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Designing Social Research

Designing Social Research
A Guide for the Bewildered

April 2011 | 224 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

Using everyday jargon-free language, Designing Social Research guides you through the jungle of setting up a research study. Ian Greener provides guidance on how to practically plan your research and helps you to understand the underpinning methodological principles that should inform your decisions about the methods you plan to use.

This is the perfect book for beginner students and new researchers looking to design a research project and make sense of and justify the many decisions that go into the research design process. It will help you to assess the appropriateness of a range of methods and to understand the strengths and limitations of different approaches to research.

Greener highlights key debates in the field, both philosophical and practical, and presents them in such a way that they remain constantly relevant to research practice of his readers. Coverage includes:

  • Framing an effective research question/problem;
  • Examining the jargon of social research;
  • The links between theory, methodology and method;
  • The role of literature reviewing in research design;
  • Managing and planning the research process;
  • Sampling;
  • Qualitative designs;
  • Quantitative designs;
  • Mixed methods designs;
  • Data analysis.

Designing Social Research will be ideal first reading for undergraduates planning significant research projects for their dissertations. It will also be invaluable to first year PhD students considering how they will go about their research projects.

Introduction to Social Research Design - Or What Are You Talking About?
Defining terms
Some general points about research questions
Some other general guidelines
Some practical examples of how questions, methods and philosophy combine
What's the problem, and how are you going to research it? A logic of appropriateness
Five things to remember about this chapter
Reviewing What Other People Have Said - Or How Can I Tell If Others' Research is Any Good?
Nuts and bolts
The hierarchy of evidence
Reading efficiently and critically, and taking notes
So is the study any good?
Writing a review
Five things to remember about this chapter
Example - 'Qualitative research and the evidence base of policy'
Surveys and Questionnaires - Or How Can I Conduct Research With People at a Distance?
The use of questionnaires - the best (and worst) of quantitative (and qualitative) social research
Surveys and questionnaires
Perspectives on questionnaires
Designing questionnaires
Open and closed responses
Getting questions really clear
Common response forms
Questionnaire design
Analysing and reporting questionnaire responses
Reflexivity and questionnaires
Contentious issues
Conclusion - working with the good and bad of questionnaires
Five things to remember about this chapter
Example - The Paradox of Choice
Elements of Quantitative Design: Sampling and Statistics - Or What Can I Do With Numbers?
Numbers and their importance
What are numbers good for?
The philosophy of quantitative research
Some issues in quantitative analysis - basic descriptive statistics
Five things to remember about this chapter
Example - Super Crunchers
Ethnography as a Research Approach - Or What Do I Gain from Watching People and Talking to Them?
What is ethnography?
When would I want to use an ethnography?
What does it mean to conduct an ethnography?
Philosophical debates around ethnography
What do the differences in approach mean for the resulting ethnography?
What kind of research does an ethnographic research project produce?
How can you increase the chance of doing good ethnographic research?
Conclusion - getting close or producing useless knowledge?
Five things to remember about this chapter
Example - Reading Ethnographic Research
Dealing with Qualitative Data - Or What Should I Do With All These Words?
The aims of qualitative research
Grounded theory, coding and generalisation
The mechanics of grounded theory
Discourse analysis and its variants
Quantitative approaches to textual analysis
Analysing documents
What are the criteria for a good qualitative analysis?
Truth in social research
Conclusion - finding appropriate methods for dealing with your data
Five things to remember about this chapter
Example - The Body Multiple
Causality in your research - or how deep should ontology go?
Ontology and depth
Science, method and causality
Constant conjunction
The world is flat
Going deeper
Levels of analysis
Conclusion - how deep do you need to go?
Five things to remember about this chapter
Example - Rogue Traders and financial losses
Dealing With Time and Control - Or What Time Period Suits My Research, and How Do I Stop the World from Interfering in It?
How does Social research deal with time?
Phenomenology and process philosophy - researching the present
History and political science - researching the past
What time frame fits your research, and how does time affect what you can say?
The openness (and closedness) of systems
A way around the problem of the experimental method - scale and sampling
What are case studies for - an aid to generalisation or an analysis of power and expertise?
Conclusion - time and control in social research
Five things to remember about this chapter
Example - accounts of the financial crisis
Ethics - Or What Practices are Appropriate in my Research? 142
The importance of ethics in research
The official line - what bodies such as the ESRC have to say
Questioning the official line - or is it even possible to follow all these ethical principles?
The importance of balance and appropriateness in ethics
Different perspectives on ethics
Conclusion - doing what's right and doing what's ethical
Five things to remember about this chapter
Example - 'Teenagers telling sectarian stories'
Writing Up Your Research - Or What Can I Say I've Found?
The differences between description, analysis and argument
Making an argument - what have you found out?
The bases of good arguments
Supporting a conclusion
Other concerns with arguments
Deductive and inductive arguments
Structuring a piece of writing to bring out your argument
Conclusion - writing up research so that it is clear to you (and to everyone else)
Five things to remember about this chapter
Writing up reviews and putting together proposals - or can you provide some examples of all of this?
Putting together a literature review
The role of the literature review
Doing a literature review
Exclusion and systematic review
Exclusion and realist review
Putting together a research proposal
Conclusion - the skills of being a practising researcher
Five things to remember about this chapter
Conclusion - Or Getting on with Social Research
Others' claims as a basis for your own work
Defining the job at hand
Designing research that is appropriate for the job at hand
Mixing methods
Being careful with data and with ethics
Writing it all up
Conclusion - doing research well
Example - Ladbroke Grove

It is a great book! It is a very interesting for advance students!

Dr Marian Ispizua
Sociology, Universidad del Pams Vasco
November 3, 2015

This text provides a useful starting point for researchers of all levels. It provides clear uncomplicated explanations for key concepts and takes the reader through the processes involved when undertaking research, with care and understanding.

Ms Ingrid Richter
School of Childhood & Community, Leeds Metropolitan University
November 12, 2013

I really appreciated the concise nature of the this book's chapters and the helpful 'Things to Remember' at the end of each chapter. However, I found the philosophical schools used by the author as a framing device (e.g. in discussing what 'realists' versus 'idealists' look for in a review of the literature) to be unhelpful and potentially confusing for students in my field.

I also must note that this text is rife with typos - I counted 4 or 5 just in the first chapter. It is almost as though the text was not copy edited.

Dr Christopher Pallas
Political Sci Intl Affs Dept, Kennesaw State University
June 27, 2013

A useful and inofrmative text for students recently introduced to research within health and social care.

(Comments not for publication)

Mrs J Mitchell
School of Health and Wellbeing - Public Health, Wolverhampton University
November 6, 2012

This book is not only well written but is valuable reading for any UG or PG students trying to make sense out of the myriad permutations of social research.

Mr Russell Delderfield
Please select your department, Bradford University
October 5, 2012

A very useful book for my students who are beginning to study the basics of social research methods

Mrs Megan Bruce
My department is not listed, Durham University
October 3, 2012

A good supplementary reading for Social Research Students both at undergraduate and graduate levels. Recommend this book for teachers and students alike.

Dr Nadeem Khan
Education , Higher College of Technology
September 27, 2012

This is a good book which I would have liked to have at the beginning of my academic career. It is easy to understand and provides a good idea of what social research may look like and how this 'business' works. However, if one has been around in academia and the world of journal publications for a while, this book will be too superficial.

Dr Carsten Reuter
Services, Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS
September 5, 2012

A good solid foundation to the issues

Mr Brian Boag
Nurisng and Midwifery, University of the West of Scotland
August 2, 2012

A highly accessible book, that covers a lot of material and also provides the reader with guidance on how and where to find out more.

Dr Mary Stewart
School of Nursing and Midwifery, King's College London
July 31, 2012

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

Ian Greener

Ian Greener is a Professor in the School ... More About Author

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SAGE Research Methods is a research methods tool created to help researchers, faculty and students with their research projects. SAGE Research Methods links over 175,000 pages of SAGE’s renowned book, journal and reference content with truly advanced search and discovery tools. Researchers can explore methods concepts to help them design research projects, understand particular methods or identify a new method, conduct their research, and write up their findings. Since SAGE Research Methods focuses on methodology rather than disciplines, it can be used across the social sciences, health sciences, and more.