Means-end chain analysis


Means-end chain (MEC) analysis is an approach from the field of consumer studies. Its attractiveness is the freedom it gives to respondents to select and verbalize their own constructs to evaluate a product or service. The means-end chain interviews consist of two parts: the attribute elicitation and the laddering. The elicitation technique consists of a triadic sorting based on Kelly’s repertory grid. Typically, the farmers or traders are shown three fairly similar products or services, which they have to sort by similarities and differences. These personally relevant constructs are then linked to the interviewees’ own goals via laddering interviews in which the interviewer only asks “which one do you prefer?” and “why is this important to you?”

By showing the interviewees the actual planting material, the farmers may come up with characteristics or motivations that researchers could not have imagined as important. A MEC study requires about 40 interviews, or fewer when the answers are very similar. One can compare the responses between male and female farmers or wealthier and poor farmers, for example. Some training is needed, especially in the recording and analysis of the data.

Examples of questions that the tool can address
  • What variety characteristics do farmers appreciate and why?
  • Where do farmers prefer to source their seed and why?
  • Do male and female farmers prefer the same variety characteristics and if so, is it for the same reasons?
For more information on the tool

Contact Fleur Kilwinger (Wageningen University & Research):

Elly Atieno (CIP) collecting data as part of the means-end chains analysis by asking a farmer about the three seed lots being presented in Eldoret, Kenya. (Photo: C. Almekinders/WUR)