offices. Other, active files are held in Queensland Government departmental
offices at several locations in Queensland. The management plans for the island
National Parks of the Great Barrier Reef, for example, were obtained from the
office of the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) in Cairns. Access
to some of those records is restricted for varying time periods, and the use of some
files required special permission. Newspaper collections are held in various public
libraries and archives of Queensland; I searched archives and microfilm copies of
The Cairns Post at the newspaper's offices in Cairns, for instance. Finally, many
qualitative sources - including personal photographs - are held privately and are
widely distributed. Oral history informants who could recall with accuracy the
period before 1980 were scarce and widely dispersed. Therefore, the availability
of oral history sources for this period is limited; particular strategies were required
for the collection of those multiple, diverse sources of data. My methods of data
collection are described below.
This section contains an account of the methods used to collect data from
documentary and oral sources. Data were collected from many qualitative sources,
since the purpose of my research was to use an array of such sources to synthesise
an account of environmental changes. The value of using more than one method
has been explained by Denzin and Lincoln (2000, p19):
No single method can grasp all of the subtle variations in ongoing human
experience. Consequently, qualitative researchers deploy a wide range of
interconnected research methods, always seeking better ways to make more
understandable the worlds of experience they have studied.
The array of qualitative methods used included some of the methods listed
by Dey (1993, p2), including case study, content analysis, descriptive research,
document study, field study, focus group research and oral history methods. As
well as allowing the collection of richer data, the use of an array of methods
provided a means of cross-referencing and correcting sources and of assessing
their internal consistency.
The use of multiple methods also allowed an assessment to be made of
the validity and value of different qualitative sources for reconstructing past
environments; my approach sought both to reconstruct an environmental history
using qualitative sources and to evaluate those sources (Hoggart et al., 2002).
Some authors, such as McCracken (1988) and Brannen (1992), have argued that
qualitative research should ideally use mixed methods, including both qualitative
and quantitative techniques. Despite the value of such an approach, my research
focused on qualitative methods, since an assessment of their potential for
environmental history research was one of the intended outcomes of my study.
The task of integrating qualitative findings with the extensive scientific literature