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The Essential Guide

First Edition
  • 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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