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Most people do – or commission, or fund – research because they want to create positive change in the world. This is, ultimately, what research is for. The chapter starts with an overview of the potential impacts of research and the ways in which research evidence can be used to guide policy. Implementation is covered next and includes a discussion of potential barriers and how to create an effective implementation strategy. A section on knowledge exchange explores the ways that research and practice can influence each other to produce progressively better results. The recent move towards a more holistic way of undertaking research is then discussed introducing the terms ‘knowledge translation’ and ‘knowledge mobilisation’. The chapter concludes with an update of the case studies followed by exercises, discussion questions and a debate topic.
This chapter introduces the book by looking at the role of the researcher and examining the skills and characteristics that make a good one. It discusses the various reasons for doing research and includes a comparison of insider and outsider research. Some of the issues that can arise in managing or commissioning research are explored, such as establishing research aims, identifying suitable methods and methodology, allocating resources and project communication. There is a short discussion of the terminology used in the book and more generally in the field of social research. An overview of the changes introduced in this third edition is provided and the chapter concludes with an outline of the book, an introduction to the two case studies that run through the book, plus exercises, discussion questions and a debate topic.
Building a research project on a solid foundation is vital for success. This chapter discusses ways to manage the research process in the context of everything else going on in a researcher’s life and is presented alongside a lot of advice from practitioners who are experienced in research. Firstly, the essential steps of planning and organisation are discussed in detail. This is followed by an overview of time management principles. The pros and cons of receiving support for research from employers are outlined, which includes a discussion of the types of support that may be available. The need for researchers to reward and look after themselves, as they undertake their research, is emphasised. This is followed by a summary of what works – and what doesn’t work – when managing research. The chapter concludes with an update of the case studies followed by exercises, discussion questions and a debate topic.
Methodology, methods, approaches, theory and research questions form the building blocks of social research, but confusion exists around exactly what they are and how they are used in research. The chapter begins by clarifying the distinctions between methods, methodologies and approaches, then describes positivist, realist, constructionist, interpretivist and transformative methodologies. The terms ‘ontology’ and ‘epistemology’ are explained after which a table maps the ontological and epistemological views and suitable methods for each of the methodologies described earlier. Action, evaluation, mixed methods, arts-based and digitally mediated research approaches are outlined followed by a discussion of the role of theory and the links between research, theory and practice. The chapter concludes with an update of the case studies followed by exercises, discussion questions and a debate topic.
Everyone involved in or using research needs a grasp of the overall process and the different kinds of research available. This chapter commences by describing the differences and similarities between quantitative and qualitative research and discusses how these approaches may be used exclusively or, more likely, combined to help researchers to address their research question. This is followed by a discussion of the pros and cons of doing research alone or with others. An overview of participatory research and participatory action research is provided which highlights the roles and different types of service users. This is complemented by a set of questions that can be used by researchers to determine whether and/or how to involve participants in research. Next, the chapter outlines some highly time-consuming methods and concludes with an update of the case studies followed by exercises, discussion questions and a debate topic.
The collection of data is an essential step of research and has implications for the whole project. Too much data can become unwieldy and difficult to analyse while too little can lead to poor research. This chapter guides the researcher in deciding how much data is needed and describes some of the most common conventional methods for primary data collection. It begins by examining the collection of quantitative data using counting, measuring and questionnaires. The pros and cons of questionnaires are listed along with tips for using questionnaires as a research method. Next, qualitative data collection methods are covered including an examination of the use of interviews, focus groups, documents and observation to gather data. Pros and cons, best practice and tips are provided for each method. The chapter closes with an update of the case studies followed by exercises, discussion questions and a debate topic.
Creative methods of collecting data draw on the imagination of participants and researchers. There are myriad options available and as this chapter can only cover a few it tries to demonstrate the diversity on offer by presenting a range of examples. The chapter points out that all methods were once considered ‘creative’ and warns against the use of creative methods for their own sake. The creative data collection methods described are: online; smartphones; enhanced interviews and focus groups; diaries, field notes, journals and logs; visual data; mapping; mobile methods; case studies and collaborative methods. Each method is described in detail, and a list of pros and cons provided, to help guide and inspire researchers in the use of creative methods to address their specific research question. The chapter closes with an update of the case studies followed by exercises, discussion questions and a debate topic.
Qualitative data comes in a variety of forms: text, images, sound and so on, which can be difficult for researchers to analyse confidently. This chapter begins by setting out how qualitative data can be prepared, for example by transcribing interview or focus group data, converting pictorial data to text or creating metadata records ready for analysis. This is followed by guidance on how to code the prepared data, using a coding frame or emergent coding, and an overview of the pros and cons of each method. Next, various ways of analysing qualitative data including content analysis, thematic analysis, discourse analysis and narrative analysis are outlined, followed by a real-life example of qualitative data analysis. Data synthesis is discussed briefly, and the chapter concludes with an update of the case studies followed by exercises, discussion questions and a debate topic.
All researchers should have a grasp of both quantitative and qualitative data analysis methods as most projects will involve both to some degree. This chapter provides advice on the preparation of quantitative data and information about how to code this data. It then examines ways of analysing quantitative data using descriptive and inferential statistics. The statistics methods described include frequency distributions (tables, graphs or pie charts), measures of central tendency (mode, median, and mean or average) measures of variability (correlation coefficient and chi-square test). It also describes the most common parametric tests (t-test, F-test, analysis of variance (ANOVA), cluster analysis, factor analysis and regression analysis) and lists the non-parametric equivalents. Univariate and bivariate statistics are covered including and explanation of covariant and independent data relationships. The chapter closes with an update of the case studies followed by exercises, discussion questions and a debate topic.
Every researcher will encounter ethical dilemmas as social research has the capacity to do great harm, to individuals, groups, and society as a whole, if it is unethically managed. This chapter, which is new to this third edition, explores research and evaluation ethics. It begins with an overview of ethics, then explains the current system of research ethics management including the process of obtaining ethical approval from research ethics committees. Emphasis is given to the importance of researchers thinking and acting ethically throughout the research process. The chapter gives an overview of ethics considerations for each stage of a research project from conception to dissemination of results. Researcher wellbeing is another important ethical consideration and one that is often neglected by researchers and ethics committees alike. Factors affecting researcher wellbeing are outlined along with strategies for managing and reducing stress. The chapter concludes with an update of the case studies followed by exercises, discussion questions and a debate topic.