The purpose of this book is to discuss issues of method within the context of current empirical research. It focuses on how the choice and use of particular methods and techniques shape the substantive findings of such research. This is achieved by way of a critical evaluation of eight pieces of recent research in core areas of the discipline of sociology: education, family, employment, housing, health, crime, class and political activism. All published in the last decade, the studies capture some of the most important economic, social and political changes in Britain in the last 50 years or more. They typify the long tradition of empirical research in British sociology on which the high reputation of the discipline is based. The book is especially concerned with the real life problems of doing social research, including the compromises which sometimes occur, the constraints which are not easily surmounted as well as the initial hunches which are undermined, and the surprises which emerge out of the process of research. Practical issues, therefore, loom large in the discussion of the key texts, but that is not to say that the focus is prosaic or mundane. Rather, a consideration of real life research inevitably raises wider issues to do with the ethics of conducting research, as well as political issues which underpin the choice of method and how research actually gets done.
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