September 22, 2019 - Caroline

RPP #4: Article Comparison

The two articles I looked at were Bennett, Cooper, and Dobson’s 2010 “We Know Where the Shoe Pinches: A Case Study-Based Analysis of the Social Benefits of Pesticides,”[1] and Hillocks and Cooper’s 2012 “Integrated Pest Management – Can It Contribute to Sustainable Food Production in Europe with Less Reliance on Conventional Pesticides?”[2] The latter is an interpretivist critique of EU strategies to decrease pesticide use. While supporting IPM in theory, it provides contextual information on scientific language and chemical resistance to support the claim that farming without pesticides is unrealistic and unproductive. The former is a positivist case study that measures and compares responses from open-ended interviews in Kenya, Uganda, the UK, and the DRC to support the hypothesis that pesticide use has social benefits (as seen in the accompanying tables).[3] Despite their varying methodologies, both articles reach similar conclusions encouraging further research on responsible pesticide use, but while the older article recognizes the risks of misuse, the more recent one chooses to redefine “risk.”[4] In a way, the recent piece, while sharing the same foundational beliefs as the other one, is more focused on questioning and reconceptualizing the existing agricultural system and its structures rather than trying to understand or explain it. This could not only be due to its methodological approach but also because there is more of Cooper’s previous research to build on or work with.

As I was developing my groupings for my literature review, there was a common name amongst scholars who study the positive effects of pesticide use. Jerry Cooper is a pest management professional at University of Greenwich[5] whose work uniquely contributes to the ongoing conversation surrounding agrochemicals because he and his co-authors argue that when used properly, pesticides provide social benefits like increased income and productivity, reduced risk, and better farm coordination.[6] They warn of the economic deficits that would result from overregulating, reducing, or even banning pesticides[7]—a view that is worth looking into even though I may not necessarily agree with it. By doing so, I gain a better understanding of how the same topic can be covered by different methodological approaches, along with valuable information on why some actors (especially corporations) may choose to not follow pesticide regulations if there is a possibility of decreased profit. These articles also provide models of analytical frameworks that I could apply to my own research later on.


[1] Ben Bennett, Jerry Cooper, and Hans Dobson, “We Know Where the Shoe Pinches: A Case Study-Based Analysis of the Social Benefits of Pesticides,” Outlook on Agriculture 39, no. 2 (June 1, 2010): 79-87, accessed September 22, 2019,

[2] Rory J. Hillocks and Jerry E. Cooper, “Integrated Pest Management – Can It Contribute to Sustainable Food Production in Europe with Less Reliance on Conventional Pesticides?,” Outlook on Agriculture 41, no. 4 (December 1, 2012): 237-242, accessed September 22, 2019,

[3] Bennett, Cooper, and Dobson, “We Know Where the Shoe Pinches,” 83.

[4] Hillocks and Cooper, “Integrated Pest Management,” 239.

[5] “Jerry Cooper – Pest Management Professional – University of Greenwich,” LinkedIn, accessed September 22, 2019,

[6] Bennett, Cooper, and Dobson, “We Know Where the Shoe Pinches,” 80.

[7]  Hillocks and Cooper, “Integrated Pest Management,” 239.

Research / SISOlson / SISOlson19


  • Avatar Claire says:

    Hi Caroline! You did a great job laying out the main claims and approaches of these articles. It’s obvious you have a clear understanding of not only these two articles but how they are situated in a larger conversation within the field. You say there is a group of scholars, which you do not agree with, who focus on the “positive effects of pesticide use” relating to social and economic benefits. It may be beneficial to view this group as a the social/economic group, rather than the “positive effects” group. That opens the door for you see if there is research sighting negative social/economic effects of pesticide use and put that scholarship more directly in conversation with the work it contradicts. Essentially, rather than viewing the literature as falling in two camps (positive effects and negative effects) with topics (social, economic, environment, etc) as subgroups, it is useful to view the substantive topics as the larger groups and the disagreement over the conclusion as the subgroups. This organization makes it easier for you to detail out the nuances between scholars based on their conclusions, rather than what they are studying, which I think might be more useful in the long run.

  • Caroline — you discuss two articles here that are clearly relevant to your research. You’ve done a good job in identifying the main claims in each. You’ve also done a good job identifying an important scholar or “nodal point” in the overall scholarly conversation on your topic area. Beyond the claims that you identity in these articles, what other important methodological elements are worth noting? What key variables or hypotheses are tested, for instance?

    With regard to the sources themselves, the Hillocks and Cooper piece is not actually an interpretivist piece of research. It is a conceptual article, tracing out the evolution and discussion around a particular concept. So it is not a *research* article in the sense of testing hypotheses. However, in trying to establish what the “actual” meaning of certain terms and concepts is the piece is, in fact, neopositivist in orientation. Does that clarification make sense? Overall, though, a good job here–this will provide a good foundation for your continuing research.

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