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New directions for research methodologies
in the social sciences

Edited by Roland Tormey, Anne Good and Carol MacKeogh


About this book

This book is the outcome of a conference that was organised by postgraduate researchers in and attached to the Trinity Department of Sociology as a response to the issues we encounter in our own work. Fifty percent of students graduating in Ireland this year will go on to some form of post-primary degree; the growing potential, but also the increasing difficulties, of postgraduate research are two aspects of this same development.

The issue of methodology - at its simplest, what we think our research actually is and how we set about doing social research - is of course one of the central problems. Our title is deliberately provocative: we are asking whether it is possible, in the current intellectual climate and at the current stage of discussion within the social sciences, to find any alternatives to the form of "post-methodology" whereby methods of research are selected without any reference to methodological issues.

Post-modernism is associated with the death of the 'author', the fracturing of meta-narratives. So too, in methodology, dominant paradigms are giving way to innovations. Some of the issue involved in this process are explored in the papers in this publication, covering topics such as Reflexivity, Discovery and Dialectics, Post-Cold War Political Science and Discourse.

We are also, however, fundamentally concerned with breaking through the intellectual and social isolation experienced by so many postgraduate researchers. The bringing together of researchers from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences is an important step forward in this direction.

Editors' preface

This publication is the result of too much energy and idealism and a distinct lack of healthy scepticism and inertia. It is, in essence, the culmination of two processes. The first began when Ronit Lentin travelled to the ESRC Summer School, and discovered that it is not necessary for post-graduates to view themselves as freaks, or at least they should view themselves as part of a wider community of freakish people. The second began with the fact that Roland Tormey and Laurence Cox, residents of the graduate students cupboard, agreed about nothing.

The first of these processes resulted in the Trinity College Sociology post-graduates forming a discussion/support group. The energy and vitality which existed within the group was, to put it mildly, enormous, and eventually we decided to put it to work. Secondly, since Roland and Laurence still could not agree, we decided to have a conference and see how our peers felt.

The 'Post-Methodology?' conference was held in Trinity College, Dublin on the 6th of March 1994. The main purpose of the conference was to bring together post-graduates in an attempt to tackle the sense of isolation with which researchers in the social sciences and humanities traditionally work. It would be false modesty were we to suggest that it was any thing less than successful. Credit for the title 'Post-Methodology?' goes to Ronit Lentin, who, in an attempt to find a provocative title, touched on something which was evidently close to the hearts of post-graduate researchers in Ireland.

The papers which follow are edited versions of the presentations which were delivered on the day. There were a number of reasons for deciding to publish. The first is that the papers in this volume are worth having in the public domain. The second is that we are determined that the sense of energy and community felt on the day of the conference should not be lost. And it hasn't, as witnessed by this worthy volume, which demonstrates that when one chooses to ignore the essential nature of the real world, one can get things done!

Roland Tormey, Carol MacKeogh, Anne Good (Editors)
29 April 1994


As is probably usual, if we were to thank everyone who helped to get this book together this would be a two-volume book. However, some people's contributions were too vital to go unmentioned. These include Dr. Kieran Bonner, who chaired the conference and provided the introduction to this volume; Dr. Brian Torode and Ben Tonra, who read and commented extensively on the papers; Marie Lohan, who almost missed numerous trains on our behalf; the contributors, without whom this would be a very short book; the members of the Department of Sociology in Trinity College for support, encouragement and, lest we forget, financial support; Dee Jones and Antoinette Doran, for all kinds of administrative assistance; and Anna Mazzoldi for stitching it together on her machine. Furthermore, this could not have been done without the support of the Sociology post-graduate group in TCD and our families and friends who put up with much swearing and bad tempers and contributed with patience and support.

Published by the Department of Sociology, Trinity College Dublin
and TCD Sociology Postgraduates Group

First published May 1994
HTML version April 1995

© Editors and Contributors 1994, 1995

Parts of this book may be reproduced, subject to indication of origin.

The views expressed in this book are the authors' and are not necessarily those of the editors, the TCD Sociology Postgraduates Group or the Department of Sociology, Trinity College.

HTML design and layout: Anna Mazzoldi

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