BeeQuiet's Reviews > Methods, Sex and Madness

Methods, Sex and Madness by Julia O'Connell Davidson
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May 05, 12

bookshelves: academic, feminism, non-fiction, sexuality

As someone starting out on an academic career and soon to pursue a PhD involving research on the sex industry, I was delighted to read such a carefully thought through book, covering the major questions any researcher needs to consider. Embarking on research is an intimidating prospect for anyone, let alone someone still wet behind the ears from an undergraduate degree: however having read this book, I now feel a lot more prepared and know I will be using it as a reference point through my project. O'Connell Davidson and Layder explore many aspects of research, beginning with the theoretical underpinnings concerning "common sense", positivism and qualitative research. An important point not to be missed, it is this section which makes this work particularly important for someone new to considering methodological problems and is a worthwhile addition to any module on research methods. This book not only helps a person steer their own research but allows a learning sociologist to question work by other authors in a more thorough and balanced manner.

Advancing from the basic concepts surrounding any research, there is an exploration of different types of research using different sources and a multitude of theoretical standpoints which can influence the research process. I found these standpoints to be explored in a critical, honest and balanced manner which illustrated one of the key points well; that there is no one methodological style which will fit all research projects and that decisions are always tinged by subjectivity.

The notion that it is impossible to be entirely objective as a social researcher is one of the cornerstones of this book, and it is a point that is well made throughout the entire book, allowing for a deeper understanding of the importance of triangulation and reflexivity. Ideological standpoints such as those held by feminists calling for a separate methodology and peer review system to the wider community are carefully evaluated, with a deep understanding being shown but also tempered by critique of these views. I found that in such situations the authorial voice was clear and pronounced, allowing me to understand what was the opinion of the author and enabling me to see clearly what was the view of a certain subgroup, and what was an analysis of that opinion.

Another aspect of this book that the authorial voice impacted upon was the general style and readability of the book. Whilst being incredibly informative, I still found the text easy to read and with an enjoyable sense of humour without obfuscating the meanings being conveyed. Once again I would stress that this book would be ideal for undergraduates, or even postgraduates exploring themes of reflexivity, learning to be critical of research and learning how to conduct their own. This is definitely a book that I shall recommend to others in the field of sociology, especially those making their first steps.
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