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close this bookRecording and Using Indigenous Knowledge: A Manual (IIRR, 1996, 211 p.)
close this folderPart 2 Recording and assessment methodologies
close this folderRecording methods
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View the documentSources and documentation of IK


This section outlines general procedures and rules of conduct when recording IK in communities. It briefly lists sources and ways to document IK and provides details on methods that have been used for recording IK. The description of most methods is organized as follows:

- Definition

- A brief characterization of the method.

- Purpose. General usefulness of the method, not necessarily regarding IK.

- Materials. Things needed when using the method.

- Possible approach. A step-by-step explanation of how the method can be used. To keep the manual short and avoid overlap, general procedures such as "seek permission from the community" or "introduce yourself are not repeated for each method. They are detailed in Recording IK in communities and are reiterated in some of the methods as reminders. The method Workshop outlines some principles of working with groups in communities.

- Value. Usefulness of the method for recording IK.

- Dos and don'ts. What to do and not to do when using the method.

- Modifications. Alternative approaches to or uses of the method.

- Notes or boxes. Additional explanations.

Sources are given only when the compilation of the method draws heavily on one or a few sources. When writers relied mainly on their field experience and backed the information up by consulting the various reference materials listed in the Reference section of this manual, no specific sources are cited.

There is no single approach for recording IK (see How to use the manual). Similarly, the steps outlined under Possible approach are not ready-to-use instructions, but just one of many possible ways a method can be used. The methods must be modified and combined to suit each field study. You must be creative and flexible to record and apply IK successfully.

Sources and documentation of IK


The following IK sources should be considered:

- Community members, especially elders, are the best sources of IK. But, since IK is unevenly distributed in communities, it is important to find out who knows what in order to tap the right sources. Otherwise, data will not truly reflect IK in the community. For example, asking men about garden plants when women are in charge of home gardens, (might lead you to conclude that villagers know little about gardening (see also Who knows what?).

- Folklore, songs,, poetry, and theater can reveal a great deal about a people's values, history, and practices. These are often not written down and need to be recorded.

- Community records—Although IK is mostly transmitted by word of mouth, some indigenous forms of record keeping exist. These include writings, paintings, and carvings. Records can also consist of trees planted as boundaries, notched poles, bones, and many other forms.

- People working with communities, such as extensionists, can be valuable sources of IK.

- Secondary sources include published and unpublished documents, databases, videos, photos, museums, and exhibits.

Documentation: compilation and storage

IK can be documented in the form of:

- Descriptive texts such as reports

- Taxonomies

- Inventories (For example, lists of plant species, tables listing remedies and their preparations, etc.)

- Seasonal pattern charts

- Maps

- Matrices

- Others

- Decision trees

- Audiovisuals such as photos films, videos, or audio cassettes

- Dramas, stories, songs, etc.

- Drawings

- Daily calendars

IK can be stored in:

- Local communities
- Databases
- Card catalogs
- Books, journals, and other written documents
- Audiovisuals
- Museums
- Others

Strengths or strategic advantages of methods suitable for the recording of IK