Tagged: research methods

Doing social research in China: a beginners’ guide.

Last month I had the privilege of going to Xiamen University in south-eastern China for a ten-day research trip, along with ten other social science PhD students from my department at Southampton University. The purpose of the trip was to give us an opportunity to do a research project with ten Chinese PhD counterparts, and to give us a feel for what some of those buzzwords of contemporary academia – ‘global’, ‘networking’, ‘collaboration’, ‘inter-disciplinarity’ – might actually mean in practice....

Technologies of Interviewing: Revamping Qualitative Methods Lessons

  A couple of weeks ago, in my Social Issues in Qualitative Methodology course, I was assigned to give a presentation on the “technologies of interviewing.” At first, I was told by older cohort members that I was lucky because I had the easiest topic: “Just do the history of the recorder.” As I googled the topic, thinking that it would then be some cool history and development I found that my predecessors had just done a timeline of photos...

Are We All Expert Impostors?

In a previous post (which can be found here), I mentioned the ‘impostor phenomenon’ and how I and many people I know who work in academia have experienced it in some form or another during their career. The ‘imposter syndrome’ (identified by Clance & Imes, 1978, pp. 1-2), the feeling that leads the self-declared impostors to believe that they are not intelligent and that anyone who thinks otherwise has simply been fooled, is usually accompanied by a fear that one...

Learning to Fail or Failing to Learn    

Nobody really talks about how or why his or her research failed, or what you are supposed to do when you can see that the fieldwork you are in the middle of might be doomed. Those who decide to leave their research uncompleted rarely write up their experiences, and so the lessons that can be learnt about what not to do during your research, and how to avoid a similar outcome, are forever lost in the private notebooks of the...

Don't Quote Me On This!

  I am not going to cite, quote or reference anyone in this post, and I wonder if that will change the opinion of those who read it. Does citing someone else make what I write more valid, more accurate or more valuable? Citation and referencing are an important part of academic writing; it is a painstaking, laborious and often frustrating process that is, unfortunately, unavoidable. Of course, I understand why it is necessary. When communicating ideas or concepts it is...

When is a public space private? Informed consent and online research

  A vital element of the ethical discourse on human subject research is the process of informed consent. This recognizes the autonomy of research subjects by sharing the power of decision making with them. The informed consent process involves three components: relating the information to subjects; ensuring that subjects understand the information; and obtaining the voluntary agreement from subjects to participate. Researchers have the responsibility of determining what information should be divulged to subjects during the consent process.

A New Sociological Approach to Big Data

Via retail transactions, searching Google, Tweeting and countless other prosaic activities IBM estimates we are creating 2.5 billion gigabytes of data a day. This is ‘Big Data’; a catch-all, superficial and problematic term for unwieldy data sets that require substantial computing power to curate and put to constructive use. Although its slippery definition is relevant to this blog post; problematising the concept of Big Data is for another time. This post begins with the methodological enthusiasm and scepticism that exists...

Is THAT Cheating?

Last week, a survey of 1,300 incoming freshman at Harvard University found that 42 percent of respondents had cheated on a homework assignment or problem set before starting at Harvard. This study lead to countless editorial pieces with provocative titles such as “Welcome to Harvard, Cheaters of 2017” and “More Incoming Harvard Students Have Cheated On Their Homework Than Had Sex.” However, what the study and related articles did not discuss was how “cheating” was defined both for those conducting...

Big Data: The new frontier or a methodological nightmare?

  Big Data refers to the enormous amount of information now possessed by companies, that we offer up in our day-to-day lives. In Google searches, Facebook wall posts, or any purchase we are contributing to the vast amount of data, and allowing companies to make predictions about how we will behave. The use of patterning, statistical analysis and algorithms give these companies a perceived ability to ‘predict the future’; ranging from suggesting future purchases to tracking the flu virus through...

Why Sociologists Should Be Critical of the New Family Structure Study

An article in Social Science Research is causing quite a stir among sociologists, and is sure to fuel the flames of the debate surrounding gay marriage. Mark Regenerus, sociologist at UT Austin, has just published results from the New Family Structure Study (also see his Slate article). He suggests that children raised in heterosexual intact families fare better than children raised by gays and lesbians. This goes against previous research which indicated the opposite: that children of gay and lesbian...