being based in the Montgomeryshire office in Welshpool. Need to justify your case study selection carefully - use refs to support the criteria used (i.e. location, contacts, access to info)

The case study chosen will be a current, undetermined planning application for a Wind Farm in the vicinity. This specific application was chosen due to the substantial alterations due to landscape and other environmental constraints that have been considered since submission in 2007. This application was chosen with the guidance of a work colleague who has been and still is dealing with the g application. The process that has taken place in the 2.5 year period will be interesting to assess and evaluate in an environmental context and will be fully explained in the Findings and Discussions Chapters.

Primary Research Data


One of the objectives within this project is to try to establish academic work that little work had been done previously utilizing secondary data. However, in order to achieve this, it was considered appropriate and beneficial to undertake at least one interview. This decision was taken as this form of primary research appears to have a number of benefits in comparison with other methods such as questionnaire including the following taken from website: date?

"Positive rapport between interviewer and interviewee. Very simple, efficient and practical way of getting data about things that can't be easily observed (feelings and emotions, for example).

High Validity. People are able to talk about something in detail and depth. The meanings behind an action may be revealed as the interviewee is able to speak for themselves with little direction from interviewer.

Complex questions and issues can be discussed / clarified. The interviewer can probe areas suggested by the respondent's answers, picking-up information that had either not occurred to the interviewer or of which the interviewer had no prior knowledge.

Pre-Judgement: Problem of researcher predetermining what will or will not be discussed in the interview is resolved. With few "pre-set questions" involved, the interviewer is not "pre-judging" what is and is not important information.

Easy to record interview (video / audio tapes)."

Freedom to explore general views or opinions in more detail that a questionnaire.

The interviewer can re-word a question should the subject be unable to understand.

There is more to gain information face-to-face than in writing.

Upon receipt of an answer, an opportunity to elaborate upon such is readily available.

Above top 6 points taken from ( is this a reliable source?

Blumer (1969) suggest that the researcher "seek participants in the sphere of life who are who are acute observers and who are well informed" (p?) need more than one ref from 1969 to support choice of interviewees

In light of this, the decision of whom to choose to interview was extremely easy to decide as there is only one specialist officer for the entire county who dealt with the applications used as the case studies. This certainly alleviated the pressure of arrangements although said officer is located in a different office approximately 40 miles away in Llandrindod Wells. For the research to be as objective and robust as possible, it was essential to ensure a fair representation. Is one expert interview sufficient? Argue your case

It is also proposed to undertake a number of small scale structured interviews with the general public, councillors and hopefully planning consultants. This will be undertaken following the planning committee for the determination of the case study application. Why the combined approach - explain with refs

Due to limited time available, resources were restricted and therefore it is important for the writer to maximise the output from the research methods by incorporating interviews instead of questionnaires, as the information gathered is usually more detailed and precise to the present day.

As already outlined a semi-structured interview will be undertaken with the specialist planning officer. This method is often used to collect qualitative data by arranging an interview which allows the interviewee time to respond with their views. The arrangement for the interview has already been assigned a date and therefore has been notified well in advance should the subject require to research any details relevant to the interview.

Contained within the Sociology central website (www.socialogy,, it discusses the semi-structured interview and states that its objective is to "understand the respondent's point of view rather than make generalisations".

This structure uses open ended questions which often requested by the interviewer and others naturally arise during the interview. As listed above, it can be beneficial to gain a rapport with the subject which may enable more information to be discussed as the atmosphere of the interview should be somewhat relaxed. The questions will be prepared however, as the subject is aware of the topic, they will not have sight of the questions.

Try and insert other supporting refs rather than over relying on one source

Due to the volume of data being discussed, it is decided that a Dictaphone be used to ensure all information relayed is recorded as well as written and the subject was also aware and agreeable of this decision. If the subject declined a recorded interview, handwritten notes would be the only method available to retain the information.

After an analysis of the collected recordings, inclusive of the notes, the key issues of the findings will be fed into the discussion for analysis.

Details of the interview, including the transcript will be included in the later discussion chapter of the thesis.


Within this dissertation, there was no intention to include a questionnaire as the choice to utilize the interview technique on the chosen subject is the preferred option clarity?. If however, a large number of persons were being used to gather data, the decision to choose a questionnaire would be considered more favourable. Support decision with references

According to Sociological Central (SC date?), a questionnaire comprises of a list of written questions that can be completed by one or two ways.

Postal Questionnaire - the respondents could complete the questionnaire without the researcher being present. This type refers to any questionnaire that a respondent completes without requiring any assistance.

An interview - this has been discussed previously however; in short, it allows the respondent an opportunity to answer the questionnaire verbally in the presence of the researcher.

The SC recognises, as does the writer, that both types are similar whereby the same questions can presented in either a postal questionnaire or during an interview format.

Essentially, there are two main types of questions:

Closed-ended (or "closed question") - this type of question allows the research to produce a multitude of responses the respondent can chose e.g. Yes/No. (Quantitative Data)

Open-ended (or "open question") - this type question does not allow the researcher to include any specific answer thus allows the respondent to use their own words. (Qualitative Data)

There are strengths and weakness to both types and below some are listed:

Postal method can allow the researcher to access a large number of potential respondents

Potentially embarrassing topics can be easily addressed via the postal system which may also include anonymity.

Questionnaires are generally easy to write and answer, especially should "closed-ended" questions are used.

Questionnaires are easy to standardise which allows the researcher to gain vast amounts of information on the same topics.

Conversely, the weaknesses are as follows:

The simplicity of questionnaire format can prove difficult for researchers to examine complex issues and opinions even if open-ended questions are used.

The researcher will never know who completed the postal questionnaire even though it was sent to the intended recipient.

The researcher's interpretation of the questions may not match that of the respondent's - this can often be addressed via the use of Pilot Studies prior to the survey.

Response rates to postal questionnaire are general quite low (<20%) therefore the researcher must send out the large numbers of participants to ensure sufficient responses

As mentioned above, it is not my intention to carry out any questionnaires however should the chosen subject be unable to attend the interview, a "back up" questionnaire utilizing a large number of the interview questions will be devised.

How relevant is the above section if you clearly state more than once that you will not be using this method? Perhaps rephrase some of it to suggest that you considered it and may use it as a supporting technique if required (update when you have completed the research)

Secondary Research Data

According to Patzer (1995), marketing research routinely utilizes many types of data and information. This widespread type is data and other pieces of information that were originally collected for another purpose. When such data is used in a particular manner for market research, this is considered the second use and the data becomes classed as Secondary Data.

There are two main types of secondary data according to Patzer (1995), which are internal and external secondary data. Within each of these categorizations there are several considerations which range from creating internal secondary data to accessing external data.

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Consider presentation - spacing, headings, subheadings, font size etc

During this research, a number of books, journals, government guidance, the internet and university guidance were the main source of data for this project. The intention was to use the most up-to-date information and to also ensure that the sources are credible than secondary data as generally there are written for academic purposes.

The use of the internet in research is considered quite extensive due to the ever-growing and updated nature of the world-wide-web. Haddon (1997), who has undertaken considerable research in this field, makes suggestions about the type of research that is required to understand people mentalities whilst appropriating the Internet (Haddon and Hartman, 1997).

These include what the phenomenon symbolises to people such as how they first encountered the Internet, what support they have and any problems they face, how it is perceived and maybe used in relation to other technologies and media; and where it can possibly fit into the time structures of households and individuals. (Haddon and Hartman, 1997).

It is acknowledged that Haddon and Hartman suggested these points approximately 13 years ago when, the internet could be argued, was still in its relative infancy. It is noted that the internet these days is considerable more user-friendly than in 1997 therefore access to the internet is virtually in every household and available to everyone.

Try and add in another ref above to support this idea

Out of Date Research

Some of the literature noted in this project could be considered rather dated however, it would never be considered "out-of-date" due to the information being used and recognised to this current date. Are you identifying a problem to the reader? Is it necessary? Perhaps just mention that care has been taken to obtain a range of material, although some of it by its nature is older.

In addition, due to the shear extent of information available on the internet, it is important to ensure that the information used is authentic and accurate. This was done by using government website or authentic website accredited by recognised organisations.

Need concluding summary section of chapter

Need sentence or so to link into next chapter e.g. the following chapter moves on to consider …