complete guide to post-graduate research methods
Research should not be undertaken lightly. It requires advanced skills, and it’s a big step up from the undergraduate essay. Studies in graduate programs require a lot of research to succeed, so you have to be prepared. Fortunately, there are more and more writing guides available to help – and this is a good one. How to Research deals with the basics in a thorough and thoughtful way.
How to choose a research topic. What to do if you can’t think of something specific. How to select a suitable supervisor. These are important issues, because getting off on the wrong foot can waste an awful lot of time. It also covers research methods – surveys, experiments, and case studies – and explains their advantages and shortcomings of each one.
Every chapter has its own annotated bibliography – that is, not just details of recommended texts, but a few words of assessment on their value and purpose. The chapters are full of the boxed highlights, questions, and self-assessment exercises which are typical of the Open University’s successful style of distance learning techniques.
The authors cover research reading skills – from gutting a book in five minutes, to longer readings and taking notes. Internet reading is also included. There are useful chapters on time management and data gathering – including some interesting comments on the ethics of interviewing.
If you reach this point in your research, the data then has to be analysed and written up. There’s plenty of guidance on these later stages, including the value of drafting, re-drafting, and editing. Keep that in mind. It can’t all be done in one pass.
The manual is aimed at those who are doing research in the social sciences, as well as in related subjects such as education, business studies, and health and social care. It will be particularly suitable for those who are less experienced. After all, not many people undertake research projects just for the fun of it.
It’s written in a fresh, jargon-free style, and the latest edition has been revised, with up-to-date bibliographies, and it now has new sections on choosing the appropriate research method and searching the Internet.
© Roy Johnson 2010
Lorraine Blaxter et al, How to Research, Buckingham: Open University Press, (fourth edition) 2010, pp.328, ISBN: 033523867X