So here goes.
In this post I argued that economists working on a particular policy issue (climate change, health, overfishing) do four types of research, similar to the four types of questions a doctor asks when treating a patient:
- Assessment: how bad is the problem?
- Diagnosis: what causes the problem?
- Objective: what is the best possible improvement?
- Prescription: how can we realize the objectives?
- Positive: analyzing without judging, e.g. "if you do x then y will happen"
- Normative: making a judgement, e.g. "x is better than y"
- Descriptive: considering the situation 'as is', e.g. "we have a problem"
- Prescriptive: making recommendations, e.g. "you can solve the problem with y"
|Descriptive||1. Assessment||2. Diagnosis|
|Prescriptive||3. Objective||4. Prescription|
I know the boundaries between these four quadrants are not perfectly clear-cut either. If you do cost-benefit analysis you may need to do some non-market valuation (Quadrant 1), but you will make recommendations on which policy alternatives are more desirable (Quadrant 3 - or is it 4?). You can only set objectives (Quadrant 3) properly if you know how to achieve them (Quadrant 4). That's why I prefer to call it a map, rather than a classification. And as such I find it a helpful model to understand how different strands in the literature fit together.
So here it is, my map of the economics of coastal and marine ecosystems, formulated in research questions:
Or in research methods: