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Methodology

Grounded Theory entails collecting qualitative data, conceptual analyses of that data, and the development of theory based on what is found "grounded" in the data (Charmaz, 2006). Evidentiary materials should maintain relevance to the research. Data can include photos, interviews, letters, and published research, as well as political documents and newspaper articles because they add understanding and originality to the research. Distinguishing and defining a research situation and collecting data relevant to that research are critical steps in understanding the complexity of the study. After rigorous review of the data the researcher is aware and knowledgeable of what is actually happening within the dimensions of the study.

Rather than conducting a regular deductive content analysis, I chose to use grounded theory to analyze qualitative data and develop a theory based on what is considered "grounded" in the data. Using this method of inductive theory, I am capable of going beyond my first impressions of the study, which is a tremendous benefit of using grounded theory. Textual analysis in grounded theory allows the researcher to grasp the reality of the situation, promotes further exploration of questions that might arise, and keeps the researcher engaged in pursuing emergent theory (Charmaz, 2006). As opposed to testing a hypothesis in traditional deductive content analysis, the data, rather than the literature, is given priority. Using grounded theory for my undergraduate research has increased my understanding of the obstacles presented in the fields of environmental policy and conservation.

This research began with an initial concern for conservation of Gopherus polyphemus, the gopher tortoise, and land-use at UCF. I collected information on gopher tortoises as well as information on UCF's history. This search led to my discovery of the UCF Final Campus Master Plan 2010 (UCFCMP). I decided the UCFCMP would be my primary source of data because it characterizes the integrated aspects of University actions, policies, and values. My protocols for document inclusion were determined by the relevance of the documents to conservation, academic research, and development at UCF. Extra data sets provide additional insight to the research and yield rigorous comparative analysis between the stated goals of conservation at UCF and the actual actions of the University. In this way it is possible to identify and present the obstacles to conservation as well as solutions toward adopting environmental procedures to preserve and protect land at UCF. Important sources of data collected for comparative analysis include:

  • • UCF's Comprehensive Master Plan from 1995
  • • Master Plan for New State University in East Central Florida 1965
  • • 2.13 Conservation Element 2005-2015
  • • Documents pertaining to Gopherus polyphemus obtained from Dr. Peter Pritchard at the Chelonian   Research Institute
  • • Arboretum documents from the UCF Archives Office
  • • Campus Land Management Plan for UCF (1987-1992)
  • • Other documents concerning biotic communities at UCF, also obtained from the UCF Archives   Office.

After the processes of data collection, I thoroughly reviewed each element of the UCFCMP. A word-byword analysis, a technique of grounded theory, was used to "stimulate more abstract thinking by focusing intensely on specific words in the data" (Oktay, 2012). By focusing on specific words the researcher can understand what is implied in the data, and thus additional insight is added to the collection of qualitative analyses. Applying this technique encourages further questions and exploration of the research situation. I used this technique as a coding mechanism to derive categories from the data and identify themes within each document. Next, I used axial coding, which is a technique for exploring the categories and concepts developed in the word-by-word analysis to distinguish how categories relate to each other (Otkay, 2012). Data elements are then compared to each other to identify a theory based on facts presented in the data. After reading the CMP, I decided that only four elements were of high relevance to the research. I selected these elements based on their relevance to my primary concern for conservation and land use. Elements include:

  • • 2.13 Conservation (2010-2020)
  • • 2.14 Capital Improvements (2010-2020)
  • • 2.2 Academic Program (2010-2020)
  • • 2.4 Future Land Use (2010-2020)

Categories represent themes or variables that can be found within the data. According to grounded theory a theoretical hypothesis can then be defined using coding to contrast data between each document. The data is considered to be saturated when new information does not add new themes or insight to the categories. In the coding process, letters represent the different categories. My coding scheme is as follows:

  • A = State Interest
  • B = Consistent with other elements
  • C = Amendable
  • D = Local Interest
  • E = Funding Required
  • F = National Interest
  • G = Opportunity Areas

There are numerous stipulations for data to be accepted into the coding scheme. These coding requirements maintain organization and consistency within the research. Coding rules are as follows:

    1. State Interest
  • • Any department pertaining to the State (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission,   St.John's River Water Management District)
  • • Any funding allotted by the state (Public Education Capital Outlay, or PECO)
  • • Any State statutes
  • • Any State officials
  • • Any mention of endangered or threatened species

    2. Consistent with other Elements
  • • Anywhere in an element that refers to another element(s)
  • • Anywhere in an element that mentions having been superseded by another element

    3. Amendable
  • • Anywhere in an element that mentions it is amendable to the policies or objectives presented in the   Campus Master Plan

    4. Local Interest
  • • Any department local to Central Florida involved in the CMP (Landscape and Natural Resources,   Facilities Planning and Construction)
  • • Surrounding Communities
  • • Development Plan Approvals
  • • Any mention of endangered or threatened species

    5. Funding Required
  • • Mentioning of projects funded by the State (PECO)
  • • Projects set forth by the departments of UCF (LNR, Facilities Planning and Construction)

    6. National Interest
  • • Federal Agencies
  • • Federal Laws
  • • Any mention of endangered or threatened Species

    7. Opportunity Areas
  • • Proposed ideas for Conservation and Research
  • • Areas of CMP that are vague or inconsistent

The values representative of the University's conservation and land use priorities can be derived by coding the elements of the UCFCMP. A method of choosing and counting specific research-related words within the set of documents can derive a representative set of values associated with the University. To see how consistent the UCFCMP is, root words were selected that are critical to the progress of conservation initiatives at UCF, including the following:

  • • Amend
  • • Fund
  • • Land
  • • Park

Root words catch related words, so that "fund" catches "funding" and "funder." "Land" was only counted when referring to the actual land itself, such as "land" or "landscape," and not counted when used in the context of a department name or title such as Landscape and Natural Resources or Future Land Use Plan. The goal is to understand how important the ecological aspects of the landscape are to UCF. I can determine this by counting how many times the word "land" is used in an element. The word "fund" was counted to determine if certain elements received more financial attention than others. The word "amend" was counted to determine if certain areas of the CMP are more amendable than others. Lastly, "park" was counted, used in the context of parking. Heavy traffic is prevalent at UCF and increased demands for parking structures threaten its remaining natural lands. The primary purpose for counting "park" is to determine the interests of UCF concerning this issue.

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