Social Research: Issues, Methods and Process

Social Research: Issues, Methods and Process

Social Research: Issues, Methods and Process

Social Research: Issues, Methods and Process


"a welcome third edition of an already well-known and widely used text... truly 'user-friendly' " Network

"The third edition of this tried and tested book works very well and should be extremely successful...its strength is that it covers all the principal areas of research in an accessible and lively style, treating each approach in relation to the philosophical and methodological debates that underpin them. It is logically organised and each chapter is well-structured...complex topics are clearly explained for the inexperienced reader, at the same time it contains enough of substance and food for thought for more advanced students." - John Scott, University of Essex

Praise for the previous edition:
"This is the finest introduction to social research I have ever read... Methods are meticulously worked through from official statistics to comparative research via surveys, interviews, observation and documentary analysis... The writing is clear, concise and scholarly with the bibliography a delightful A to Z compendium of the best in sociology." - British Sociological Association Network

The fully revised and updated third edition of this hugely popular text incorporates the latest developments in the interdisciplinary field of social research, while retaining the style and structure that appealed to so many in the first two editions. Tim May successfully bridges the gap between theory and methods in social research, clearly illuminating these essential components for understanding the dynamics of social relations.

The book is divided into two parts, with Part I examining the issues and perspectives in social research and Part II setting out the methods and processes. Revisions and additions have been made to Part I to take account of new ways of thinking about the relationship between theory and research, and values and ethics in the research process. These take on board advances in post-empiricist thinking, as well as the relations between values, objectivity and data collection. Where necessary, recommended readings and references to studies that form the bases of discussions throughout the book have been updated. In Part II, additions have been made to the chapter on questionnaires, and elsewhere new discussions have been introduced, for example, on research on the internet, narratives, case studies and new technologies. The reader will detect many other changes, the intention of which is to aid understanding by staying up-to-date with the latest innovations in social research. The chapters follow a common structure to enable a clear appreciation of the place, process and analysis of each method, and to allow the comparison of their strengths and weaknesses in the context of discussions in Part I.

The clear writing style, chapter summaries, questions for reflection and signposts to further readings continue to make this book the ideal companion to social research for students across the social sciences. In addition, it will be recognised as an invaluable source of reference for those practising and teaching social research who wish to keep abreast of key developments in the field.


Research methods are a central part of the social sciences. They constitute an important part of their curricula and provide a means through which their intellectual development is enhanced. Indeed, their status as 'sciences' is often justified by alluding to the technical aspects of research methods, while the very term 'science' carries with it ideas of areas of study which are accessible only to those who have undergone a lengthy training process in order to understand their inner workings. At the same time there are also those within these disciplines who might characterize themselves as 'theorists' rather than 'researchers'. The latter concentrate on the process of research, while the former might argue that they gain an advantage in having a distance from the empirical world in order to reflect upon those processes and their products.

There is merit in both of these views for they are not the opposites that their respective protagonists often claim them to be. As we shall see, both innovative thinking and a meticulous attention to the detail of data gathering inform the practice of social research. Theory, methodology and methods are all part of the issues and processes that surround and inform the discipline. These differences, however, frequently lead to disputes, as well as confusions, over the nature of research and the methods which it should employ in pursuance of its aims. For this reason, in the first three chapters of this book, there is an examination of the ways in which we gain our knowledge of the social world, the relationships that are held to exist between theory and research, and the place of values and ethics in research practice. While these issues are complicated, they are also fundamental to an understanding of research methods. Without this, issues and methods can become separated and practitioners left with the impression that they simply have to learn various techniques in order to undertake research. The purpose of this first part, therefore, is one of clarification.

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