Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Vol.6. No.3 September 2015                                           Pp.424-426



Book Review


Research Design, Creating Robust Approaches for the Social Sciences 

Author: Stephen Gorard

Title of the Book: Research Design, Creating Robust Approaches for the Social Sciences

Year of Publication: 2013

Publisher: Sage, United Kibgdom

Number of Pages: 232

Reviewer: Dr. Nadia Idri,
Faculty of Arts and Languages,
University of Bejaia


Research is widely changing over time since social and human phenomena are evolving in a considerable way. Changing research methods, research approaches and research designs is also an issue that we should develop and update accordingly. For this, Stephen Gorards’s text comes to update the literature putting focus on the need for a new design in research in social sciences. This well-elaborated book does in no sense exclude traditional views on how to plan, organize and execute a research project, but tries to highlight the new approaches that can help a researcher develop his project as authentically as possible via the appropriate choice of the design for his research.

The intended audience of this book can be wide as it can vary from beginners such as students; as it serves as an excellent textbook, teachers who can employ it in teaching, tutoring and working in his research; or workers in the field of research in social sciences. This unique faculty in the book is brought out by Gorard through his quite simple style, illustrative comments and argumentative language. Examples from existing case studies in the field are presented based on standard design models.

In his work, Gorard divided the book into five parts arranged from general considerations; going through the research steps and the main elements that a researcher should consider like research questions, claims, sampling, validity, ethical issues; and he then ended with his pertinent concluding part about the need for robust design.

The main objective behind writing this book is to shed light on the concept of design; which is often confused with paradigm, data collection or analysis. In addition, many existing designs the author has referred to, but he detailed the description of the various elements of research designs. Each chapter ends with three examples and notes based on the author’s experience. Add to this, a suggested reading for each chapter is provided.

In his first chapter, Gorard tried to explain the concept of research design and question its place among research methods. This way of organizing a research project or programme for its inspection. He referred to its elements going through case studies sub-groups, timing and sequence of data collection, etc. for him, thinking of the conclusion the researcher wants to draw should happen before the research is conducted. That is, through research design, the researcher can generate evidence and answer his questions. The author has also tackled how can a researcher adopt a simplified cycle for a filed or pragramme; and how to relate it to design elements. Hence, the researcher will choose the most appropriate design for his research project (Chapter 2).

Of course, a researcher should work out his project to answer his research questions. Gorard, then, explained how to generate and express them referring the reader to primary and secondary data as well as the literature review (chapter 3). Such conclusions generally take place in the last stage but the researcher should present a logical argument to reach the final conclusions (Chapter 4). This called warrant for research claims should be clearly and convincingly presented in order to reach defensible conclusions. To go further, the author moved to discuss the nature of causal claims which are highly present in explanatory social science research as discussed in the fifth chapter of the book. The author tried to relate design to explain any causal relationship between two or more variables. Such cause and effect link should also be measured by means of statistical tools (Chapter 5).

In his third part, Gorard presented the elements of design in four chapters. He started arguing the importance of the selection of cases of interest in the research and the appropriate allocation of cases to sub-groups (Chapter 6). These sub-groups are explained via the notion of sampling. In this chapter, many such research designs are identified as longitudinal, cross-sectional or experimental. When dealing with sub-groups, sampling is considered and when compared, the researcher should clearly determine these sub-groups and compare them at the beginning of the research in order to construct persuasive claims (Chapter 7).  Time has been given a salient part since all the above mentioned research designs have time considerations and phenomena are said to change over time and this issue of time is what the eight chapter details. Finally, after dealing with the elements of research design, this last chapter of the third part considers the intervention to be evaluated. Gorard considers that a research design can contain all the discussed elements he presented in his first chapters; and this generally occurs for high research designs, as it can contain some of them (Chapter 9). Focus is put here on experimental and quasi-experimental research types which are subject of change when circumstances change as well.

The fourth chapter goes a step further to deal with highly advanced research designs. First, the author presented the currently less common research designs (Chapter 10). Then, a chapter is presented to deal with the aspect of validity as part of research evaluation (Chapter 11). Traditional and generic threats to treat the validity of research conclusions are introduced and the need to introduce new ones is, then, an issue. Here, the difference between pattern and ‘noise’ is considered in data in chapter Twelve. To end this part, Gorard considered the aspect of research ethics and the conflicts of interest in the conduct of research.

The last part is conclusive. It is a summary and defends the principle of the need of a robust approach in social science research design. The author presented useful notes on how to choose a research design and how to write a successful research proposal.

As a whole, the book remains an opportunity to be updated in the field of research in human sciences and well focused when starting a research project. It can serve as a guide all along the research process especially with its various explanations, illustrations and examples

Dr Nadia Idri
Faculty of Arts and Languages
University of Bejaia