Collaborative Thinking & Writing about Methodology

Categories: Data Analysis, Data Collection, Research, Research Design, Research Skills


In the first quarter of 2021 we explore design steps, starting with a January focus on research questions. We’ll continue to learn about the design stage in February with a focus on Choosing Methodology and Methods.

In this post, our February Mentors in Residence discuss their new book. Learn more about their research story in Chapter 1, available here.

Completed in a true spirit of collaboration and equity, Making Sense of Social Research Methodology: A Student and Practitioner Centered Approach crystalizes an intellectual journey that Pengfei Zhao, Karen Ross, Peiwei Li and Barbara Dennis take to explore social inquiry and understand researchers’ role and impact in our society. The authors show how research concepts are often an integral part of everyday life through illustrative common scenarios, such as looking for a recipe or going on a job interview. The authors extrapolate from these personal but ubiquitous experiences to further explain concepts, like “data” or “social context”, so that students develop a deeper understanding of research and its applications outside of the classroom. Students from across the social sciences can take this new understanding into their own research, their professional lives, and their personal lives with a new sense of relevancy and urgency.

For instance, instead of laying out procedures and concepts, the authors start their discussion of social research by telling stories how each one of them came to make sense of research in their respective life history and how their life paths converged in writing the book. This offers an entry point for readers to muse upon how their own understanding of research is shaped by their previous experience, their identities, education, and popular media. Moving from there, the authors further interrogate the assumptions that people often hold about social research and legitimate ways to produce knowledge. This approach allows the authors to meet their readers, as students and practitioners, where they are and tap into their lived experience. Throughout the book, the authors engage in this profound and intentional scaffolding process by not only building readers’ and students’ conceptual frameworks or vocabularies, but also by cultivating their self-understandings as critical researchers/professional researchers, their relational ethical commitments, and their reflectivity toward research process.

This text is organized into clusters that center on major topics in social science research.


The first cluster introduces concepts that are fundamental to all aspects and steps of the research process. These concepts include relationality, identity, ethics, epistemology, validity, and the sociopolitical context within which research occurs.

The second and third clusters focus on data and inference. These clusters engage concretely with steps of the research process, including decisions about designing research, generating data, making inferences, and engaging analytically with the data. Throughout the chapters, Pause and Reflect open-ended questions provide readers with the space for further inquiry into research concepts and how they apply to life. Research Scenario features in each chapter offer new perspectives on major research topics from leading and emerging voices in methods. Moving from this dialogic perspective to more actionable advice, You and Research features offer students concrete steps for engaging with research. Take your research into the world with Making Sense of Social Research Methodology: A Student and Practitioner Centered Approach.

Interested in purchasing the book?

Use this code, MSPACE20, for a 20% discount when you order the book from SAGE Publishing.

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