When Methods Meet

There are a large number of research methods out there, many of which have emerged in a relatively short time, yet it’s often the case that researchers stick to methods that they are familiar with, or avoid pairing their methods in new ways. Our video series ‘When Methods Meet’ brings together pairs of academics for short, focussed discussions of the potential for two methods to be used in combination. In some cases academics used our invitation for such a dialogue to highlight their use of more unusual methods and the benefits and challenges they encountered in doing so.

Each film has a downloadable transcript of the conversation, complete with references, recommended readings and seminar questions for those who may be leading teaching/learning activities or for self-directed study.

We would like to acknowledge and thank our funders, ESRC and Scottish Funding Council, for making the ‘When Methods Meet’ project possible.

Big Data and Action Research

In this 15-minute film David McArthur and Jo Ferrie discover a surprising degree of common ground between a very new group of methods relating to research using ‘big data’ and action research which has been in existence for several decades.

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Co-production and Participatory Research

In this 17-minute film Nick Jenkins and Peter Matthews discuss a range of issues relating to two approaches to research that are quite often bracketed together but which are not identical. They note that co-production involves different forms of knowledge being brought together, but that participatory research aims to challenge and disrupt power relationships found in more traditional research that draws a rigid distinction between researchers and people being researched.

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Qualitative and quantitative methods in longitudinal research

In this sixteen-minute film Paul Bradshaw and Dan Woodman discuss their experiences of working on the collection and analysis of longitudinal data in different national contexts (Scotland and Australia) and using different mixes of quantitative and qualitative methods. Through their conversation it becomes apparent that although their projects have worked with participants of different ages and their research questions are not identical, they have both gained great insights from comparisons over time.

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Qualitative and quantitative methods in social care research

In this sixteen-minute film David Bell and Alison Bowes discuss the potential and also the challenges of combining quantitative and qualitative research methods in research into social care. They draw on examples of work that they have done together in looking at an issue that has great policy relevance, where the introduction of free personal care following Scottish devolution had the effect of creating a natural experiment.

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Social network analysis and multi-level modelling

In this 18-minute film, John Scott and Mark Tranmer discuss the complementarity of social network analysis and multilevel modelling. Social network analysis offers a way of studying patterns of connectedness, with the ability to identify both people or organizations that are more central to networks, and others that are marginal. Multilevel modelling is a technique for accounting for, and measuring, the extent of variation in outcomes of interest for individual units in population groups.

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Diary methods and photovoice

This 20-minute film focuses on the potential of these two methods to facilitate the inclusion in research of groups such as people with dementia and people who have had alcohol-related harm. The two methods are not identical, but they do share several features in common, including working with research participants in a collaborative way, on terms which they can negotiate.

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Oral history and animated archive

In this 22-minute film Erin Jessee and Hayden Lorimer discuss how the two methods have a number of points of connection but also have some differences in how the research process is approached. They note how they have a common interest in living memory, and agree that their different ways of accessing and reporting on what people remember about the past share a concern to take us beyond official narratives.

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Gender sensitive methods

In this seventeen-minute video Katarzyna Kosmala and Anna Sznajder discuss different aspects of gender sensitive methods. They refer to research that they have done with professional artists, cultural producers and with rural artisans – lacemakers to make the point that researchers need to be mindful of how some aspects of people’s lives and their places are more readily spoken and written about than others (such as discrimination and exploitation).

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Laboratory and natural experiments

In this 16-minute film two researchers who use different types of experiments discuss points of connection and difference between laboratory and natural experiments. Martin Corley and Charlie Kemp’s conversation reveals that researchers with an interest in how people learn can go about this in a variety of ways, including ones that take advantage of classroom situations as ready-made environments for the collection of data as well as more conventionally-designed experiments.

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Qualitative interviewing and Randomised controlled trials

In this 15-minute film Mhairi MacKenzie and Laurence Moore discuss the challenges but also the potential benefits of bringing together the method of qualitative interviewing with the classically quantitative method of randomised controlled trials. The strengths of the former that are highlighted include the capacity to capture wider contextual information in order to understand people’s behaviour and the opportunity to ask broader questions, while the strengths of RCTs that are emphasised include the confidence that any results are not brought about by selection bias in the study, and that the research generates results in a form that policy-makers can act upon straightforwardly.

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Ethnographic video and phenomenological creative writing

In this 19-minute film two researchers who use the creative methods of ethnographic video and phenomenological creative writing discuss research methods that are characterised by an open agenda and a range of possible outcomes. Arek Dakessian and David Manderson’s conversation explores the need for researchers to get close to people’s experience of the phenomena that are being researched. Capturing the meaning of place by walking in an environment is one way in which a researcher may gain a sense of people’s lived experience, and thus provide reassurance that an account being developed has authenticity and academic credibility.

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Socio-material approaches: Actor-network theory and Karen Barad’s diffractive methodology

This 18-minute film captures a conversation between two people who undertake socio-material research in different ways, drawing on actor-network theory and the agential realism of Karen Barad. Tara Fenwick and Sarah Doyle both highlight the importance of researchers paying attention to the human and non-human elements that comprise particular phenomena, and the messy connections among people and things. Both draw on research projects that have attempted to understand phenomena that are continually evolving, and both are mindful of the ethical and practical implications of researchers’ choices to focus on one aspect of a phenomenon over others. Socio-material approaches have lessons for professional practice in fields such as health and education.

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Experiments and Ethnography

This 22-minute film captures a conversation between the users of two social science research methods, experiments and ethnography. The conversation was captured at the end of a session at the fifth Scottish Graduate School of Social Science Summer School in which Daniel Nettle and Sam Hillyard drew on their experiences of working with these methods. They describe how the methods are quite different in terms of some basic elements of social science research design, such as replicability and generalisability, but go on to note that there are some surprising similarities in terms of the need of the researcher to develop rapport when collecting data.

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Visual Methods and Comics

In this 18-minute film two researchers who work with ethnographic approaches talk about how they have by different routes both come to explore the potential of visual methods and the comic book form as a way of presenting social science analyses of social life. Shari Sabeti and Eric Laurier’s conversation is honest about the challenges of visual representations of material. But it shows that comics have the potential to do much more than a conventional article’s focus on the text of what people say.

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Surveys and Citizens’ Juries

This 15-minute film captures a conversation between the users of two social science research methods, surveys and citizens’ juries. The conversation was captured at the end of a session at the fifth Scottish Graduate School of Social Science Summer School in which Andrew Thompson and Jen Roberts drew on their experience of working together in a project that combined these methods to research attitudes to wind farms in Scotland.

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Biographical Interviews and Imagined Futures Essay Writing

This 17-minute film captures a conversation between the users of two social science research methods, biographical interviews and imagined futures essay writing. Molly Andrews and Graham Crow describe their respective approaches, after which various points of connection and contrast are explored. Although one method works with people to look back while the other looks forward, the two turn out to have much in common, including the use of imagination and the need to make sense of people’s lives in broader social and historical context. They are different but compatible.

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