A few weeks ago I was asked to contribute to a discussion on starting to teach social research methods as an important part of A-level content. While reflecting on the request, I made a list (listicle?) of what I would personally focus on if I spoke to 16- to 18-year-old students about research methods.
- Understanding of how to formulate a research question that is ‘specific’, ‘answerable’ and ‘relevant’.
- Familiarity with a range of common methods to collect social data such as interviews, surveys, observations, and document reviews, but understanding at the same time that there can be many other approaches as long as those approaches are systematic and reasoned.
- Ability to assess the strengths and weaknesses of two or more possible methods and determine which is the most suitable course of action for their research questions and aims.
- Understanding the importance of ethical considerations in social research.
- Understanding that the researcher needs to make a series of choices throughout the research in the face of theoretical and practical constraints, and ability to explain their choices to the audience.
- Understanding the importance of ‘knowing the audience’ in communicating research processes and outcomes.
- Information search and evaluation skills, especially with regard to digital sources.