What is Social Research?

While working at an event for high school children this week, I was racking my brains to come up with a straightforward way to explain to them what I'll be studying! So here are my thoughts about breaking down what social research entails in the build up to starting classes.

So, sociology would struggle to operate without social research, bearing in mind it is a means of generating knowledge of the social issues, theories and findings we consider sociological.  Key societal issues are investigated by social researchers/sociologists interested in phenomena such as culture, inequalities and globalisation. The point of the social research being to bring about change, whether this is through informing policy, empowering people or creating new knowledge to help us understand and explain social life more generally.

What is my course all about? Well, I see it almost like project management - training for organising and conducting a research project in the social sciences by experimenting with methods, critiquing others' methods and exploring constraints such as ethics, scope and resources. It's a bit like learning how to turn a sociology dissertation into a profession rather than a degree requirement, making it relevant to research needs, stakeholders and organisations today. Even a niche such as working for the Department of Education exploring homophobic bullying, requires an awareness of the broader research context, sociological issues and decision making about methods.

Thinking back two blog posts ago to The Help, when Skeeter interviewed maids for their experiences and views of racial inequality with the intention to publish, this activity was like social research.  She collected the empirical data with the aim to empower these women and expose a point of view that had never been heard before. If other parts of the process had been shown, such as interpretation of the information she found and greater ethical consideration, then it would've been well on its way to being journal worthy material!

And there you go, my first new term aim (see here) has been attempted but hopefully as I go through my course and continue to learn, I'll alter the ways I see social research and continue to be enthused by it!

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