How to get great social research

Maybe you’re commissioning a piece of research, or maybe you’re setting out to do your own social research-perhaps for the first time.

As a commissioner you may have been put off by unimpressive previous results .  As a researcher you feel daunted by your first-time foray into ‘the field’.

It’s natural to feel apprehensive.  After all, resources are being used.  So how do you make sure that your results reflect the time, effort (and probably money) spent?

Plan for great social research

Like  other aspects of life, you already know the trick must be in the planning.  But what exactly should you plan for?

This blog series gives you a step by step guide to creating a robust plan which will see you through from foundations, to satisfactory outcome.

Step 1. Start with your research rationale

This is simply your reason for doing the research. This is the point where the research stands or falls. So it’s not just the reason for doing the research, but ultimately the reason why people sit up and take notice or ignore your findings.

Your reason for carrying out social research needs to be clear and convincing.

Think about it:

  • Do you want to persuade the CEO of an important institution to give up her time for an interview with you?
  • Or  stop busy students on campus to take part in a survey?
  • Can you explain clearly in an email to a women’s refuge warden  why you would like to speak with some of the residents?

Your response rate and chances of getting access to hard to reach people will be higher is you can convince the wider world about the value of your research. Think of this as your elevator pitch too-the way you  keep explaining the value of the research even when the going gets tough-and you know it will.

If you can clearly answer some of these questions, you’re on your way to a strong rationale.

Why are you doing it? Why with these people? In this context? What are you seeking to change?  Who do you expect to influence? Why does it matter?

Then share, share, share

Once you’ve got a couple of short paragraphs, share them.  See whether others understand why you want to do research, don’t be afraid of questions, or even challenges.  It’s harder to be a lone researcher than it is to meet a few awkward questions from your peers.  Your work can only be better for discussion.

Look out for my next post, Step 2 Aims and Objectives

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