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Social Research
A Practical Introduction



December 2011 | 312 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

Original, fresh, and relevant this is a theoretically-informed practical guide to researching social relations.

The text provides a mixed methods approach that challenges historical divisions between quantitative and qualitative research. It adopts a multidisciplinary approach to social science research, drawing from areas such as sociology, social psychology, and social anthropology.

Explicitly addressing the concerns of emergent researchers it provides both a 'how to' account of social research and an understanding of the main factors that contextualize research by discussing 'why do' social scientists work this way.

Throughout the twelve comprehensive chapters procedural (how to) accounts and contextual (why do) issues are usefully applied to major themes and substantive questions.

These key themes include research design; the practices of research and emergent researchers: beyond ontology, epistemology and methodology; the impact of technology on research; and putting the research approach in context.

A superb teaching text this book will be relished by lecturers seeking an authoritative introduction to social research and by students who want an accessible, enriching text to guide and inspire them.


 
PART ONE: INTRODUCTION
 
Doing data collection and analysis
Origins of the approach

 
Structure of the book

 
Case-centric or variable-centric research

 
Analytical induction or hypothesis-testing

 
 
Some issues in research
Epistemology

 
Reliability and validity

 
Ethical considerations

 
Ethical issues: Risk of harm

 
Averting/Dealing with discomfort

 
Ethical issues: Deception

 
Ethical issues: Debriefing

 
Ethical issues: Where to from here?

 
 
Putting the approach in context
Fixed or fluid framings or research

 
Precursors to research

 
Developing the research topic

 
Preparing a research proposal

 
Recruitment of participants

 
 
Conclusion
 
Further readings
 
References
 
PART TWO: IN-DEPTH INTERVIEWING - THE INTERACTIVE BASE
 
Doing data collection, analysis and presentation
What is an in-depth interview?

 
How is an in-depth interview different from a questionnaire-based interview?

 
How is an interview different from a focus group?

 
How is an interview different from a discussion?

 
Origins of the approach

 
The practicalities: What are the advantages of in-depth interviews?

 
What are the disadvantages?

 
Preparing and undertaking a 'typical' set of interviews

 
Developing the research topic

 
Ethics approval

 
Developing the interview guide

 
Sampling and recruitment of participants

 
Collection of data: Beginning the interview

 
Collection of data: During the interview

 
Non-verbal cues and body language

 
Collection of data: Completing the interview

 
Debriefing

 
Data management

 
Transcribing

 
Journaling

 
Analysis of data

 
Analytical induction

 
Grounded theory and thematic analysis

 
 
Some issues in research
Interviews as data sources and data-creators

 
Epistemological concerns and constraints

 
Resource issues

 
 
Putting the approach in context
Visual techniques: Photo-elicitation and photo-voice

 
Computer-based data analysis

 
 
Conclusion
 
Further readings
 
References
 
PART THREE: LIFE HISTORIES - PRIVATE TROUBLES AND PUBLIC ISSUES
 
Doing data collection and analysis
Origins of the approach

 
Life history research cf. oral history

 
Pointers in doing a life history

 
Building rapport

 
Memory and recall

 
Analytical induction

 
Triangulation

 
Naturalistic and edited forms of life history

 
 
Some issues in research
Epistemology and claims for validity and reliability

 
 
Putting the approach in context
 
Conclusion
 
Further readings
 
References
 
PART FOUR: ETHNOGRAPHIC RESEARCH - STUDYING GROUPS IN NATURAL SETTINGS
 
Doing data collection, analysis and presentation
Origins of the approach

 
Data collection

 
Entering the field

 
Observation in practice

 
Exiting the field

 
Data analysis and presentation

 
 
Some issues in research
Epistemology and claims for validity and reliability

 
Resource limitations

 
 
Putting the approach in context
The impacts of new technologies on ethnography

 
The ethics of ethnography

 
 
Conclusion
 
Further readings
 
References
 
PART FIVE: FOCUS GROUPS - STUDYING ARTIFICIAL GROUPS
 
Doing data collection and analysis
Exceptional focus groups

 
Origins of the approach

 
 
Data collection
 
Some issues in research
Epistemology

 
Reliability and validity

 
 
Putting the approach in context
A real-life example: When focus groups go wrong

 
 
Conclusion
 
Further readings
 
References
 
PART SIX: SURVEY RESEARCH - STUDYING MANY CASES
 
Doing data collection and analysis
Origins of the approach

 
Hypothesis-testing: From insights to posing questions

 
Attributes, attitudes and behaviour

 
Sample size and margin of error

 
Response rates

 
Sampling strategies

 
Scales of measurement

 
Statistical analysis: Hypothesis-testing and the null hypothesis

 
 
Some issues in research
Epistemology and scales of measurement

 
Question formats

 
 
Putting the approach in context
Survey fatigue and oversampling

 
 
Conclusion
 
Further readings
 
References
 
PART SEVEN: EXPERIMENTAL RESEARCH - IN THE LABORATORY AND BEYOND
 
Doing data collection and analysis
Origins of the approach

 
Hypothesis-testing

 
Variables in experiments

 
Validity and reliability in data collection

 
Cases in experiments

 
Analyzing experiments

 
 
Some issues in research
Ethical issues

 
The crisis in social psychology: A crisis in positivist epistemology?

 
Resourcing

 
 
Putting the approach in context
 
Conclusion
 
Further readings
 
References
 
PART EIGHT: UNOBTRUSIVE RESEARCH - STUDYING ARTEFACTS AND MATERIAL TRACES
 
Doing data collection and analysis
Origins of the approach

 
Applications of unobtrusive methods

 
Examples of unobtrusive research

 
 
Some issues in research
Methodological issues: Observer bias

 
Methodological issues: Bias within the data

 
Ethical issues: Defining 'unobtrusive'

 
Ethical issues: Informed consent

 
Ethical issues: Deception

 
Ethical issues: Debriefing

 
Ethical issues: Where to from here?

 
 
Putting the approach in context
The use of new technologies

 
 
Conclusion
 
Further readings
 
References
 
PART NINE: CONTENT RESEARCH - CODING AND COUNTING
 
Doing data collection and analysis
Origins of the approach

 
Looking at coding form

 
Hypothesis-testing

 
Deciding on what is a case

 
Coding: Develop a codebook, design a coding form, train the coders

 
Drawing a sample

 
 
Some issues in research
Epistemology and claims for validity and reliability

 
 
Putting the approach in context
 
Conclusion
 
Further readings
 
References
 
PART TEN: SECONDARY RESEARCH - MORE THAN LITERATURE REVIEWS
 
Doing data collection and analysis
Origins of the approach

 
Search engines

 
Boolean searches

 
Hypothesis-testing

 
Secondary versus primary research

 
Finding gaps in, and running with or against the literature

 
Meta-analyses: combining and testing results

 
 
Some issues in research
Epistemology and goals of social research

 
 
Putting the approach in context
Issues in quality assurance

 
 
Conclusion
 
Further readings
 
References
 
PART ELEVEN: SEMIOTIC ANALYSIS - STUDYING SIGNS AND MEANINGS
 
Doing data collection and analysis
Origins of the approach

 
Analysing signs

 
 
Some issues in research
An aside on rigour

 
Structuralism and post-structuralism

 
 
Putting the approach in context
 
Conclusion
 
Further readings
 
PART TWELVE: AUTOETHNOGRAPHIC RESEARCH - WRITING AND READING THE SELF
 
Doing data collection and analysis
An authoethnographic aside

 
Origins of the approach

 
Autobiography and reflexivity as a case

 
Data collection and analysis and reflexivity

 
Guidelines for writers

 
Analytical autoethnography

 
Aims of autoethnography

 
 
Some issues in research
Epistemology and claims for validity and reliability

 
Evaluating autoethnographies

 
 
Putting the approach in context
Motivations: The forms of personal documents

 
 
Conclusion
 
Further readings
 
References
 
Glossary

Finally a Social Research textbook that provides a clear and comprehensive introduction to the field, one that considers the origins of approaches and addresses epistemological and ethical contexts, and offers thoughtful discussion of and practical guidance on both quantitative and qualitative methods. This book will prove to be an invaluable resource for students and teachers and deserves to become the benchmark for texts in the field
Barry Smart
Professor of Sociology, University of Portsmouth


This book does an important job in providing an excellent methods textbook which is organized around Charles Ragin's distinction between case and variable centred methods and draws explicitly on the social realist frame of reference in presenting arguments and instruction. Those of us who teach undergraduates on research methods courses now have available a textbook which in an accessible way takes students through the repertoire of social research approaches drawing on the most innovative ways of thinking about what social research is trying to achieve
Professor David Byrne
School of Applied Social Sciences, Durham University


This is an ambitious book that delivers the goods. It provides a comprehensive overview of a wide range of the main approaches to social science research. It avoids the simplistic quantitative/qualitative divide and provides a useful way of thinking about the various research approaches. It achieves that difficult balance between a practical, how-to book and one which provides a deeper understanding of what the research approaches are doing. The breadth provided in this book will enable researchers to wisely chose between research approaches according to the nature of the problem and the understanding they seek to achieve
Professor David de Vaus
Executive Dean, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, University of Queensland


This is a very interesting book on research methods, particularly for teachers. The main elements of the social research process are clearly presented but in an original way: every chapter is about a different research method or approach but all of them have the same structure. This structure includes the more usual sections on how-to-do but also other sections as “Some issues in research” and “Putting the approach in context” that I find especially valuable. The eleven research approaches selected, explained and discussed form a very relevant methodological overview and the classification of this methods based on the concepts “case-centric vs. variable-centric” gives a new perspective about them.

Mrs Cris Lavia Martinez
Sociologia y Trabajo Social, The University of the Basque Country
March 16, 2015

A clear and practical introductory text book on social research methods, good use of tables which summarize the key points. however, no websites for students and lecturers, no end of the chapter exercises or highlights.

Dr Mansour Pourmehdi
Department of Sociology, Manchester Metropolitan University
August 28, 2013

I prefer a book that only addressing qualitative methods. This one is too comprehensive and as such contains overlap with what my colleagues are teaching.

Dr Karin Hannes
Psychology and Education, K.U.Leuven
May 13, 2013

good introduction

Mr Ivor Jones
Education , Doncaster University Centre
April 30, 2013

Good overview. Helpful overall and easy to read. The topics are fairly comprehensive and the book is well designed and well written.

Mr David Ness
Social Science, Moray College UHI
February 1, 2013

Good book, provides insight into social research

Mrs Samantha Hogan
Faculty of Health & Wellbeing, Sheffield Hallam University
January 1, 2013

Useful insights on areas such as epistemology and ethics. Also the chapter on secondary research which is often given less of a porofile in research texts.

Ms Catherine Boswell
School of Health & Social Sciences, Cardiff Metropolitan University
December 13, 2012

This book is full of useful ideas about how to conduct social research.

The section on secondary research and literature reviews is especially enlightening.

Andre Kurowski
Childhood Studies : Early Years, Chichester University
November 22, 2012

I have recommended this to our skills workshops' students because it really does adopt a practical take on social research - it's as useful for serious undergraduates wanting to excel on their final project as well as some of our PG students who are prepping dissertations.

Mr Russell Delderfield
Please select your department, Bradford University
October 4, 2012

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter One


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