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 conclusion confirms that while the culture wars generally seem intractable, there is hope for constructive and persuasive communication, based on understanding another’s perspective and values, in the crisis of expertise. That diagnosis goes beyond the familiar observations that a cultural distrust of expertise persists, that consensus science is worthy of acceptance, and that (in light of social studies of science) we should be modest about consensus because science is tentative and often uncertain. Specifically, this book adopts Third Wave categories of expertise, extending that theoretical framework with a new constellation of disciplinary approaches—the anthropology of religion, the neo-Calvinist critique of the Enlightenment, and Wittgenstein’s later philosophy—to highlight the inevitability of ideological commitments in the crisis of expertise. Once that is acknowledged, it is possible to at least understand that believers in fringe science occupy a different world than consensus scientists, and that persuasive communication requires understanding that world.
The point of disseminating the results of research or evaluation is to share the knowledge gained through the process. Dissemination is not easy but there is no point in doing research if no-one finds out what was discovered. This chapter begins with guidance on how to produce a summary followed by an outline of the barriers to disseminating research, advice on presenting in person and some key points about sharing findings online. There is a brief overview of data visualisation methods then the advantages and disadvantages of different methods of dissemination are discussed. The similarities and differences of workplace and academic research are presented, followed by a discussion of the ethics of dissemination. The chapter concludes with an update of the case studies followed by exercises, discussion questions and a debate topic.
When the utility of masks or vaccinations became politicized during the COVID-19 pandemic and lost its mooring in scientific evidence, an already-developing crisis of expertise was exacerbated. Those who believe in consensus science wondered: “How can ‘those people’ not see the truth?
This book shows that it is not a ‘scientific’ controversy, but an ideological dispute with ‘believers’ on both sides. If the advocates for consensus science acknowledge the uncertainties involved, rather than insisting on cold, hard facts, it is possible to open a pathway towards interaction and communication, even persuasion, between world views.
As the crisis of expertise continues to be a global issue, this will be an invaluable resource for readers concerned about polarized societies and the distrust of consensus science.
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.
This introduction to the book explains that the so-called “crisis of expertise,” wherein large segments of the population distrust consensus science, is not a new phenomenon. The crisis was, however, exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. This book addresses the public controversies that arise when there is some science on both sides of the dispute, such as a dispute between fringe views by minority scientists and consensus views by the majority in a scientific community. The book recommends that both sides respect each other to encourage communication about scientific matters, especially because both sides have ideological commitments and values that drive scientific positions. Both sides should therefore be recognized as experts, not because both sides are correct, but because both sides represent respective communities of believers. Due to the inevitable uncertainties of science, consensus scientists cannot assume that their views are obvious, or that their facts are unassailable. Persuasive communication is needed, based on an understanding of how the other side thinks.
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.