Building Quantitative Research Skills Amongst Transitional Justice Researchers in the Great Lakes

About the Workshop Organisers (IJR and the ATJRN)

The African Transitional Justice Research Network (ATJRN) is a network established in 2006 to increase the capacity of local level researchers in African countries engaged in transitional justice processes to conduct effective human rights advocacy, intervention and public education through the production of locally-based quality, targeted empirical research. The Network is managed by the three regional partners – CSVR (South Africa), CDD-Ghana and the Refugee Law Project, Uganda – and comprises a one-stop website of transitional justice related information ( ), regional capacity building workshops, an e-newsletter and a listserv with a global membership.  The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) is the lead partner on ATJRN. Both CSVR and the Network aim to expand horizontal lesson sharing and reciprocal learning amongst civil society organizations on the African continent. It is in this capacity that they have partnered with the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) to provide this training workshop.

The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) was launched in May 2000 and is self-consciously located in post-TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) South Africa. It is committed to using the insights generated through its work in South Africa to engage in dialogue with other African countries. IJR was approached to provide research skills capacity by regional partners, and is also uniquely positioned to respond to this call for knowledge sharing and strategizing on research methodologies in the region.  The IJR has not only consistently engaged in transitional questions relating to the Great Lakes over the past four years, but also brings extensive experience in survey-based research in the South African context.  As with all IJR interventions, the workshop was envisaged as a site for the sharing of lessons learned from both South Africa and the region.


Why a workshop on quantitative methodology

Nahla Valji gave a background to the establishment of the ATJRN, and noted that this was the fourth workshop being facilitated by the Network on issues of research methodology and TJ in Africa.[1]

She noted that research is crucial for identifying issues and driving policy, as well as exploring the impact of policies.  In addition, the concepts within TJ are complex in nature, and a key challenge in the field is how to define and measure concepts such as “peace”, “reconciliation”, “justice”.  Many assumptions are being made in the field about the linkages between these concepts too, and these need to be tested and challenged.


Why Social Research

Jan Hofmeyr gave a brief introduction on the key concepts of social research. This input covered a range of issues to consider when doing survey research oneself, or when commissioning someone to do research for you. The full presentation is captured in Annexure 2a.

Hofmeyr noted that research is “a structured inquiry that utilizes acceptable scientific methodology to solve problems and create new knowledge that is generally applicable,” and that when you conduct research “the methodology must be such that it is replicable by another researcher”. Within the research (scientific) community there are certain norms which guide knowledge production. In particular the norm of “self reflection”, i.e. understanding how our own identities and views impact on our research, findings and interpretation, and a crucial component.


Important Terminology in Research


Hofmeyr presented the various terminology employed in research.  He noted that a theory provides ‘a systematic explanation for our daily observations about a particular aspect of our life’. Thus we could develop a theory of justice in transitional society.  Concepts are the building blocks of theory, and within TJ these include concepts such as “justice”, “transition”, “reconciliation”, “victim”, “perpetrator”.  It is important to define these concepts, as they will relate directly to our research questions.


Dimensions of Qaulitative and Qauntitative Methodology

Facilitator – Jan Hofmeyr

Use of research

Jan Hofmeyr continued the discussion on the dimensions of research and discussed the notions of basic (pure), which is largely carried out and used by academics, and applied research, which is more often performed by government and practitioners.  However, he noted that in reality, the two approaches intertwined. Applied research includes evaluation research, action research, and social impact assessment research.


Open discussion on reasearch issues and challanges

In order to facilitate greater sharing of experiences between participants, a plenary discussion was held on the types of research being undertaken in the different countries and the challenges experienced in undertaking research. A brief description of the issues raised is provided here.


Survey methods and design

Hofmeyr went through survey techniques more specifically, focussing on the pros and cons of surveys, the types of surveys, and the various forms of data collection methods.

Armah-Attoh noted that survey research is the method of collecting information by asking a selected number of respondents, drawn from a well-defined population, sets of questions in a structured or unstructured interview.


Steps in conducting survey research- Pre fieldwork phase

Daniel Armah-Attoh, indicated that the first activities to undertake, as discussed earlier, are to:

1) Activity 1: Identify and define the research issue/problem


Steps in conducting survey research- Fieldwork research and Post fieldwork


When you are ready to undertake fieldwork:

- Deploy field teams to the various survey locations for fieldwork (i.e. data collection work)

- Each team should have one FS and a manageable number of FAs (at most 5 per FS).


Survey Ethics and Politics

Jan Hofmeyr gave an input into research ethics, the differences between politics and ethics, and the ethics within the TJ context.


Experiences with SARB

Jan Hofmeyr described the development of the SA Reconciliation Barometer (SARB) in order to show the steps in undertaking a longitudinal survey on reconciliation. The full presentation is included in the report as Annexure 2d.



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