Developments in Methodology

The department is a leading centre of expertise in social research methodology with particular strengths in survey research methodology, secondary analysis of cross-sectional, multilevel and longitudinal datasets, qualitative methodology, social simulation, statistical modelling, methodological integration, virtual methods, and new technologies for social research. There is a special interest in the use of mixed methods, methodological triangulation, and the methodological integration and issues of cross-national comparative research.

This work is integrated through its specialist advanced methodology centres, including CRESS, the Centre for Research on Simulation in the Social Sciences, directed by Prof. Nigel Gilbert and CAQDAS, the Computer-Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Networking Project, directed by Prof. Nigel Fielding.

Thus, members of the group are closely involved in methodological research in fields such as the development of social simulation methodology, the improvement of social measurement in social survey research and the dissemination of good practice, and analysis of the use made by researchers of qualitative data analysis software.

Individual members of the Group are also engaged in the development and refinement of techniques of secondary analysis (both quantitative and qualitative), in using new online and web-based research methods, and in triangulation and exploring the complexities of multi-method methodologies in sociology.

Funding for our work has come from a variety of bodies, notably the Methods and Infrastructure Committee of the Economic and Social Research Council, but also from other diverse sources such as the German Central Data Archive, NATO, Research Talk Inc., Sage Publications Ltd and associated companies.

Current and recent research

Current and recently funded research includes:

  • The QUIC (Qualitative Innovations in CAQDAS) a former Node of the National Research Methods Centre (NCRM), was an ESRC funded project concerned with the integration and analysis of multiple data sources using CAQDAS software and the dissemination of such techniques through a training and capacity building programme. Qualitative software support will be explored for integrating qualitative and quantitative data in mixed methods research, for the analysis of Access Grid multi-stream visual data and for the integration of geo-referenced data within qualitative analysis. Outputs from this project can be found on the CAQDAS Networking Project website.
  • The SIMIAN (Simulation: a Node) project, another former NCRM Node, was funded by the ESRC to promote and develop social simulation in the UK. It involved three "demonstrator" simulations chosen to address important social science challenges: Repeated Interaction, Novelty and Norms. These three demonstrators formed the basis for a range of training and capacity building activities across the UK.
  • An NCRM collaborative fund project titled Innovations in Social Science Research Methods: An International Perspective, was funded by the ESRC to identify innovative methods in the social sciences outside the UK; a follow up workshop was organised adjacent to the NCRM Festival in 2010.
  • Christine Hine has recently been involved in organising a Network for Methodological Innovation funded by the National Centre for Research Methods, focusing on Digital Methods as Mainstream Methodology
  • An ESRC funded study investigating the methodological issues that arise in multi-method and multi-level approaches to a research question concerned with how ‘vulnerability’ is perceived, experienced, and responded to, in everyday life and at the planning/policy level (PPIMs);
  • A comparative evaluation of the support provided by 25 qualitative software packages for data integration;
  • An assessment of the implications for qualitative research practice of E-Social Science, including grid-based applications for work with streaming video, the role of Access Grid Nodes in research collaboration and HPC-based content analysis;

Selected publications

Editors in the Sage Benchmarks series: All 4 Volume Sets

  • Hine, C. 2013. Virtual Research Methods.
  • Gilbert, N. 2010.  Computational Social Science.
  • Fielding, NG. 2009.  Interviewing II.
  • Bulmer, M., Sturgis, P. & Allum, N. 2009. The Secondary Analysis of Survey Data.
  • Bulmer, M. 2004. Questionnaires.
  • Fielding, NG. 2002. Interviewing I

Sage Handbooks

  • Fielding, NG, Lee, RM, & Blank, G. (2008) The Sage handbook of online research methods. London and Beverly Hills CA : Sage.