Controversy topics

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    As you know one of the key features of the site will be the controversial debates, which will be posted by influential figures, but commissioned by you: I wondered if we might start thinking ahead of speaking next week who to target for some of these topics:
    • The long-running argument between quantitative and qualitative researchers about the validity of each approach
    • Is mixed methods research a bona fide research paradigm in its own right or is it merely an ad-hoc cluster of already existing research approaches?
    • Should qualitative researchers value naturally-occurring data over other types of data?
    • Neo-realist approaches to qualitative research vs neo-postmodernist approaches
    • Are Bayesian approaches to statistics any better than traditional approaches to statistis?
    • Correspondence analysis vs structural equation modelling
    • Grounded theory: Glaser vs Corbin vs Charmaz vs Glaser vs Corbin etc etc
    • Why are there so many different approaches to action research?
    • What are the limits of experimental methods?
    • When has policy ever been evidence-based?
    • What are the merits of adopting fuzzy logic approaches to research and data analysis?
    • What can surveys tell us and what can’t they tell us?
    • Why is social research so bad at predicting the future?
    • Why is social research so bad at influencing policy and public debates about policy?
    • How do we gauge quality in qualitative research?
    • Are online methods simply traditional social research methods used in a different milieu, or is there something distinctively different about them?
    • What, if anything, is unique about evaluation?
    • How do social researchers deal with the really big issues of the 21st century, and what do they have to offer in the hunt for global solutions? (globalisation; poverty; global warming; conflict; resource scarcity; the end of cheap fossil fuels?)
    • Is it naïve to think of social research seeking to provide answers to profound social problems?
    • Why are there no radically new research methods out there (only refinements and re-iterations of existing methods)?
    • How do we (or can we) analyse a data mix consisting of words and numbers?
    • Why do most social researchers continue to fetishise words and/or numbers at the expense of visual data and other forms of sensory data?
    • Is the British preference for qualitative methods an issue of philosophy or a response to the relative poverty of maths teaching in British schools?
    • Why has the USA been so dominated by quantitative methods?


    Hi everyone,

    I thought I might ask Barbara Doig, the Head of the Social Research Association here in the UK, to comment on the following question. In her past role she was Chief Researcher for the Scottish Executive, and is therefore versed in the evidence-based policy debate.

    When has policy ever been evidence-based?

    I might ask Peter Schmidt and Eldad Davidov to write something about

    Correspondence analysis vs structural equation modelling AND/OR
    Are Bayesian approaches to statistics any better than traditional approaches to statistis?

    I also have a fellow PhD colleague who is likely to know who might be good to approach on the following issue:

    Why do most social researchers continue to fetishise words and/or numbers at the expense of visual data and other forms of sensory data?

    Obviously, if anyone else manages to secure interest in having these topics discussed by influential figures then go for it! These are just a few of the topics I have thought I might be able to have someone cover.

    talk to you all soon,


    Berkay Ozcan

    Hi all,

    I will also offer a bunch of names that i can contact with. For the correspondence analysis vs structural equations modelling, I can talk to Michael Greenacre (Universitat Pompeu Fabra) who is the most cited Correspondence Analysis expert and happen to be my professor.

    Nowadays, I am negotiating with Andrew Gelman (Columbia University) and Scott Lynch (Princeton) to have them teach in a two-days workshop at Yale on Bayesian Statistics. Both of them have written important books on the use of Bayesian Statistics in the social sciences. I can ask them whether they would like to write something on it.

    These are the immediate names that i thought of. I can/will suggest more later.

    Alexandra Cuncev

    Hi everyone,

    Here are a few names who would have a lot to say about a few of the questions above:

    on: The long-running argument between quantitative and qualitative researchers about the validity of each approach

    I was thinking of Prof Norman K Denzin, director of the International Centre of Qualitative Research. He has commented on this topic in the past.

    I would also invite
    Prof P Atknison, Co-Director ESRC Research Centre on Social and Economic Aspects of Genomics, as a defender of qualitative research methods. He could also comment on applications of information technology to qualitative inquiry and thus kick-start the methods surgery side of things…

    I was also thinking of Martyn Hammersley, professor of educational and social research at the Open University (UK). He could comment on

    role of research in relation to policy making and practice

    He also has an interest in health, and this would help us expand the understanding of research methods beyond sociology, so we can interest researchers from other fields.


    Hi all
    Great to see so many ideas on the table already! I wanted to give you a taster of the debates we’re hoping to generate: this was the precursor to methodspace. As you can see there is only one blog post, but it received many comments! The important thing for methodspace will be keeping up the level of new posts to the site ongoing. This is something I’ll talk about more when we speak on Friday.


    Hi all

    As discussed I’m just checking in on how you’re all doing here: have you each selected two or three initial topics and people to approach? I’m keen we have at least one or two up before we push the site live, but we’re running against the clock to have the site live for AERA next month…

    One idea I’ve had was to perhaps choose two or three people to appraoch from the current methodspace community? There are some big names on here? What do you think?

    Let me know if there’s anything I can do to support from here.


    Alexandra Cuncev

    Hi all,

    Just to say I have tried to drum some interest, but the process seems to be slow.
    Hopefully discussion will revive in the narrative research group. I have invited Paul Atkinson as discussed earlier, but got no response up to now.

    I still haven’t found a way to invite non-connections (just members) to groups I am part of? (People might not want to post blogs for a very small audience, and there are not enough replies because not enough people are reading their comments) Would you know how to do that, Mithu?

    I was also thinking it might be helpful if there was one example already on the website of what a juicy controversy actually is, and in that respect I remember Patrick mentioned it might be possible to bring back the David Silverman blog from I think that would be an incentive for other people to write similar stuff. Up to now, people are using the blog only in ways we have used it (for training or news).



    Hi all

    Wondered how you were getting on with this? Are you still having a lot of problems getting people interested? I need to ask David Silverman’s permission to re-post his other post, but I am sure that should be fine. Other people and topics?



    Hi everyone, just spotted this: topic for another post perhaps?


    I have asked Mark Wardman, the Chair of the Social Research Association of the UK to comment on the controversial topic: When has policy ever been evidence based?

    I have also asked Patrick Sturgis, co-director of the National Centre for Social Research Methods, to post a controversial topic.

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