Scott, D. & Usher, R. (2011) Researching Education: Data Methods and Theory in Educational Inquiry, 2nd edition. London: Continuum.
I read this book on the recommendation of my not-yet-PhD-supervisor, and found it both thought-provoking and frustrating. The authors take a critical view of research paradigms in general, but specifically in education and social sciences. It was a tough book to get through, as the authors approach their subject from an abstract, philosophical angle. I am used to reading academic texts, but when reading this book I frequently had to stop and look things up to make sure that I really understood the concepts being explored. I found some chapters of the book to be much more lucid and helpful than others–perhaps each author wrote some of the chapters?
Rather than saying that I learned a lot from this book, I would say that the book made me think about many things from a different perspective, and that it helped me (un)clarify the approach I’m taking to developing a research question and design for my not-yet-PhD. It’s definitely not a book to read in search of answers–the authors raise many questions and critique every idea they present–but I found it worth my while. I am not generally drawn to philosophy or to postmodernism, but I do like asking questions and thinking critically.
I pulled out this long quote as I think it gives a good idea of the authors’ approach in this book, and of the reasons why I found the book thought-provoking and useful.
“What is it, then, that we silently think when it comes to research? Obviously, this is a question that does not readily lend itself to a single answer. One possible answer is to do with the tendency to assume that doing research is simply a matter of following the right procedures or methods. This assumption, however, needs to be questioned because it misleadingly portrays research as mechanistic and algorithmic. If we uncritically accept this portrayal, we forget that research is social practice and that it is therefore both embedded and embodied. Thus, one thing we can do in terms of becoming more aware of what we silently think is to recognize that research is not a technology but a practice, that it is not individualistic but social, and that there are no universal methods to be applied invariantly.” (p. 10)