Author: Kate Cowan
A recent discussion across NCRM nodes drove home for me just how broad the umbrella of ‘social science’ can be. A meeting of the 6 NCRM Phd students was indicative of this range – from the geographical work on residential mobility of Michael Thomas at TALISMAN (University of Leeds) to the narrative enquiry of Jolyon Winter into parenting identities and practices at NOVELLA (Institute of Education), and also research addressing issues in education, healthcare, post-conflict settings, family lives and the environment. Across our work research sites also varied, with most of us conducting our research in the UK but the fieldwork of Rachel Ayrton at The Hub (University of Southampton) taking place into trust in South Sudan, and part of Catherine Walker’s fieldwork for NOVELLA (Institute of Education) taking place in rural India. Discussion of our methods alternated between quantitative survey-based data, such as Rohini Matthur’s work on ethnicity reporting in healthcare at PATHWAYS (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine), to more qualitative approaches to data, such as my own micro-analytic multimodal transcription of video for MODE.
Whilst our theoretical positions, methods, data and topics of interest are clearly quite varied, we agreed that it was interesting to see examples of studies using different methods to our own, and perhaps surprisingly, also found several commonalities for discussion. Several of us, for instance, shared ethical issues and reflected upon our role as researcher in the research process. We also openly acknowledged and discussed the advantages and limitations of our different respective methodologies, and the challenges posed by the “messy business” of real world research, as well as the necessary combination of methodological enquiry and substantive enquiry as students of the NCRM, and social sciences more generally.
We will continue this conversation across differences in future network meetings, we hope to explore the potentials of our various approaches further through a theoretical exercise of imagining ourselves as a mixed-methods research team. Taking one aspect of research, we plan to explain and examine the methods we might use to provide insights from our range of different perspectives.