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Fulfilling the NPS Mission 101
Informal Visitor Contacts 102
Interpretive Talk 103
Conducted Activity 210
Interpretive Demonstration 220
Interpretive Writing 230
Curriculum-based Program 270
Planning Park Interpretation 310
Interpretive Media Development 311
Leaning Interpreters 330
Interpretive Research
Other Developmental Competencies


Planning Park Interpretation Curriculum-based Program Interpretive Writing Interp. Demonstration Conducted Activity Interpretive Talk Informal Visitor Contacts Fulfilling NPS Mission IDP Homepage Interp. Media Development Leading Interpreters Interp. Research Interpretive Writing Curriculum-based Program Planning Park Interpretation Interp. Media Development Leading Interpreters Interpretive Research Interp. Demonstration Conducted Activity Interpretive Talk Informal Visitor Contacts Fulfilling NPS Mission IDP Homepage





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Component for Module 103

Interpretive Program Research

Content Outline | Resources | Suggested Developmental Activities | Next

Knowledge of the resource and accurate, responsible information are fundamental elements of the interpretive equation. This component provides a rationale for research and outlines a strategy to assure that the interpreter has complete, accurate information within his/her programs, and can provide citations to visitors who request more detailed information on resource/interpretive topics.

Upon completion of this component learners will be able to:

  • Explain why research is important and should be accurate, credible, and diverse;
  • Identify the basic steps of research methodology; locating, evaluating, and selecting sources;

  • List three types of park documents and non-NPS documents which serve as sources of information when developing interpretive programs including historical or natural science information and resource management issues;

  • Describe the difference between primary and secondary sources;

  • Identify bias, reliability, multiple points of view, and relevance in research sources;

  • Analyze, evaluate, select, organize and footnote appropriate research material.

Learners, instructors, and supervisors might use lecture, group discussion, group participatory exercise, as well as individual activities. If used, guided group brainstorming and research material identification and evaluation exercises should culminate in an opportunity for interpreters to locate, identify, and assess the reliability, relevance, and bias of raw information. The learner will be able to identify internal and external evidence to determine bias in research material and be able to develop footnotes and bibliographies for interpretive programs and media as a result of this active approach.

This component provides an opportunity to reinforce Module 101--Fulfilling the NPS Mission: The Process of Interpretation, and the interpretive equation. Knowledge of the resource is, to a very large degree, subject matter knowledge.

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Content Outline:
I. Professionalism

A. Accuracy and integrity in interpretive programs
B. Credibility
1. Elements of good research material.
a. Objectivity
b. Balance
c. Credibility
d. Verifiability
e. Relevance to themes
f. Support of compelling story

II. Sources of information within parks and out of parks
A. Define primary and secondary sources
B. Outside resources
1. Local libraries
2. Local historical or conservation societies
3. Archives (census records, etc.)
4. Recorded oral history collections, natural history collections
5. Multi-media sources (video documentaries, Internet, etc.)
6. Professional journals
7. Research sources for African-American, Native American, woman's studies, social history, conservation organizations, botanical and wildlife sources
8. Universities--libraries, subject matter experts, CPSUs and CPEUs

C. Park resources

1. Park brochure
2. Site bulletins
3. Information handouts
4. Research - personnel from other disciplines are sources of information.
5. Park library and reference books
6. Park collections, natural and historical
7. Park maps and physical previewing of park site as a research tool

D. Other park resources

1. Enabling legislation and hearings
2. General Management Plan (GMP)
3. DO-6
4. Interpretive Prospectus
5. Statement for Interpretation
6. Management documents
7. Resource management plans
8. Individual Service Plans (ISPs)
9. Comprehensive Interpretive Plans
10. Others

E. Other NPS sources

1. Research reports from other parks on related topics
2. Technical information center
3. Professional journals - Park Science, CRM (indexes)
4. NPS-produced audiovisual materials
5. SO and central office subject matter experts -- natural resources center (water, air, and biological resource experts, information division, historians, etc.)

III. Research methodology

A. Critical examination of sources
B. Scientific method, historiography and cliomaticians
C. The general to the specific
E. Research material as tangible evidence to establish context and broader concepts
F. Identify critical material
G. Using material form other disciplines
H. Serendipity
I. Original vs. authentic resources
J. Internal vs. external evidence
K. The need to question sources
L. The need to mentally footnote
M. Selecting and using research information
N. The need to revise and update our records
O. Importance of using current sources in scientific and historical research

IV. Technical skills

A. Bibliographies
B. Footnotes

V. Review the need for research to support programs, management issues and preservation concerns, and professional and personal credibility. The public perception of balance and scholarship in programs addressing natural and cultural resource issues/concepts will lead to effective programs and appreciation for the resource and the NPS mission.

Restate the need for diverse sources, balanced information, multiple points of view, and theme relation. Stress the need to organize research material to make interpretive connections to broader context and issues. The research process is a career-long endeavor.

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Park-related references:

1. Statement for Management
2. Resource management plans and project statements
3. Enabling legislation
4. Interpretive Prospectus/Comprehensive Interpretive Plan
5. Statement for Interpretation
6. Existing Interpretive Service Plans (ISP's)
7. Subject matter material
8. Various items of original and secondary research
9. Park and area maps
10. Park site bulletins

Module 340: Interpretive Research and Resource Liaison -- advanced research skills, scientific and historical theory, advanced knowledge of the resource and the audience and application of appropriate techniques.

Interpretive Skills Lesson Plan: "Interpretive Program Research" rev. by Steve Thede/Steve Seven, 1992.

The Critical Method In Historical Research And Writing, Homer Carey Hockett, The MacMillan Company

The Modern Researcher, Jacques Barzun and Henry F. Graff, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich.

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Suggested Developmental Activities
1. Research should be documented and supported. It should utilize primary sources when available with supporting sources. Research should incorporate the most current resource data available, while considering possible cultural and social biases.

2. Bibliographies and footnotes will be prepared according to an accepted style manual.

3. In preparation for an interpretive talk, use at least two sources to demonstrate attempts for balance, diversity, and theme context.

4. Write a one-page essay identifying the research used, stating why you felt it was effective and accurate, and describing the difference between primary and secondary sources.

5. Develop a bibliography, identifying primary and secondary sources, including a sample footnote.

Next Component

Themes, Goals, Objectives

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Editor: STMA Training Manager Interpretation

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