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The Essential Guide

  • Tim May - Professor of Social Science Methodology, Sheffield Methods Institute, University of Sheffield, The University of Sheffield, UK
  • Beth Perry - Professorial Fellow, Urban Institute, University of Sheffield

September 2017 | 248 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
Reflexivity—the critical examination of how we see the world—is integral to good research practice. From this state-of-the-art, accessible tour of its history and contemporary relevance, readers will learn of its importance to social research and to society generally. The text introduces a host of influential thinkers and their key ideas on reflexivity, and incorporates examples from a range of disciplines and research settings. Drawing on the authors’ extensive experience of real research settings, this book:
  • Pinpoints the importance of reflexivity in social research
  • Demonstrates its relevance to everyday life
  • Firmly locates the concept in the history of ideas
  • Explores key questions about the bases of knowledge and understanding
  • Presents key thinkers, concepts and issues in easy-to-understand learning boxes
The result is a book that provides students and researchers in the social sciences with the knowledge and understanding necessary not only to examine the role of reflexivity in contemporary life, but to apply it in their own research practice.

What is reflexivity?  
The structure of the book  
The reflexive difference  
Chapter 1: Thought and Knowledge in the History of Ideas
In search of certainty  
Context matters  
Enduring concepts: reason and scepticism return  
Summary: reflexivity rooted  
Chapter 2: Will, Interpretation and Being
The will and representation  
Facts, values and interpretations  
Interpretation and being  
Summary: reflexivity matters  
Chapter 3: Pragmatism, Practice and Language
Thought, action and the self  
Thought, action and other minds  
Language, meaning and everyday speech  
Summary: reflexivity embedded  
Chapter 4: Critique and Transformation
Critical theory  
Recovering the promise of reason  
Critiquing critique  
Summary: Reflexive relations  
Chapter 5: Power and Action
Power and the subject  
A Realpolitik of reason  
Standpoints and difference  
Summary: Reflexive limits  
Chapter 6: The Dynamics of Science in Society
Co-producing society  
'New' modes of knowledge production  
Co-producing research  
Summary: Reflexivity centred  
Chapter 7: Reflexive Practice
The work of making context  
The context of making work  
Reflexive research design  
Summary: Reflexive messes  
Chapter 8: Reflexivity Realised
Who am I?  
How do I relate to others?  
Why and how might I practice?  
Final words  

"Finally, a sensible, detailed and complex analysis of reflexivity in all its guises. Both intellectually rigorous and practically applicable, this book is essential reading for students across the social sciences."

Karen O'Reilly
Loughborough University

Spanning philosophy and social science, disciplined inquiry and individual reflection and theory and practice, this new work provides an invaluable overview of the key thinkers, ideas and issues involved in the reflexive turn in social inquiry. One marvels at its comprehensiveness, precision, and lucidity. Highly useful for students and established scholars alike.

Mustafa Emirbayer
University of Wisconsin-Madison

In their book, "Reflexivity. The Essential Guide", Tim May and Beth Perry provide an extensive examination of the role of reflexivity in social research. Drawing on insights from a wide range of disciplines such as anthropology, psychology, sociology, history, linguistics, and above all, philosophy, the authors propose an enriching intellectual journey for social researchers and lay audience alike.

Anca Ilie
Pforzheim University

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