Researching Social Life

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The Third Edition of Nigel Gilbert's hugely successful Researching Social Life covers the whole range of methods from quantitative to qualitative in a down-to-earth and unthreatening manner.

Internationally-renowned experts in the field have thoroughly expanded and updated this edition with new chapters and additional material on: mixed methods, participative action research, virtual methods, grounded theory, narrative analysis, searching for and reviewing literature, and refining the research question.

Worked examples, case studies, discussion questions, project ideas and checklists are included throughout the book to help those new to research to engage with the material.

Researching Social Life follows the 'life cycle' of a typical research project, from initial conception through to eventual publication. Its breadth and depth of coverage make this an indispensable companion for students on social research methods courses in any discipline.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'This is a very impressive book. It is admirably written in clear, straightforward language, so that I can easily imagine undergraduates responding well to its use as a core text.' - Geoff Payne, Professor of Social Research, University of Plymouth

'It is wide-ranging, up-to-date, authoritative and well written. It will become the standard textbook for undergraduate research methods in sociology' - Jon Gubbay, University of East Anglia

'This is a clearly written, straightforward piece of work which nicely combines informative chapters, projects for students and exemplars from real life research projects. The substance of the book, with each chapter written by a different author with appropriate experience, offers a readable and easily comprehensible introduction to all the major areas of social science research. The authors have expertly trodden the tightrope between giving the reader too much information and thus complicating subjects and giving too little and making the book superficial. A colleague suggested that the book answers all the questions which the average student is likely to ask. Clearly the teaching experience of the authors has been a major influence in the production of this volume.

The projects are all interesting and are all sufficiently flexible to allow any student to work on them in the context of their own interests. They can be carried out without the need for great investment in anything other than time and effort. They are both practical and practicable and most importantly they can be expected to introduce the practitioner to many of the issues and problems which are addressed in the text and which they will have to address in their future careers as social researchers.

The examination of these issues and problems is usefully demonstrated in the exemplars. As with the projects, these are varied and interesting. They have obviously been chosen to demonstrate different methods and areas of social research are are useful in demonstrating that everything does not always go according to plan, the ideal rarely exists.... I found it enjoyable and easy to read, even in those areas in which I am familiar and informative in those where I was not. This is a book to be highly recommended to the research community.' - ESRC Data Archive Bulletin

'This book has a number of strengths to recommend it to the newcomer to social research, its structure, content and style are all ideal for an introductory text. In its structure each section and chapter builds on its predecessors creating and impressive and cohesive guide. As for content, it comprehensively covers the wide range of research methods available and makes apparent the links between quantitative and qualitative methods, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses in various situations. Additionally, most of the chapters end with a project that can be carried out by the reader, allowing practice of the preceding theory. The book also includes many examples, drawn from actual research projects and the contributors' considerable and varied experiences, which help to bring the methods and issues alive to the reader. Most importantly the book uses clear everyday language, and avoids jargon, making it an ideal primer for those attempting social research for the first time... will prove an ideal text for undergraduates in a variety of disciplines who are taking research methods courses, as it provides both ideas for projects and references to more advanced texts. It can also be heartily recommended to health promoters who, faced with an increasing emphasis on the evaluation of initiatives and population needs assessment in their work, will find this book an invaluable resource.' - Health Promotion International

'The book by Gilbert does have some notable features. It provides some very detailed exemplars of research. It contains a chapter on gaining access to research settings (a practical matter of considerable importance, and one that typically is ignored in research texts); it offers some discussion of the use of computers in the analysis of data (an area that merits more attention...); and it provides considerable emphasis on different aspects of qualitative research methodology.' - Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare

'Provides an excellent introductory methods text that covers every stage of quantitative and qualitative research. The individual chapters are each written by experts in their respective fields, but there is a coherence in the text overall that is rarely apparent in edited collections. The language is always accessible, and at no point is the reader confronted by conceptual leaps without either signposts to other chapters, explanatory bridges to help one cross into the more sophisticated passage, or no-entry signs which suggest that a deeper understanding will only be gained on a more advanced course.... The book is superbly edited and has clearly benefited from the authors being colleagues.' - Journal of Social Policy

'This is an effective format: experts provide their specialized insights on each topic and their contributions are organized as chapters in a coherent text.

An additional advantage of this format is that the book presents itself more like a reader in social research methods than a standard methods textbook. Furthermore... the book is written in consistently simple and clear language.... the readability and clarity of the book should produce a favorable response from students.... an ideal primary text for an undergraduate course in social research methods. The book would be especially suitable for students at the junior or senior levels in sociology and other social science majors (e.g. social work, political science, health sciences). The book's focus on practical research skills is likely to be helpful to students who pursue other vocational paths that rely on social research.

The overall strength of this book lies in the author's commitment to a primary focus, practical social research skills. The expertise of the various authors provides innumerable insights on doing research that can further the development of students' own skills. While the book emphasizes the practical over the philosophical aspects of social research, the relative succinctness of its chapters allows instructors space to add their own philosophical perspectives on particular research methods issues.' - Teaching Sociology

A textbook for a course introducing the methods of research used in such disciplines as sociology, nursing and health studies, criminology, and education. Explains the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data for both quantitative and qualitative research. Prepared by members of the sociology department at the University of Surrey, England. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803986824
  • Publisher: SAGE Publications
  • Publication date: 2/5/1993
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 382

Meet the Author

Nigel Gilbert read for a first degree in Engineering, intending to go into the computer industry. However, he was lured into sociology and obtained his doctorate on the sociology of scientific knowledge from the University of Cambridge, under the supervision of Michael Mulkay. His research and teaching interests have reflected his continuing interest in both sociology and computer science (and engineering more widely).

His main research interests are processual theories of social phenomena, the development of computational sociology and the methodology of computer simulation, especially agent-based modelling. He is Director of the Centre for Research in Social Simulation.

He is also Director of the University's Institute of Advanced Studies and responsible for its development as a leading centre for intellectual interchange.

He is the author or editor of several textbooks on sociological methods of research and statistics and editor of the Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation.

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Table of Contents

1 Social research and sociology 1
2 Research, theory and method 18
3 The research process 32
I Beginnings
4 Gaining access 52
5 Designing samples 68
II Into the field
6 Questionnaires 94
7 Measuring attitudes 116
8 Qualitative Interviewing 135
9 Ethnography 154
Exemplar A Becoming a carer 172
10 Using documents 187
Exemplar B Building respectability 201
III Back home
11 Coding and managing data 218
12 Analysing survey data 239
13 Analysing other researchers' data 255
Exemplar C No jam tomorrow: why women are disadvantaged in occupational pensions 270
14 Analysing accounts 287
15 Explicating face-to-face interaction 306
IV Endings
16 Writing about social research 328
Bibliography 345
Index 357
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