Choosing a Research Topic

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HOW TO RESEARCH SECOND EDITION

Loraine Blaxter, Christina Hughes and Malcolm Tight

Open University Press Buckingham . Philadelphia

Open University Press Celtic Court 22 Ballmoor Buckingham MK18 1XW email: enquiries@openup.co.uk world wide web: www.openup.co.uk and 325 Chestnut Street Philadelphia, PA 19106, USA First Published 2001 Copyright © Loraine Blaxter, Christina Hughes and Malcolm Tight, 2001 All rights reserved. Except for the quotation of short passages for the purpose of criticism and review, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher or a licence from the Copyright Licensing Agency Limited. Details of such licences (for reprographic reproduction) may be obtained from the Copyright Licensing Agency Ltd of 90 Tottenham Court Road, London, W1P 0LP. A catalogue record of this book is available from the British Library ISBN 0 335 20903 3 (pb) 0 335 21121 6 (hb)

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Blaxter, Loraine, 1945– How to research / by Loraine Blaxter, Christina Hughes, and Malcolm Tight. – 2nd ed. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0–335–20903–3 (pbk.) 1. Research—Methodology. I. Hughes, Christina, 1952– II. Tight, Malcolm. III. Title. Q180.55.M4 B59 001.4′2–dc21 2001 00-068920

Typeset by Graphicraft Limited, Hong Kong Printed in Great Britain by Biddles Limited, Guildford and King’s Lynn

CONTENTS

List of exercises List of boxes Acknowledgements 1 Thinking about research Introduction What is research? Why research? What is original? Truth, power and values How to use this book What is different about this edition? Summary Further reading 2 Getting started Introduction Choosing a topic What to do if you can’t think of a topic Focusing Finding and choosing your supervisor Individual and group research Keeping your research diary Summary Further reading

viii x xiv 1 1 2 9 13 14 16 19 19 19 21 21 22 30 34 43 46 48 51 51

vi Contents 3 Thinking about methods Introduction Everyday research skills Which method is best? Families, approaches and techniques Action research Case studies Experiments Surveys Which methods suit? Deciding about methods Summary Further reading Reading for research Introduction Why read? Coping with the research literature Basic reading strategies Using libraries Using the Internet Good enough reading Reading about method as well as subject Recording your reading The literature review Issues in reading Summary Further reading Managing your project Introduction Managing time Mapping your project Piloting Dealing with key figures and institutions Sharing responsibility Using wordprocessors and computers Managing not to get demoralized when things do not go as planned Summary Further reading Collecting data Introduction Access and ethical issues Sampling and selection Applying techniques to data collection Documents 53 53 54 59 62 67 71 74 77 79 85 86 87 97 97 98 98 100 104 107 111 117 119 120 123 127 128 130 130 131 133 135 137 142 145 148 150 151 153 153 154 161 164 167

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Contents Interviews Observations Questionnaires Recording your progress The ups and downs of data collection Summary Further reading 7 Analysing data Introduction The shape of your data The nature of data Managing your data Computer-based analysis The process of analysis Analysing documents Analysing interviews Analysing observations Analysing questionnaires Interpretation Summary Further reading 8 Writing up Introduction Drafting and redrafting How to argue How to criticize Whom am I writing for? Grammar, punctuation and spelling Using tables, diagrams and other illustrations Panics Summary Further reading 9 Finishing off Introduction Planning to finish? The penultimate and final drafts Added extras The process of assessment What do I do now? Summary...
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