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Matching Empirical Data With Theories in Interdisciplinary Research Projects

By: Published: 2019 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2
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This case study summarizes the methodological decisions concerning a subproject of my Marie Curie fellowship research. Building on my PhD research, I had two post-doc projects (2010, 2013–2016) hosted by a Norwegian research institute with local office in the Middle East. With help from my Palestinian former colleagues, my study explored the reciprocity aspects of contemporary foreign aid. I used Marcel Mauss’s gift exchange theory (borrowed from anthropology) to understand the dynamics of donor–recipient relations as a conceptual framework and coupled it with grounded theory as methodological framework to gather and interpret further data. Matching empirical data with theories enabled me to develop a theory on “return gifts” that usually remain unidentified/invisible in foreign aid relations that portray donations as unilateral financial (in-kind) transfer from the donor to the recipient. The main objective of presenting my research endeavor as a methods case study is to demonstrate how grounded theory can be applied in cases when the researcher has preliminary knowledge on the subject, on related literature and theories. This case study describes how I established relation between my two research projects (in hindsight), elaborates on decisions concerning data collection (informed consent, working with local interviewers), and discusses some ethical dilemmas that I had to face during my research projects.

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