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Research and evaluation for busy practitioners
A time-saving guide

Helen Kara
Paperback, 232 pages, 240 x 172 mm
Other formats available
18 Oct 2012


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North America customers can order this book here from the University of Chicago Press.

"Beautifully written...clear, totally realistic easy to follow guide...strongly recommend practitioners to purchase, rather than borrowing...discusses every part of the research journey and can be helpful at any stage", Fouzia reviewed on Amazon
"offers an interesting discussion of balancing research with work, social life and family"
Youth Field Xpress, Australian Clearing for Youth Studies
“I would especially recommend this book for anyone thinking about whether or not research is ‘for them’. It demystifies the process, making it seem less intimidating whilst at the same time being clear about the level of personal commitment involved ... Those who do not read this book could risk wasting a lot of time by doing unnecessary or counterproductive things.” Dr David Pitcher, Family Court Adviser and member of Cafcass
"Helen Kara has put together an easy to read, useful and, most importantly, realistic book on research for practitioners. I enjoyed her 'warts and all' approach, demystifying the research process without over-simplifying or ignoring the more challenging elements of the process. Practitioners who need to research will find it a really helpful and accessible 'how to' manual."
Jude England, British Library.

About This Book

More and more people working in public services have to do research on top of their main jobs. This can include workplace research, such as evaluation, audit, training needs analysis or satisfaction surveys, or research for a professional development qualification such as diploma, master's degree or PhD. Unlike most how-to books that treat research as if it exists in isolation, this book will show you how to juggle research, work, family, and social life. Based on interviews with practitioners from health, education, social care, criminal justice, government and the third sector, as well as the author's extensive experience, it provides a wealth of practical information and tips to save you time, effort and stress. This book is for anyone in the public or third sector, an independent research organisation or academia, who wants to know how to do research on top of their main job and still have a life. The book is supported by a companion website, containing additional materials for both students and lecturers, which is available from the link above.

Author Biography

Dr Helen Kara has been an independent social researcher and writer since 1999, and is also Associate Research Fellow at the Third Sector Research Centre, University of Birmingham. Her background is in social care and the third sector, and she works with third sector organisations and social care and health partnerships. While working full-time, she obtained both her MSc in Social Research Methods and her PhD. She also teaches research methods to practitioners and students, and loves to demystify the processes of writing and research.


Overview of research
Research topics, proposals and plans
Managing the research process
Background research
Secondary data
Primary data collection
Data analysis
Writing up


ReviewsOwn it? Review it!

Research and evaluation for busy practitioners
This book is primarily aimed at research within the public sector, although it consistently manages to distinguish between the needs of practitioners and researchers in academia. It is thus of benefit both to students and busy professionals.,,The author writes honestly and courageously. One of the most useful things about Kara is that she manages to have an opinion rather than just presenting a panoply of possibilities. This opinion is consistent however with the likely contingencies surrounding decisions to be made; one obvious example is her choosing to discuss 'time-consuming' research methods. A guide for dealing with each and every project is impossible - they vary so much - but the book offers the researcher a range of the most pertinent questions to ask, and a host of useful techniques to consider.,,While most suitable for beginners, I found as an experienced researcher that there were techniques and sources of information that I could see as valuable in particular future projects. References are up to date and there is a brief section on Social Return on Investment, which may well prove to be of increasing importance in this era of economic constraints and related social pressures.,,Not only does the author provide useful practical tips for working efficiently, but she provides a feel for what research is actually like by citing from interviews with practitioners in the field. They certainly remind me of situations which I have encountered.,,In the Overview chapter, particularly useful contributions include sections on collaborative research, involving service users and value-based research. The chapter on Research topics, proposals and plans is particularly valuable in its advice on the perennial question of what research topic to choose and how to narrow things down to a manageable research question. The Managing the research process chapter discusses serious day to day issues which are often neglected by books on research design, the interview extracts making it clear just how prevalent these are in public sector research. The author also deals with time management, making it clear that how we use our time is often more a matter of choice than we might think. The chapter on background research is invaluable, recommending how to direct your reading and providing sources of information for those of us working without the backing of academia. ,,Moving to issues of data, the next chapter provides valuable advice on the value and shortcomings of secondary data, then providing even experienced researchers with a superb inventory of international data resources. This is followed by a chapter on primary data which is particularly useful in giving succinct advice about interviews, focus groups, documents as data and photo-elicitation. And hurrah! We are reminded to run pilot studies. This is really important: not only do pilots uncover flaws in research design but they frequently suggest new directions for the research., ,In the chapter on data analysis the author makes the point that occasional data input, as opposed to a single tedious splurge, allows the researcher to become familiar with the data and to reflect upon it. As with so many other points made in this book, it reflects things that it took this researcher years to learn. The section on qualitative coding is excellent, including its discussion of coding frames and emergent coding. I feel that the section on inferential statistics is a little unclear; on the other hand, this is not a substantive problem as the author makes it quite clear that those wishing to use statistical tests really need to make reference to books more dedicated to their use. Similarly, there are one or two unclear statistical terms in other parts of the book; again these were not particularly substantive, especially within the frame of reference of this book.,,The chapter on writing includes some very useful tips, which should counter writer's block and/or inertia, clarify thought, develop ideas and create a sense of perspective. The chapter does particularly well to describe and distinguish between allowable feedback in academic and in workplace situations. ,,Consistent with the rest of this fine book, the chapter on dissemination of research caters to both applied and academic researchers. The conclusion includes a useful summary and also some useful advice about adjusting the range of attention focus.,,As a book on the general process of conducting research, particularly in the public sector, I cannot recommend this book too highly. ,
Reviewed by Cole Davis

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