Researching with Children and Young People: Research Design, Methods and Analysis
Publication Year: 2009
Researching with Children and Young People covers every stage of the process of doing a research project, from research design and data collection, through to analysis, dissemination, and feedback. Providing an advanced discussion of current debates and methods in childhood research, the book is essential reading for anyone undertaking consultation, research, and evaluation activities with children and young people.
The book is structured around five core areas covering:
Introduction to research with children and young people; Ethics; Data collection and analysis; Involving children and young people; Dissemination and engagement
These chapters are interspersed with case studies describing the methods used in eleven different research projects involving children and young people. Written by both academics and practitioners, the case studies cover a wide variety of methods, settings, and approaches.
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
- Chapter 1: Introduction
- Chapter 2: Ethics
- Case Study Researching Children's Rights in the Context of Northern Ireland
- Case Study Listening to Children and Young People Affected by Parental HIV
- Case Study Researching with and about Children and Young People Who are Unaccompanied and Seeking Asylum
- Case Study Researching the Geography of Power in a Primary School
- Chapter 3: Data Collection and Analysis
- Case Study Researching Childhoods in Rural Bolivia
- Case Study Evaluation of a Youth Counselling Service: Surveying Young People's Views
- Case Study Assessing and Developing Self-Esteem in Very Young, Vulnerable Children
- Case Study Protecting Children and Young People: Consultation on a Children's Charter
- Group Work Toolkit
- Chapter 4: Involving Children
- Case Study Investing in Children: Supporting Young People as Researchers
- Case Study Designs on My Learning, 21st Century Schools: Reflections on Involving Pupils in the Design of Their Schools
- Case Study Disabled Children: Fieldwork and Interviewing
- Chapter 5: Dissemination — Or Engagement?
© E. Kay M. Tisdall, John M. Davis, Michael Gallagher 2009
Individual case studies © the contributors 2009
First published 2009
Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of research or private study, or criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, this publication may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form, or by any means, only with the prior permission in writing of the publishers, or in the case of reprographic reproduction, in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside those terms should be sent to the publishers.
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List of Case Studies[Page vii]
- Researching Children's Rights in the Context of Northern Ireland 29
- Ciara Davey, Claire Dwyer and Siobhán McAllister
- Listening to Children and Young People Affected by Parental HIV 40
- Helen Kay
- Researching with and about Children and Young People Who are Unaccompanied and Seeking Asylum 48
- Fiona Mitchell
- Researching the Geography of Power in a Primary School 57
- Michaeal Gallagher
- Researching Childhoods in Rural Bolivia 89
- Samantha Punch
- Evaluation of a Youth Counselling Service: Surveying Young People's Views 97
- Vicky Plows and Michael Gallagher
- Assessing and Developing Self-esteem in Very Young, Vulnerable Children 110
- Susan Stewart
- Protecting Children and Young People: Consultation on a Children's Charter 119
- Susan Elsley and Caroline King
- Investing in Children: Supporting Young People as Researchers 168
- Liam Cairns
- Designs on My Learning, 21st Century Schools: Reflections on Involving Pupils in the Design of Their Schools 176
- Anne Cunningham
- Disabled Children: Fieldwork and Interviewing 185
- John Davis, Nick Watson and Michael Gallagher
About the Authors[Page viii]
Dr E. Kay M. Tisdall is Programme Director of the MSc in Childhood Studies, and Reader in Social Policy, at the University of Edinburgh. Previously she worked as Director of Policy and Research at Children in Scotland, a national umbrella agency for organizations and professionals working with children and their families. Current and recent research includes: theorizing children's participation; school councils; children's views in family law proceedings; and inter-agency services. Recent journal articles have been published in Children and Society, Critical Social Policy, the European Journal of Social Work, the International Journal of Children's Rights and the International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family. Email: K.Tisdall@ed.ac.uk
Dr John M. Davis is Head of Education Studies at the University of Edinburgh and Programme Director of the BA in Childhood Studies. He has carried out ethnographic projects in the UK in the areas of childhood studies, curriculum innovation, disability, education, health and sport. He has published widely in such journals as Children and Society, Disability and Society, and the International Journal of Children's Rights. Email: John.Davis@ed.ac.uk
Dr Michael Gallagher is a Research Fellow in Community Health Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. He is currently working on a study of adolescents' self-management of anaphylaxis. His doctoral research focused on power and space in a primary school, but more recently he has carried out several projects examining support services for vulnerable children and young people. Michael also has a creative practice working with sound and digital media, on which he draws to enrich his research. For example, he recently produced a short experimental documentary film exploring sound and space in a primary school. Email: Michael.Gallagher@ed.ac.uk
List of Contributors[Page ix]
- Ciara Davey is a Senior Children's Rights Investigator at the Children's Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) in London. Prior to this she worked as a Research and Policy Officer in the office of the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY) in Belfast.
- Clare Dwyer is a Lecturer in Law in the School of Law at Queen's University Belfast. Her main research interests are in Criminal Justice, Transitional Justice and Human & Children's Rights.
- Siobhán McAlister is a Research Fellow in the School of Law at Queen's University Belfast. She is currently working on an action-based research project entitled ‘Understanding the lives of children and young people in the context of conflict and marginalization’.
- Helen Kay is a Research Associate at the Scottish Institute for Residential Child Care (SIRCC) at Strathclyde University
- Fiona Mitchell is currently a researcher at The Children's Society. She was previously a Research Fellow at the Social Work Research and Development Unit, University of York.
- Samantha Punch is a senior lecturer in Sociology in the Department of Applied Social Science at Stirling University Her current and recent research focuses on siblings and birth order, and food practices, power and identity in residential children's homes in Scotland. She is co-author with Ruth Panelli and Elsbeth Robson of ‘Global Perspectives on Rural Childhood and Youth: Young Rural Lives’ (Routledge, 2007).
- Vicky Plows is a doctoral student and research assistant at the University of Edinburgh, researching policy and practice in relation to the lives of young people. Her PhD work explores the issue of young people's ‘problematic’ behaviour in youth clubs.
- Susan Stewart has worked for Aberlour childcare trust for over 10 years, and is currently Service Manager for Langlees Family Centre in Falkirk. Her background is in child developmental psychology, and she has a particular interest in the development of resilience and self-esteem in the early years. [Page x]
- Susan Elsley is an independent consultant in children's policy and research. She has over 20 years' experience working with children's and social justice organizations and was previously Head of Policy and Research at Save the Children in Scotland. She is currently undertaking PhD study at the University of Edinburgh on childhood and children's culture.
- Caroline King is a Researcher who has a background in nursing and health promotion. She has been involved in research on children's health and well-being since 2001. She is currently doing a PhD study based at the University of Edinburgh on child health surveillance and promotion, funded by an ESRC CASE studentship.
- Liam Cairns has been the manager of Investing in Children, Durham, since 1997.
- Anne Cunningham is Education Consultant at the Lighthouse, Scotland's Centre for Architecture, Design and the City She has worked on a wide range of participatory arts and community arts projects, from comedy to dance, music and contemporary art, including for Sheffield Galleries and Museums Trust, The National Galleries of Scotland and Youthlink Scotland.
- Nick Watson is Professor at the University of Glasgow, and Director of the Strathclyde Centre for Disability Research. He has undertaken numerous research projects, written and published on a variety of disability issues including disability and identity, theorizing disability and the role of impairment, care and personal support and disability and politics.
This book arises from teaching carried out by the editors on the MSc in Childhood Studies, offered since 1999 at the University of Edinburgh (http://www.childhoodstudies.ed.ac.uk). As part of this degree, we offer a specialist course,‘Listening to children: research and consultation with children and young people’, which aims to enable postgraduates to develop advanced skills in these areas. Through the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Research Methods Programme, we received additional funding to develop this course for continuing professional development, with a significant e-learning component. Much of the book's content builds from resources developed for this online course, including the case studies, group work toolkit, top tips and glossary. The main chapters also incorporate many insights gained through our teaching on this course. This book is therefore very much a collaborative creation, shaped by the course participants and those who facilitated sessions and offered resources. It also reflects the studentship of this course, inasmuch as it is designed for adults, not for children looking to carry out research (though this process is discussed in Chapter 4).
Regarding our use of terminology, as a team, we debated at length the relative merits of ‘research’, ‘consultation’ and ‘evaluation’, and these are discussed in our introduction. We think that the book covers all three, but for brevity have opted in general to use the term ‘research’ in our chapters. We do so on the understanding that this encompasses the widest range of practices of knowledge creation. Likewise, our preference for ‘children’ over the more cumbersome ‘children and young people’ should not be read as excluding teenagers. We broadly use the age definition of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), where children are defined as up to the age of 18 unless majority is reached earlier. But age is of course a problematic categorization for those who seek to question childhood constructions. And older children may wish to be referred to as youth, young people or teenagers. As no solution is perfect, within our chapters we have opted to use ‘children’, unless there are particular reasons not to. However, we have allowed our case study authors to use their own preferred terms.
As the book is designed to be an advanced text, we do assume a basic knowledge of social research terminology, design and methods. All of us have gaps in our knowledge, so we have provided a glossary as one aid. Terms highlighted in bold type in the text may be found in the Glossary. But you may want to consult more general texts, such as:
- Bryman, A. (2004) Social Research Methods, 2nd edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press (1st edn, 2001).
- Ritchie, J. and Lewis, J. (eds) (2003) Qualitative Research Practice: A Guide For Social Science Students and Researchers. London: Sage.
This book represents the accumulated contributions of a host of people, since the first offering of the course ‘Listening to Children: Research and Consultation with Children and Young People’ in 2000. The course is in debt to the contributions of participants, course organizers and facilitators. The development of the course, as part of the ESRC Research Methods Programme, allowed for a substantial e-learning component to be added (developed particularly by Elaine Mowat and Michael Gallagher) and additional resources. Researchers and other participation workers around the world generously contributed their ‘top tips’, and case study authors shared the trials and tribulations of their research and consultation activities. Professor Vivien Cree and Professor Lynn Jamieson contributed particularly over these years, as course convenors and as part of the research team for the ESRC project (Award RES 333 25 0010).
The creation of this book itself was further assisted by a number of new case study contributors, further offers of top tips and the assistance of John Gallagher. Duncan MacLean produced drawings for the groupwork toolkit. Barnardo's staff made a particular contribution, through the ideas of, and information from, Mary Duffy, Louise Hill (ESRC Case Studentship) and Sheila Patel. Our contacts at Sage, Patrick Brindle and Claire Lipscomb, displayed continued support for the project.
Finally, we would like to offer our thanks to all the children and young people with whom we have worked over the years, and from whom we have learned a great deal.
- Researching Children's Rights in the Context of Northern Ireland 29
Ending: Some Reflections from the Authors[Page 221]
Throughout this book we have tried to emphasize the diversity of possibilities in approaching research with children. We have argued that there is no one ‘right’ way to design research, practise ethics, collect and analyse data, involve children or disseminate findings. Our case study authors have described how they approached their own projects, in quite different situations and from different perspectives. The group work toolkit outlines a range of ideas that you might find useful, or not, in your own work, while the top tips suggest a wide variety of ideas, strategies, tricks and tools. Not all of these ideas are compatible, and this is quite deliberate. We want to invite you to consider your own position, and decide for yourself what would work best in your own research practice. Even amongst ourselves, as a team, though we share some core values, we have many points of difference. In the process of writing this book, discussing these differences has helped us to learn from one another, and clarify where each of us stands.
With this in mind, rather than conclude by drawing these disparate strands together, we have chosen to end the book by sharing some stories that are important to us in our own practice. In particular, it seemed appropriate to look back to our own childhoods, to experiences that continue to inspire us as adults. We think that these reflect both the values underpinning the book, and the diversity amongst us as researchers.E. Kay M. Tisdall
When I was 16, I took a job working with disabled children at a summer residential camp. I was warned about one child, aged 7, who was assigned to me. I was told that Ivan (not his real name) could not communicate and had a very low IQ, had cerebral palsy which led his body to spasm considerably, and that he bit people with great regularity – right down to the bone. I was very apprehensive.
I was putting Ivan to bed one night, trying to avoid being bitten, and I started to sing. And then I noticed that Ivan was adjusting his spasms to my singing and he was grinning, grinning, grinning. We had not seen Ivan smile before. So Ivan and I danced around the room.
I always tried to get Ivan out of his wheelchair after that, holding him with me while we joined into activities, and enjoying getting him to smile whenever we did something musical. It sounds contrived, but Ivan really did never try to bite me again.
Ivan thus taught me about different modes of communication and the power of music. He made me passionate about including and valuing people. I learned later that most of his days, in his residential centre, were spent in his wheelchair, lined up with other children against the wall. That would make me bite too.[Page 222]John M. Davis
Once in my early life (somewhere between 5 and 7 years of age), my mother forced me to attend a parade on the high street in Edinburgh to mark some special event for the Queen. In advance, my mother bought Union Jacks for myself, my brother and my sister to wave as the Queen went by. At first I refused to go, but was eventually persuaded in return for my mother buying me a Saltire flag.
My sister and brother remember the fact that I had a Scottish flag but not the reason why. My mother says it shows that she gave us choices as children. My own memory is that I resented the whole day, did not wave my flag when the Queen went by, and felt strongly aggrieved that these wealthy people were warm in their carriage whilst I was freezing on the pavement in the teeth of the wind hurtling up from the Canongate.
I am providing this story to demonstrate that different social actors in the same social event have very different interpretations of the meaning of the event. Sometimes those interpretations can become entrenched as, over the years, they are returned to repeatedly. I am myself no longer entirely sure why at such an early age I had these strong republican and Scottish sensibilities. There were probably a number of reasons why I adopted my political stance, and to put them forward now would only offer a partial construction of the ‘truth’.
Many years later I was working with disabled children and saw an occupational therapist offering a young man the ‘choice’ between wearing blue or green splints. I sensed instantly that this was not a ‘real’ choice – in my view, a ‘real’ choice would have been between putting on splints and not putting on splints. Both of these stories demonstrate that, even though I think that research only ever creates partial truths, there are times when I experience moments of exceptional clarity.Michael Gallagher
One childhood experience in particular often comes back to me when working with children and young people. At 9 years old, my school class was learning all about time. The teacher set us the project of designing a time machine. I think that she deliberately left it open to us to define what ‘time machine’ meant, but being 9 years old, and having seen the Back to the Future films, I immediately decided that she meant a machine that could enable time travel. I was very excited by this, but also slightly apprehensive. Time travel seemed to be quite a tall order. So I went to the teacher and asked, ‘Does the time machine have to work?’ She thought for a moment, and then replied,‘It can do, but it doesn't have to.’
I remember this being exactly what I wanted to hear at the time. What she said removed my sense of obligation to make the machine work, whilst also endorsing my fantasy that time travel was possible. This approach seems really enabling. In essence, it is based on the idea that nothing is necessary but everything is possible. I believe that this attitude can be the starting point for creativity, growth and transformative work in the face of the many institutional, economic, legal and practical constraints that we face – whether as researchers, practitioners, or both.
Glossary of Terms[Page 223]
- Action research Research that aims to bring about change through a cyclical process of action and critical reflection. Action research is often participative, with the researcher helping the participants to identify their own goals and ways to achieve these.
- Anonymity The practice of ensuring that participants cannot be identified in research outputs.
- Case The smallest unit of analysis, a single element of a sample or population.
- Case study approach/design A research methodology that investigates multiple sources of evidence, to investigate a phenomenon (or phenomena) in context. It is typically used to consider the phenomenon in its ‘real-life’ context.
- Census The measurement of a complete population rather than a sample of that population.
- Chi-square test An inferential statistical test for determining how well quantitative data fit an expected or theoretical distribution. Pearson's chi-square test tells you about the association between two categorical variables forming a contingency table.
- Closed question A question whose possible answers are predetermined.
- Cluster sampling A sampling strategy involving successive sampling of units or clusters, progressing from larger units to smaller ones.
- Codes/coding The process of transforming raw data into a standardized format for data analysis. In quantitative research this involves attaching numerical values to categories; in qualitative research it typically involves identifying recurrent words, concepts or themes.
- Coding frame In quantitative research, a template of key coding instructions for each variable in a study (for example Agree = 1). In qualitative research, this would be a framework of codes – or categories – for labelling and then organizing portions of data.
- Confidentiality The treatment of information as private, and thus not to be shared with others without the permission of the informant. [Page 224]
- Content analysis The analysis of the content of qualitative data. Can be carried out using either qualitative or quantitative methods.
- Control group In experimental research, the control group is given no intervention. The effects of the intervention on the experimental group can then be assessed by comparison.
- Conversational analysis The formal analysis of transcribed conversations can be seen as a form of discourse analysis.
- Correlation The extent to which a change in one variable is accompanied by a proportional change in another variable. Inferential statistics can be used to quantify correlations and determine their statistical significance.
- Data Items of knowledge recorded during the research process.
- Deductive approach In social research, an experimental approach which begins with questions or hypotheses. These are then tested through data collection and the analysis.
- Dependent variable The variable that is being measured in an experiment to see whether, and how much, it changes as the independent variable changes.
- Deviation The difference between a variable's observed value and the value predicted by a statistical model.
- Discourse analysis There is considerable variation in definitions, depending on the type of discourse analysis. An underlying idea is that communication is socially constructed and can be analysed as such. Discourse analysis frequently analyses spoken or written ‘texts’ but it can also be applied to other forms of communication such as visual imagery or other symbols.
- Dissemination The process of communicating the results of research.
- Empirical data Knowledge generated through experiments, observations or interaction (as opposed to through analysing or theorizing).
- Epistemology A theory of what constitutes valid knowledge. See Chapter 3.
- Ethics Standards of right and wrong conduct or the study of these standards. See Chapter 2.
- Ethnography A qualitative approach that seeks to interpret human cultural systems so as to understand them. This usually involves long-term participant observation, though it may also involve informal interviews, focus groups and other methods. Originally associated with anthropology and sociology.
- Ethnomethodology A methodology for ethnographic research developed in the 1960s by the sociologist Garfinkel. Its main premise is that researchers should [Page 225]base their understanding of a social group on the concepts which the members of that group use to understand their own social world. This is directly opposed to the more traditional practice of using concepts derived from existing academic literature to understand a social world to which those concepts are alien.
- Evaluation Research that aims to assess effectiveness of a particular programme, policy or service in achieving its objectives and it typically seeks to contribute to improvements in this programme, policy or service.
- Experimental group In experimental research, the group of subjects who receive the intervention, in contrast to those in the control group who do not.
- Experimental hypothesis A statement of the relationship between two variables which suggests that a significant correlation does exist. Only if inferential statistical methods indicate the existence of such a correlation can the experimental hypothesis be accepted.
- Experimental research A research methodology that seeks to establish the existence of a cause-and-effect relationship between independent and dependent variables by manipulating the independent variable(s) and measuring the dependent variable(s).
- Field notes Notes written when conducting fieldwork (typically observational fieldwork, although notes can also be taken when using other methods). Field notes may include the researcher's personal comments or interpretations. They are usually the primary form of data produced by ethnography.
- Fieldwork The process of gathering data at a research site.
- Focus group A fieldwork method involving a group of people interacting.
- Foucault A French philosopher and historian, whose work analysed modern ways of governing people through systems of thought and practice (e.g. medicine, mental illness, punishment, knowledge and sexuality).
- Frequency The number of items in a given category.
- Gatekeepers Individuals or organizations who are able to grant or refuse access to a research setting, or who are able to influence such decisions.
- Generalizability The extent to which the findings of a study based upon evidence drawn from a sample are expected to hold true for the population as a whole. Also known as external validity.
- Graffiti wall A technique for soliciting children's ideas by inviting them to write down or draw on a wall, usually covered with large sheets of paper.
- Grounded theory An approach to research design which insists that theories ought to arise from (in other words be ‘grounded’ 4in) the empirical data produced [Page 226]by fieldwork. It opposes experimental approaches in which hypotheses are developed in advance and then tested through fieldwork. As such, it is an inductive methodology.
- Hermeneutics A branch of philosophy concerned with how interpretation takes place. Originally developed as a means of interpreting legal and religious texts to determine their truth, hermeneutics has more recently been applied to the interpretation of human cultures through methods such as ethnography.
- Hypothesis A prediction relating to research data. In quantitative research, a hypothesis is typically made about how variables will relate to one another and this is then statistically tested to see whether the predicted relationship really does exist.
- Independent variable The variable that is to be manipulated in an experiment to see whether, and how much, the dependent variable changes as a result.
- Inductive approach An approach that begins by gathering empirical data and only then proposes general theories or hypotheses based upon this data.
- Inferential statistics A set of techniques for inferring conclusions from quantitative data. They do this by measuring the extent to which the data display a relationship between the independent and dependent variables.
- Informed consent The voluntary agreement of a person to participate in a research project, based on an understanding of what will be involved in the process.
- Interval data Quantitative data for which the difference between each datum can be determined, but for which the position of zero is arbitrary. For example, data on temperature in degrees Celsius.
- Leading question A question that suggests a possible answer. For this reason, asking such questions is often seen as bad practice in qualitative research.
- Likert scale A scale with a finite number of possible choices, which enables the collection of ordinal data about the degree to which a participant agrees or disagrees with a statement.
- Literature review The selection of documents (published and unpublished) on a topic and the evaluation of the contents of these documents in relation to a particular piece of research.
- Longitudinal study Research investigating phenomena over a relatively long time.
- Mean The arithmetic average of a set of qualitative data, used to measure their central tendency. [Page 227]
- Median In quantitative data, the number that lies at the division between the higher and lower halves of the data set.
- Methodology A set of procedures, practices and principles for obtaining knowledge about the world. Methodology is often confused with method. A particular methodology will prescribe certain methods of data collection, but it will also include procedures for planning, design, analysis and dissemination, all of which will be tied together by common ontological and epistemological assumptions (see Chapter 3).
- Mode In quantitative data, the value that occurs most frequently within the data set.
- Mosaic approach A methodology designed to help adult researchers and practitioners who wish to listen to young children's perspectives. It brings together a range of visual and verbal methods to capitalize upon young children's competencies. The Mosaic approach was developed by Alison Clark and Peter Moss at the Institute of Education, University of London. See their book (2001) Listening to young children: The Mosaic approach, London: National Children's Bureau.
- Narrative research The use of participants' oral or life histories to explore their personal lived experiences.
- Nominal data Quantitative data derived from categories where the order of the categories used is arbitrary. For example, nominal data would be produced by an assessment of ethnicity where 1 = White, 2 = Hispanic, 3 = American Indian, 4 = Black, 5 = Other.
- Null hypothesis A statement that suggests there is no significant relationship between the independent and dependent variables in a given experiment, and that any apparent correlation between the two is due merely to chance factors. If inferential statistical methods, when applied to the data collected, do not indicate the existence of a significant relationship between the variables, then the null hypothesis is accepted.
- Ontology Theory of, or enquiry into, the nature of being. In social science, ontology is usually concerned with the nature of human being in particular.
- Open question A question without fixed categories of answers.
- Ordinal data Quantitative data in which the differences between values are not equal. For example, a Likert scale question to be answered 1 = Strongly agree, 2 = Agree, 3 = Disagree and 4 = Strongly disagree would produce ordinal data.
- Paradigm Term used by Kuhn to connote a set of values, philosophical assumptions, concepts, questions and problems shared by a scientific community. These elements influence the kind of research that community carries out. [Page 228]
- When an old paradigm becomes exhausted and a new one presents itself which fits the available facts better, a scientific revolution may occur.
- Participant observation A qualitative research method where the researcher gathers data (observation) by engaging with the participants' everyday activities.
- Participatory research A methodology that encourages the people being studied to participate in the investigation of their own social world. Research methods are usually tailored to the skills and aptitudes of those people. Methods may be qualitative or quantitative. Also referred to as Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA), Participatory Action Research (PAR), Participatory Learning Appraisal and Participatory Learning and Action (PLA).
- Positivism A philosophy which holds that the only way to gain true knowledge about the world is through a form of scientific enquiry in which empirical facts are collected and general laws induced from these facts (see ‘Inductive approach’).
- Post-modernism In social science, usually used to describe a philosophical stance that rejects the existence of absolute, objective and universal standards: of truth, progress, morality and so on.
- Post-structuralism Term used to describe philosophical approaches that developed in late twentieth-century France. In the social sciences, these approaches have led to an emphasis on differences, and have also been used to understand how social structures and individuals are related to one another.
- Purposive sampling A sampling strategy in which participants are selected because of some particular characteristic.
- Qualitative data Data that are not expressed numerically, such as ‘The weather is hot today’.
- Quantitative data Data that are expressed numerically, such as ‘The temperature today is 30 degrees Celsius’ (interval data) or ‘On a scale of one to ten, I would say that the temperature today is eight’ (ordinal data).
- Randomized controlled trial A procedure often used within medical research, because it is seen as the most reliable means to eliminate spurious causality. Different treatments are randomly allocated to subjects. The procedure is frequently not possible when studying real-life contexts.
- Randomized sampling A method of sampling which ensures that all members of a given population are equally likely to be sampled.
- Ratio data Quantitative data for which both the difference and the ratio between each datum can be ascertained. [Page 229]
- Reflexivity The thoughtful reflection of a researcher upon the impact of her or his research on the participants, their social world, on the researcher her-or himself and on the knowledge produced.
- Reliability The extent to which a research method will produce the same data when applied to the same phenomena at different times, and if used by different researchers.
- Representative sample A sample whose composition reflects the overall composition of the population according to some variable or variables (for example, gender, age).
- Research design An approach to planning a study which aims to ensure that the methods chosen are appropriate to the topic being investigated. Includes decisions on the context, sample, data collection and analysis. In recent years, social research design has also begun to involve ethical considerations.
- Sample A sub-set of the overall population (of individuals or events) with which the research is concerned.
- Semi-structured interview An interview that uses a framework of questions, issues and probes, but also is flexible. The interviewer, for example, need not ask the questions in sequence and can interact with the interviewee's responses.
- Snowball sampling A sampling strategy in which a few initial contacts are used to identify possible participants, and then these people are invited to identify further participants, and so on. As such, this technique makes use of pre-existing social networks.
- Standard deviation A measure of the spread of data about the mean (average), symbolized by the Greek letter sigma (σ).
- Stratified sampling A sampling technique in which the population is first divided into mutually exclusive subgroups (for example, pupils in mainstream primary schools, pupils in mainstream secondary schools, pupils in special schools), and then a sample is taken from each of those groups.
- Structuralism Term used to describe a philosophical approach that developed through the twentieth century, rising to prominence in post-war France. The basic idea is that cultural systems should be analysed so as to discover the hidden structures that underlie them. This approach was applied in such fields as linguistics (by de Saussure), anthropology (by Lévi-Strauss), psychoanalysis (by Lacan) and psychology (by Piaget).
- Survey A systematic investigation, usually aiming to produce data about a relatively large number of cases. Surveys may involve the collection of qualitative and/or quantitative data. [Page 230]
- Symbolic interactionism A school of sociology in which people are seen as developing a sense of identity through their interactions and communications with others.
- Systematic review A review of other studies. The review is ‘systematic’ because, for example, it has set search criteria to identify studies and for inclusion and evaluation of studies. Systematic reviews have been promoted as a key element of evidence-based practice and policy.
- Thick description Term used by the anthropologist Geertz to connote accounts of human action that do not merely describe what is happening (for example ‘the man is winking’) but also interpret the meaning of what is happening (for example ‘the man is winking at the woman, thereby indicating that he will tell her the full story in private later on’).
- Time sampling A sampling strategy where data is collected at periodic intervals in time (for example, every minute).
- Triangulation The cross-checking of different kinds of data about the same phenomena. The aim of this is to improve validity and reliability.
- T-test A statistical test used to determine whether there are significant differences in some variable between two groups of people who are otherwise similar. T-tests are sometimes used where a group of people has been subject to an intervention of some sort, to determine whether the intervention appears to have had a significant effect.
- Validity The extent to which the results of a study can be shown to approximate the true nature of the phenomena being studied (see Chapter 3).
- Variable A measurable characteristic (age, gender and so on).
- Vignette A research method in which a scenario is outlined, and the participants asked to respond to this in certain ways (for example, ‘what would happen next?’). Often used in research with children to de-personalize discussion of sensitive issues.