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Real World Research 3e

April 2011, ©2011
Real World Research 3e (EHEP001545) cover image


Real world research is a common responsibility of professionals and practitioners in a wide range of both public and private settings.  These include teachers, social workers and health service professionals, managers and specialists in business, architects, designers, criminologists and accountants among many others.

Real World Research provides a clear route-map of the various steps needed to carry out a piece of applied research to a high professional standard.  It is accessible to those without a social science background while providing rigorous and fully up-to-date coverage of contemporary issues and debates.  It brings together materials and approaches from different social science disciplines, seeing value in both quantitative and qualitative approaches, as well as their combination in mixed-method designs.

Colin Robson's bestselling textbook is essential reading for many higher education courses, at both undergraduate, taught postgraduate and doctoral level, as well as practitioners and others carrying out research as part of their job.  A very extensive website, which is closely keyed in to the text, provides additional resources including copious examples of research and further discussion of research issues, links to other useful resources and selected journal articles, annotated lists of further reading and an extensive set of PowerPoint slides.

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Table of Contents



Ways of using the book.

The main steps when carrying out a project.


Keeping a research journal.

Chapter 1 Introduction.

What is real world research?

Design matters.

Evaluation and change.

The audience for this book.

Returning to the real world.

Beginning the journey.

Chapter 2 Approaches to Social Research.


Postmodernism and extreme relativist approaches.

The two traditions: quantitative and qualitative social research.

The quantitative paradigm.

The qualitative paradigm.

Paradigms and research questions.

A pragmatic approach.

Multi-strategy research designs.

Realism and real world research.

The purposes of research.

Practical value of the theoretical material covered in the chapter.


Chapter 3 Developing Your Ideas.


Deciding on the focus.

Searching and reviewing the literature.

Research questions.

Developing your research question(s).

The place of theory.

Chapter 4 General Design Issues.


A framework for research design.

Getting a feel for design issues.

Choosing a research design strategy.

Establishing trustworthiness.

Chapter 5 Fixed Designs.


General features of fixed designs.

Establishing trustworthiness in fixed design research.

Experimental fixed designs.

True experiments.


Single-case experiments.

Non-experimental fixed designs.

Sample size in fixed designs.

Chapter 6 Flexible Designs.


General features of flexible designs.

Research traditions in qualitative research.

Case studies.

Ethnographic studies.

Grounded theory studies.

Other traditions.

Sampling in flexible designs.

Establishing trustworthiness in flexible design research.

Chapter 7 Multi-strategy (Mixed Method) Designs.


The quantitative–qualitative incompatibility thesis.

The mixed methods movement.

Types of multi-strategy designs.

Designing and carrying out multi-strategy research.

Pragmatism, realism or 'anything goes'?

Dealing with discrepancies in findings.

Chapter 8 Designs for Particular Purposes: Evaluation, Action and Change.


Evaluation research.

Action research.

Intervention and change.

Researchers and practitioners.

Chapter 9 Ethical and Political Considerations.


Ethical codes and guidelines.

Ethical issues.

Researcher safety and risk.

Working with vulnerable groups.

General ethical responsibilities.

Ethical review boards and committees.

Politics and real world research.

Sexism and social research.


Selecting the method(s).

Chapter 10 Surveys and Questionnaires.


Designing surveys.

Carrying out a sample survey.

Designing and using a questionnaire.


Sampling in surveys – and elsewhere.

Probability samples.

Non-probability samples.

Chapter 11 Interviews and Focus Groups.


Types and styles of interviews.

General advice for interviewers.

Content of the interview.

Carrying out different types of interview.

Focus groups.

Dealing with interview data.

Skills in interviewing.

Chapter 12 Tests and Scales.


Measurement scales.

Other scaling techniques.

Using existing tests and scales.

Developing your own test.

Chapter 13 Observational Methods.


Observation in real world research.

Approaches to observation.

Participant observation.

Getting started as a participant observer.

Structured observation.

Deciding on a coding scheme.

The use of existing coding schemes.

Developing your own scheme.

Coding sequences of behaviour.

Reliability and structured observation.

Chapter 14 Additional Methods of Data Collection.


Unobtrusive measures.

Content analysis of documents.

Secondary data analysis.

Introduction to a range of more specialist techniques.

Internet-based research.

Feminist research methods.

Using multiple methods.

Chapter 15 Writing a Project Proposal.


How to recognize a good proposal.

The content of a research proposal.

The problem of pre-specifying flexible design studies.

Shortcomings of unsuccessful proposals.

Sources of funding.


Know what you are doing before starting the data collection.

Negotiating access.

Get yourself organized.

Pilot if at all possible.

Work on your relationships.

Don't just disappear at the end.

Don't expect it to work out as you planned.


Collecting the data.

Analysing and interpreting data.

Realist analysis and interpretation.

Preparing for analysis.

Analysis or interpretation?

Quantitative and qualitative data – and their integration in multi-strategy designs.

Chapter 16 The Analysis and Interpretation of Quantitative Data.


Creating a data set.

Starting data analysis.

Exploring the data set.

Exploring relationships between two variables.

Exploring relationships among three or more variables.

Analysing differences.

Quantitative analysis and different fixed design research strategies.

Chapter 17 The Analysis and Interpretation of Qualitative Data.


Types of qualitative analysis.

Using the computer for qualitative data analysis.

Dealing with the quantity of qualitative data.

Thematic coding analysis.

Data analysis in grounded theory studies.

Alternative approaches to qualitative analysis.

Integrating qualitative and quantitative data in multi-strategy designs.

Chapter 18 Reporting and Disseminating.


Reporting what you have found.

Ethics and reporting.

Reporting fixed design research.

The scientific journal format.

Reporting flexible design studies.

Reporting on multi-strategy design studies.

Reporting on case studies.

Writing for non-academic audiences – the technical report.

Alternative forms of presentation.

Writing skills.

Appendix A: Using Specialist Software for Quantitative Analysis.

Appendix B: Using Specialist Software for Qualitative Analysis.


References and Author Index.

Subject Index.

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Author Information

Colin Robson is Emeritus Professor of the School of Human and Health Sciences, Huddersfield University.  From 1996-2007 he was chief consultant to the OECD Centre for Educational Research and Innovation project on the development of statistics and indicators on the performance of national systems for the education of children with disabilities, learning and behaviour difficulties, and social disadvantages.  He has recently completed a consultancy to a follow-up project funded by Eurostat.
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New To This Edition

Updated throughout, the third edition includes:

  • A brand new chapter on multi-strategy designs
  • Increased coverage of ethical issues
  • A chapter on writing a project proposal
  • Discussion of internet-based research - both as a research tool and as a subject for research
  • Coverage of evidence-based approaches - seeking to present a balanced assessment of their value
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The Wiley Advantage

Even-handed coverage of qualitative and quantitative approaches

Furnishes students with the skills necessary in order to conduct research outside the laboratory, in ‘real world’ situations

Draws examples from the fields of applied psychology, applied social science, health studies, social work and education

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Professor Reviews

“Robson’s 3rd edition builds brilliantly on the detail and clarity of the first two editions, taking the reader through the entire process of engaging in applied research. One of the reasons why this is such a favourite gem is Robson’s balance between evidence, advice and application. This is successfully achieved for such a diverse audience; I recommend this book to so many different constituent groups, from undergraduates through to research-active organisations. “  ROWENA HILL, Nottingham Trent University

"It didn't seem possible to improve on Robson's earlier editions of 'Real World Research' but somehow he's done it.  It remains the most comprehensive and accessible source of information on research methodology and methods for social scientists, now with an increased emphasis on evaluative and multi method approaches."  PROFESSOR JAMES HOGG, University of Dundee

“This remains one of the most accessible, comprehensive methods introductions in the British market.  The great strength of this book and the previous edition is its clarity and accessibility.  Robson writes very clearly and it has been this quality that has made it such a consistently popular book for students.”

"The 3rd edition of Real World Research provides a completely comprehensive review of research principles and methods, offering both pragmatic advice and a balanced overview of the theoretical issues and debates. It is an ideal advanced text and reference resource for applied researchers in fields ranging from education and social care to design and technology."  ALAN BLACKWELL, Reader in Interdisciplinary Design, University of Cambridge

"A key text used not only in Departments but at all levels from undergraduate to Masters and Doctoral levels in Education. Robson continues to make students reflect on domestic and international research perspectives."  RICHARD RACE, Roehampton University

“This wonderfully comprehensive book tells you all you need to know about doing applied social research, whether you are a newcomer or an established researcher. It includes all the crucial bits that standard research methods textbooks leave out: what happens after all the data collection and analysis – and why do it at all? Colin Robson writes in a friendly and accessible style, very much in the real world, and the book is so well structured that it is easy to dip in and out, to take exactly what you want from it.”  PROFESSOR SONIA JACKSON, University of London


“This book is the best general resource that I know of for those wanting to conduct research in the “real world.” The writing is clear and accessible, the coverage is remarkable for its comprehensiveness, and the focus is admirably practical.”  PROFESSOR JOSEPH MAXWELL, George Mason University

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Instructors Resources
Wiley Instructor Companion Site
Instructor Companion Site
The Instructor Companion Site is password protected for instructors and includes an extensive set of PowerPoint slides keyed in to the text of this edition of Real World Research as well as the extra resources found in the student site, available as editable Word documents.
Digital evaluation copy available for this title
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Students Resources
Wiley Student Companion Site
Student Companion Site
The Student Companion Site is open access for all readers. It contains many examples of real world research, details of useful and interesting websites, annotated lists of recently published texts relevant to each chapter, and extended discussion of topics covered in the text. Most research examples are from journal articles; others are published reports of various kinds.
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Purchase Options
Real World Research, 3rd Edition
ISBN : 978-1-4051-8240-9
608 pages
April 2011, ©2011
$51.95   BUY

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