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Starting Academic Research. Methodological Perspectives. Introduction. In this session we will cover: Research philosophy. Methodology. Induction v Deduction. Approaches to strategy. Anatomy of research. Strategy includes Practice includes Writing includes

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Starting academic research l.jpg

StartingAcademic Research

Methodological Perspectives

Introduction l.jpg

  • In this session we will cover:

    • Research philosophy.

    • Methodology.

    • Induction v Deduction.

    • Approaches to strategy.

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Anatomy of research

Strategy includesPractice includesWriting includes

Discipline Question isolationIntroduction


Secondary research:

Literature reviewLiterature review

> >

Methodology: Primary research:Methodology section

  • Philosophy Data gathering Presenting findings

  • Design Data interpretation

  • Methods

  • Ethics Constructing Conclusion


  • … A new term to use: the OBJECT OF STUDY is

    the thing being studied.

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Research strategy

  • Research strategy:

    • … emerges from the discipline.

    • … consists of a compatible philosophy and methodology:

      Discipline > philosophy > methodology > practice

    • … inevitably effects the results.

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Research philsophy

  • Research philosophy consists of two parts: ontology and epistemology.

    • Ontology:

      What is there to know?

      • What can be known about the object of study? (eg. …about the relationship between individual and society.)

      • What can be known about a piece of string? Can we know its length?

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Research philosophy

  • Epistemology:

    How can we know it?

    • What can be regarded as gathering appropriate knowledge about the object of study? (eg. …about the relationship between individuals and society.)

    • How does the researcher know the length of the string?

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Research philosophy

  • Some key questions in any research involving human beings:

    • Ontology: Is the social world working upon individuals (objectivism) or being made by them as they fashion it (constructionism)?

    • Epistemology:Can the social world be studied in the same way as the natural world?

  • Consider an example: analysis of TV news viewing choices.

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  • Methodology:

    What is the best way to approach this research?

    • What is the best way to do research onthe object of study? (eg. …the portrayal of mentally ill people in soap operas?)

    • What is the best way to approach measuring the length of this string, given our particular circumstances?

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“The search for the best way to do things is for me, the key to a good research study. If I think about my own research and those studies carried out by students whom I have supervised, there are two things which cannot really be done without. The first is a good question (or questions) and the second is the means by which that question is investigated… It is methodology which makes the difference. By which I mean that it is, the construction and justification of the enquiry, which ultimately gives credence to, or calls into question, the finings. And such questions of ‘how’ and ‘why’ can matter long after the study has been completed and reported.”

Cathy Nutbrown in

Clough and Nutbrown (2002: x)

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  • Methodology:

    • Is constant critical self-consciousness that permeates the whole process of decision-making during research and is written up as a section. It develops reflexively as the study proceeds.

    • Accounts for the way the researcher conducted their enquiry.

    • Can include descriptions of method, but is not limited to them.

    • Justifies the style and process of research in relation to the research question chosen.

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  • Methodology also:

    • Clarifies the usefulness of the methods adopted: what are their limitations, presuppositions and consequences for the study?

    • Shows how and why, given the specific context and purpose of a study, the particular choice of methods was inevitable and required.

    • Explains the reasoning behind the choice of the shape for the research (eg. case study, comparison).

    • Examines the ethical dimension of the research process and results.

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“It is the task of methodology to uncover and justify research assumptions as far and as practicably as possible, and in so doing to locate the claims which the research makes within the traditions of enquiry which use it. Equally, it is our task, as researchers, to identify our research tools and our rationale for their selection.”

(Clough and Nutbrown 2002: 34)

Can you put this

into your own


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Induction v Deduction

  • Methodology can specify the relationship between theory and the research strategy:

    • Deductive studies: use theory to create hypotheses (provisional statements) that are then tested in the field.

    • Inductive studies: use the field first as a step in the building of theory.

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Induction v Deduction

  • Consider whether the following example is an inductive or deductive study. Do you have enough information to make a choice?

    “The 1988 One Day in the Life of Television project marked the beginning of the present study. This ‘mass observation’ project involved 22,000 people from around the United Kingdom who wrote a diary about their television viewing for 1 November 1988… This study’s participants included both media practitioners and viewers.”

    Hill and Gauntlett (2004: 13)

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Induction vs Deduction

  • It is important to understand that quantitative and qualitative studies have different research strategies:

    Quantitative Qualitative

    Ontology: Objectivism Constructionism

    Epistemology: Natural science Interpretation

    Development: Deduction Induction

  • … This isan oversimplification with some truth.

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Approaches to strategy

  • Clough and Nutbrown (2002, 17) distinguish broad alignments of research strategy:

    • Normative: large scale research where an outside, technical researcher generalizes from cases.

    • Interpretative: an involved, empathetic researcher aims to fully understand an object.

    • Critical: politically engaged research participants aim to transform their situation.

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Approaches to strategy

The categories were




  • How do the three categories relate to the following examples:

    • Feminist action research about the development of a woman’s bookshop.

    • A study of the history of the use of the term “youth” at the BBC.

    • An examination of performances of masculinity in the films of Quentin Tarantino.

    • A national survey of responses to changes in radio regulation policy.

    • Does one student magazine really have freedom of speech?

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  • In this session we covered:

    • Research philosophy: ontology and epistemology.

    • Research methodology.

    • Induction v Deduction.

    • Approaches to strategy: normative, interpretative and critical.

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Clough, P. and Nutbrown, C. (2002) A Student’s Guide to Methodology. London: Sage.

Hill, A. and Gauntlett, D. (2004) TV Living: Television, Culture and Everyday Life. London: Routledge.