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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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