As a publisher, we play a significant role in supporting the development of new research understanding and skills, and in reflecting on emerging agendas and dilemmas, including online data, evidence use, ethical practice, mixed methods, participatory approaches and cross-disciplinary learning.
Our titles on social research methods and research practices span disciplines and embrace new collaborations and ways of working as part of a focus on challenge-led research.
Highlights in this area include the Social Research Association Shorts, which provide academics and research users with short, high-quality and focused guides to specific topics, and the Longitudinal and Life Course Studies journal.
Social Research Methods and Research Practices
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This chapter uses the concept of reflexivity to discuss how child voice, as distinct from children’s participation, is the product of a dynamic interplay of relationships that occurs within and outside of the child protection system. A critical reflection of the significant role of political structures, processes, relationships, narratives, and the linkages between them in child protection work shows the complex variables that influence the implementation of child voice in child protection. The multiplicity of socio-cultural aspects of participation, policymaking, and practice with children is discussed in terms of an ‘ecosystem’ that draws attention to the complexity of structural and cultural conditions that influence child voice. Moreover, our understanding of child voice can be developed by making tangible the unarticulated politicisation of child voice that sits in the background of everyday practice.
This chapter is a reflection on the methods and ethics of doing fieldwork with highly vulnerable children. Fired up with good intentions, a knowledge of children’s rights, and a belief in the necessity of child-focused anthropology, a quarter of a century ago I went to Thailand with the aim of working with child prostitutes. My naive intention was to explore the children’s lives and suggest solutions to the problems they faced. I found the reality very different from my expectations, and therefore this chapter looks at the lacuna between my theoretical knowledge of ethics and the difficulties I had making sense of them on the ground. Here I discuss how my feelings about this work have changed over time and I interrogate the mistakes I made during both fieldwork and ‘writing up’. The chapter looks at the strengths and weaknesses of child-centred anthropology, raising questions about how to interpret children’s voices when they do not fit with one’s own worldview or morality. In doing so it looks at the lifelong impacts such research can have on both researcher and researched and questions the purpose of such research and whose needs it fulfils
This chapter presents personal reflections and insights from my own fieldwork experiences. These ethnographic studies involved the children of sex workers in a red -light area in Pune, India, and children living in the conflict zone of Indian-administered Kashmir. The chapter addresses questions of reflexivity as an ethical stance, and the integral and dynamic role of researcher identity, which highlights the emotional labour of doing research on such sensitive research themes. This chapter also evaluates methods, tools, and fieldwork practices used to elicit the views of vulnerable children often neglected in such controversial and contested topics.
This chapter discusses childhood and research with children, particularly those living in peripheral countries or contexts of multiple disadvantages. It centres on reflexivity as a tool for diminishing barriers of research, whether power, privilege, or binaries of us–them. The chapter acknowledges childhood essentialisms reproduced by dominant traditions and agendas, and calls for a shift in the ‘gaze’ on childhood. The discussion outlines the unequal contexts of the indigenous Sabar community as the focus of the study, upon which reflexive discussions are based. Observing research as a ‘site for reflexivity’, the chapter elucidates the reflexive strategies (such as reciprocity and relationality) adopted to emphasise the invisibilised voice of the Sabar children and adults. In doing so, it undertakes an examination of how reflexivity may respond to children’s ontological realities, epistemological differences, or ‘ways of being, knowing and doing’. This chapter contributes to a call for a methodological and ethical ‘turn’ in research, in order to engage peripheral childhoods. In concluding, the chapter discusses the possibilities of reflexivity moving beyond researcher positionality and structural negotiations, to the ontological, methodological, and epistemic framings of research. It proposes that such a reflexive ‘turn’, in acknowledging other-ness, can decentre dominant discourses, knowledge production, and dissemination.
This chapter reflects upon the movement towards young people as drivers of social change in relation to research, policy, and practice. Young people are critical in influencing the reformation of youth provision and are recognised as experts in their own lived realities. Recent efforts have been made to ensure that young people have an active participatory voice in shaping service development. While the move towards such co-production and participation is commendable, it is equally important to be critical and reflexive of this process. This chapter challenges the current discourse around the notion of participation, focusing on the embedding of consultation and co-production with young people. Based on focus group interviews and creative methods, with over 90 young people this chapter highlights the relational processes and the unpredictable nature of research with young people.
Working mothers face challenges in pursuing their career aspirations due to work–family conflict. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has posed added challenges for working mothers by increasing care demands while also causing numerous health, economic and social disruptions. In this paper, we examine the impact of COVID-19 on Korean working mothers’ career aspirations. We employ a longitudinal qualitative design by analysing 64 in-depth interviews with 32 mothers of young children in South Korea. By interviewing the same women before (2019) and during the COVID-19 pandemic (2020), we are able to document how working mothers’ career aspirations were impacted by COVID-19. Findings show that all working mothers in the sample experienced increased care demands due to COVID-19. However, the influence of COVID-19 on working mothers’ career aspirations hinged on gendered beliefs related to childcare responsibility. When working mothers believed or were subjected to beliefs that mothers should be the primary caregiver for children (gendered care belief), their career aspirations were tempered or relinquished. On the other hand, those who believed that mothers should not be held solely responsible for childcare (gender egalitarian care belief) continued to pursue their career aspirations or experienced career advancements during COVID-19. Findings suggest that beliefs related to care responsibilities play an important role in working mothers’ pursuit of their career aspirations, and potentially their future careers.
Good background research enables researchers to clarify their thinking regarding their research question and its context in the work of others. It can support the importance, necessity, or relevance of research and enables researchers to find and develop their own standpoint. After a brief introduction, this chapter describes the similarities and differences between document reviews for workplace research and literature reviews for academic research. The importance of good record-keeping is discussed and advice on when and how to read critically or strategically is provided. Ways to find useful academic journal articles are outlined and information is given about how to conduct document reviews and literature reviews. This is followed by information on finding open access materials, using libraries, making notes and knowing when to stop! The chapter concludes with an update of the case studies followed by exercises, discussion questions and a debate topic.
This chapter turns to religious belief as an example of expertise, drawing on: (1) the study of religious practices in the anthropology of religion; (2) the literature associated with the so-called Third Wave in Science and Technology Studies; and (3) Wittgenstein’s concept of forms of life, including his remarks on the potential for communication across ideological or religious boundaries. There are actually four expert communities in the crisis of expertise, namely: (1) consensus scientists; (2) non-scientist citizens who believe in consensus science; (3) fringe (or “minority”) scientists; and (4) non-scientist believers in fringe science. Expertise, that is, should be associated neither with esoteric knowledge (such as scientific principles), nor with “correct” views (even astrologers can be “experts”). Religious believers become experts in the language, practices, and principles of their community, just as scientists become experts in the language, practices, and principles of their discipline. Both occupy, in Wittgenstein’s terminology, a “form of life,” or worldview.
This chapter argues that viewing the crisis of expertise in terms of a battle between “expertises,” grounded in faith-like commitments, will best serve the goals of communication, persuasion, and understanding in policy disputes in a divided nation. Since conflicting expert communities have specialized languages and values that, respectively, unite and distinguish each community, the solution to the crisis of expertise involves persuasive communication between worldviews. Communication is made possible by: (1) self-awareness that we are all ideological; (2) modesty about the science in which one believes (that is, recognizing uncertainties); and (3) a common anchor in some level of scientific data and method (hence, my argument and solution do not apply to ordinary “culture war” controversies, such as who won the 2020 US presidential election). That analysis finds support in the literature associated with science communication theory and conflict resolution in policy disputes. However, this chapter’s approach differs from similar analyses by scholars in this field who, like Naomi Oreskes, emphasize a diversity of viewpoints as a key to trustworthy science and, like Frank Fischer, emphasize citizen science and deliberative collaboration in policy arguments.
Doing, and using, research is on the increase in public services. Researchers and practitioners need to learn about research techniques and processes so they can understand and make effective use of research in their work, whether or not they are actually conducting research. It is the author’s hope that this book will benefit anybody involved in research in the public services, whether that is part of their paid employment, volunteer work or study. This chapter provides a conclusion to the book and summarises the key points made in the earlier chapters of the book including a list of best practice actions that researchers should take in order to produce good quality, useful research.