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Authors: Marianne Franklin

Understanding Research

BOOK: Understanding Research
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Successfully completing a research project is a major milestone in most university degrees, and the cornerstone of an academic career. This text is an accessible, real-time guide to conducting academic research in international and cross-cultural settings.

It provides advanced undergraduates and graduate students practical and theoretical guidance on how to begin, execute, and then communicate the outcome of research projects undertaken at the intersection of the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

Understanding Research

  • explores the decision-making process at all points of a research project and the implications of these decisions in the longer term;
  • outlines the practical and philosophical conundrums around specific techniques for gathering and analysing material;
  • examines moments of disconnect, overlap, and potentially mutual benefit for researchers working at different points along the quantitative–qualitative divide that underscores popular and scholarly debates about the relevance of academic research;
  • explains how to cope with a divide that is both real and imagined, in all its experiential, institutional, and conceptual variations.

Focused explicitly on the needs and experiences of students and including a wealth of practical tips, this work is an essential resource for all students embarking on a research project.

M. I. Franklin
is Reader and Convener of the Global Media and Transnational Communications programme at Goldsmiths (UK). Previous books include
Resounding International Relations: On Music, Culture, and Politics
Postcolonial Politics, the Internet, and Everyday Life: Pacific Traversals Online.


Coping with the
quantitative–qualitative divide

M. I. Franklin

First published 2013
by Routledge
2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN

Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada
by Routledge
270 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016

Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business

© 2013 M. I. Franklin

The right of M. I. Franklin to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
Franklin, Marianne, 1959-
Understanding research : coping with the quantitative - qualitative divide /
M. I. Franklin.
   p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
1. Political science—Research—Methodology—Textbooks. I. Title.
JA86.F69 2012

ISBN 13: 978–0–415–49079–5 (hbk)
ISBN 13: 978–0–415–49080–1 (pbk)
ISBN 13: 978–0–203–11886–3 (ebk)

Typeset in Garamond by
Keystroke, Station Road, Codsall, Wolverhampton


List of illustrations


1   Introduction

Aims and objectives

Who should read this book

Using this book in context

What is

On divides – real and imagined

Key concepts and their various uses

Chapter organization


2   Putting research into perspective


Key elements of a research project

Looking ahead: milestones, destinations, and expectations

Getting started and deciding a topic

Theory and method – of carts and horses

Concluding comments

3   Research in practice: designing a research project


Main stages in a research project

Work-plans and proposals

From research topic to
research question

On science, worldviews, and other brainteasers

Other practical matters: limits, ethics, and codes of practice

Methodological coping strategies – plotting a course

Concluding comments

4   The politics of research: living with and defending our choices


Doing research today: ‘location, location, location’

Literature searches and the
literature review

Historical and philosophical note

Purpose and categories of literature reviews


Sources and resources that matter

Research communities and (multiple) disciplinary identities

Concluding comments: living with your choices

5   Online research and web-resourcing skills


Setting the record straight

Back the future: a quick prequel

The internet as resource

Digital tools for online data-gathering and analysis

Online research: fields, relationships, ethics

Web-analysis: sites, maps, and hypertexts

Summing up


6   Doing research – gathering data

Preamble: introduction to Part 2

Chapter aims and organization

Data-gathering techniques – review

Surveys and questionnaires


Focus groups

Ethnographic fieldwork and participant-observation

Summing up: repositioning the divide?

7   Doing research – analysing findings


What is

Working with texts

Deductive and inductive paths to knowledge

Behaviouralism and its discontents: a worldview in action

Data-gathering as process

Concluding comments

8   Writing it all up and going public


What is

Writing formalities: citation and style guides

Feedback: examinations and going public

Procrastinations and prevarications

Coping and moving on – creatively

Revising and editing – what to look for

The final cut – what to remember

9   Conclusion

Reappraising divides imagined and real

To the exit and afterlife of a research project

Appendix 1: informed consent form template

Appendix 2: guidelines for internet research/researching cyberspace

Appendix 3: sample (master-level) ethics form


Literature list



1.1   Academic research objectives

3.1   Supervisors and supervisees

A2.1 Guidelines for internet research/researching cyberspace


1.1   How we/cats see the world, Nina Paley

1.2   Post-doc presentation, Vadlo

1.3   Differences between the humanities and social sciences, Jorge Cham

3.1   Ways of seeing, Len Munnik

3.2   View from Greenwich, UK, M. I. Franklin

3.3   View of lighthouse, Castlepoint, New Zealand, M. I. Franklin

3.4   Urban renewal, M. I. Franklin

3.5   Valid and invalid claims schedule, Fran Orford

3.6   Human–machine ethics, Nina Paley

4.1   All the authors?!, Vadlo

5.1   Information superhighway, Chappatte

5.2   Screenshot (i)

5.3   Screenshot (ii)

5.4   Spam, Chappatte

5.5   Map of the internet, xkcd

5.6   Cyberpolice!, Chappatte

5.7   Welcome to the medium of the future, Nina Paley

6.1   Surveys – a waste of time, Fran Orford

6.2   Don’t have a category for that, Joseph Farris

6.3   I can prove or disprove it . . ., Vadlo

7.1   Surrealist painter meets surrealist plumber, Dan Piraro

7.2   Measuring climate change, Josh

8.1   Student workout, Jorge Cham

8.2   You need some boundaries, Nina Paley

8.3   How not to act like an artist, Nina Paley

8.4   Gatekeepers, xkcd

8.5   Views and reviews, Vadlo

8.6   How to act like an artist II, Nina Paley

8.7   You are here, Chappatte

8.8   Help! I’m trapped in a hole, Nina Paley


2.1   Key elements of an academic research project

2.2   Climate change or global warming?

3.1   The main stages in a research project

3.2   Elements in a research proposal/outline

3.3   Examples of hypotheses

3.4   What is science?

4.1   Self-assessment – what is a literature review really?

4.2   Literature reviews in action – a working example

4.3   Wikipedia – a necessary evil?

5.1   Frequently un-asked questions about online research

5.2   Try out – another search engine?

5.3   Boolean search terms

6.1   Current web-based survey tools and resources

6.2   Overview – modes of survey administration

6.3   Checklist before taking off

7.1   Philosophical research

7.2   Composite approaches to complex realities – working example

7.3   Sex, gender and chromosomes

8.1   What kind of writer are you?


Is there really ‘no such thing as a stupid question’? Maybe not. However, budding researchers quickly learn to avoid looking ‘stupid’ at all costs, so leaving many questions about the research process frequently unasked. In this sense, borrowing from that erudite social commentator Woody Allen, this book could well be entitled
Everything You Wanted To Know About Academic Research But Were Afraid To Ask
, or afraid to answer. My first acknowledgement is to other authors in the methods and research skills literature that informs this project:

Closer to home, this book has been the product of a particular sort of collaboration. A number of people have shared with me their own experiences, wisdom, teaching material and, in some cases, let me watch them first-hand conveying some of the insights presented here; thanks to Susan Banducci, Chris Berry, Niko Besnier, Terrell Carver, Tim Crook, Matt Davies, the late Alex Fernandez, Des Freedman, Julian Henriques, Jeannette Hoffman, Jeff Karp, Harry Kunneman, Laurens ten Kate, Meryem Marzouki, Liz Moor, Hans Radder, Philippe Rekacewicz, Anne Sisson-Runyan, Richard Smith, Susan Stocker, Kent Wilkinson, and Sally Wyatt. Thanks to Pasi Väliaho, my ‘partner in crime’ in developing a department-wide research module at Goldsmiths.

BOOK: Understanding Research
7.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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