Step by step to great social research

Keeping up to date with the world of social research

It was my privilege yesterday afternoon to attend a thought provoking and stimulating presentation given by the Young Lives team on work, care and school in young lives.  A keynote speech by research associate Virginia Morrow, led by Young Lives director Jo Boyden and supported by colleagues Jonathan Blagborough and Keetie Roelens, described and presented analysis and findings from a fascinating 15 year longitudinal study into the lived experiences of 12,000 children and young people in Peru, Vietnam, India and Ethiopia with a particular focus on the impact that children’s work has on their education.

The study closely monitors the sustainable development goals to improve the lives of children and families in the developing world.  Young Lives address some of the challenges surrounding child labour, the controversies and the debate with honesty and rigorous analysis.

I’m really looking forward to reading reports due out in November and checking out the data on the Young Lives web site.  I began my social research career in education and international development and it’s an interest which has stayed with me across the years of engaging vulnerable children, young people and their caregivers in policy research.

The Young Lives team recognise the value of working directly with children and hearing their lived experience and I believe this is one of the best ways to inform policy and improve lives for children and young people.  Policy makers are often very preoccupied with data, which is of course vital to planning and management, but in my view nothing changes minds, practice and culture so well as the creative qualitative research methods like those used by Young Lives researchers across four very different countries and cultures.

Children’s voices need to be heard by the policy makers who work to improve their lives in country and this team has spent 15 years making sure they are.



10 ways in which Fine Grain will improve your research

1. Scoping

Time well spent investigating the background to the topic you wish to research and helping you to understand what would be the most effective way to proceed

2. Reviewing

Conducting a review of the research and literature that already exists about your proposed research topic. This tells you the best angle to pursue to make sure your research  packs a punch in its field

3. Designing

Producing a really well thought through research design to make sure that all the necessary ground is covered and you meet your performance indicators and know your objectives

4. Planning

Drawing up detailed plans to enable the research to proceed in a timely and systematic manner

5. Advising on Methods

It matters what methods you use to conduct your research. Progress and end results can be affected by the choice of methods tailored to your enquiry

6. Analysis

Your results can be analysed by an expert in qualitative data. Fine Grain uses specialist software NVivo 11 and years of thematic coding expertise to produce a complex analysis of your data followed by a clear write up of results

7. Visualisation

Using NVivo means that compelling data visualisation like word clouds can be produced to inform your understanding of the findings

8. Editing

With a strong background in editing specialist reports for the social sciences Fine Grain will make sure your report is at its best for its public release. We apply detailed attention to graphics and academic rigour to referencing conventions

9. Ethical review

Is your research ethical? Funders, sponsors and gatekeepers need to know this and protocols can be daunting. Five years’ experience as vice chair of an ethical review committee mean I understand the pitfalls and processes needed to pass ethical review.

10. Consulting

19 years of research experience positions Fine Grain to give the best advice, mentoring and ongoing support for your project

Contact Fine Grain to help you navigate the complexities of research management and save you time and costs with the most efficient path through the complexities.

Why you should work with me beyond the UK Election

Purdah gives us a time to plan and reflect as the parties write and debate their manifestos.  Is there policy that your organisation would like to comment on, or even challenge?
Perhaps you have reports and papers waiting to release once purdah is over in a couple of weeks. Or maybe you are looking to influence policies of whichever party wins the election and would be helped by some appropriate evidence.
In which case this is just to let you know that I offer specialist editorial services for social researchers, drawing on my extensive research background plus editorial training with Chapterhouse Publishing. So if you need proofreading, copy editing or something specialised, please let me know how I can help.
In addition I can offer a variety of research support and consultancy services (I most recently worked in this capacity for the Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse).
I have full borrowing access to all 18 of UCL’s libraries, so I am very well placed for thoroughly informed literature reviews. I also use Nvivo 11 qualitative analysis software which makes drawing out the main themes from interviews and focus group write-ups very effective.
Most importantly my specialist knowledge and understanding of conducting policy research with vulnerable groups puts me in an excellent position to thoroughly understand your needs and apply my skills strategically.
Use the contact form on this site to get in touch about how I could best work with you and your organisation to make sure that vulnerable groups get the best possible deal from a new government.

Keeping up to date with the world of social research

Yesterday  I had the opportunity to attend the Social Research Association’s annual conference held at the British Library.

I found all five of the plenary speakers fascinating, but for me the three afternoon speakers were the most thought provoking.  I learnt a lot about realist evaluation from Siobhan Campbell of the Department for Transport, things I had never realised from Tony McEnery from University of Lancaster-corpus linguistics is intriguing, and some fascinating insights into studying behaviour in the home kitchen from Peter Jackson of the University of Sheffield.

We also had the opportunity to attend and AM and a PM workshop. Given my interest and experience in working with vulnerable children, I selected a morning presentation on participatory research, including a very interesting piece of work on transitions from CAMHS at age 18-a particular interest of mine. For similar reasons, in the afternoon, I attended two talks on researching challenging topics. It was fascinating to hear about the research that BBC Media Action are doing with refugees in Syria and Lebanon. I was also delighted to make contact with Camille Warrington and Helen Beckett from the University of Bedfordshire, and hear about their work with children affected by sexual violence. Previously I had come across them through ethical review, so it was great to meet and speak with them in person.

In fact the whole conference was a superb networking opportunity and an event I value every year to keep me in touch with other social researchers and hear about the issues that challenge and stimulate them.