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Method and Methodology Research Theme

What are multimodal methods?

How should scholars respond to the narrative turn?

What is the role of GIS in Social Science?

What can be learnt about the recession from large data sets?

The School of Social Sciences has been a centre of excellence for methods and methodology both qualitative and quantitative for forty years. Staff have been at the frontiers of developing social research methods, applying them in innovative ways, and theorising about them.  Funded research on methods and methodology has been a characteristic of the School throughout that forty year period. The School is known for its commitment to the dissemination of methods, through high quality advanced level methods texts, articles in the top journals, and the production of compilations in the Sage Benchmarks in Social Science Research.

The work on methods and methodology is widespread across the School, in research across the Research Centres, and in the teaching, especially the Wales DTC. Capacity building has been central to the work of the School since the award of TLRP (Teaching and Learning Research Programme) grant in 2001.

Recent Landmarks and Achievements

The Wales DTC

In February 2011 the ESRC announced that the Wales DTC bid had been accepted. Cardiff is the lead institution;  the partners are Aberystwyth, Bangor and Swansea. The DTC is charged with delivering world leading training in social science research methods for Wales, and as part of the UK Network. 

The Director is Professor David James. Professor James joined Cardiff University from the Department of Education at the University of the West of England, Bristol. The DTC Manager is Carole Baker.

Research Methods at the School of Social Sciences


The Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD) is jointly funded by the Welsh Assembly Government (HEFCW) and the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to draw together and build upon the existing expertise in quantitative and qualitative research methods and methodologies at Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff, Glamorgan and Swansea Universities.WISERD is undertaking an ambitious data integration, primary research and capacity building programme in Wales. What is WISERD Video.

Euroqual Logo

The European Science Foundation (ESF) funded EUROQUAL – a programme of capacity building in qualitative methods for 4 years from June 2006 to June 2010.  All ESF programmes are co-funded by nation states who agree to join in:  EUROQUAL involved Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.  The total funding was 600,000 Euros.  Throughout Europe there are qualitative research traditions unknown to the English speaking world, or to those who do not speak the language of the country where that tradition flourishes.  Poland and Spain, for example, each have a deeply-rooted qualitative research tradition that is unjustly neglected.  Small events focused on specific methodological innovations have been held since 2006.  In May 2010 over a hundred qualitative researchers from many European countries met at the EUROQUAL conference to celebrate the diversity, strength and vitality of European qualitative research.  The EUROQUAL programme focused on a set of key themes that have methodological significance in the social sciences.  The thematic priorities included:

1.  The use of multi-method research designs and strategies.
2.  The use of innovative information technologies for creating, analysing and disseminating data.
3.  The collection and analysis of narrative and discourse data.
4.  The collection and analysis of visual data.
5.  Life histories, biographies and archives.
6.  The integration of spatial and network analysis into ethnographic and other qualitative research.
7.  The use of qualitative data for developing and evaluating evidence-based social policy and practice.

Qualiti Logo

The School hosted Qualitative Research Methods in the Social Sciences: Innovation, Integration and Impact (QUALITI), a node of the ESRC NCRM from 2005-2008. The work is showcased in two special issues of the journal Qualitative Research 2011 Volume 11 No 3 on Multimodality edited by B. Dicks, and Qualitative Research 2009 Vol 9 No 5 Qualitative Research and Methodological Innovation edited by C. Taylor and A. Coffey. QUALITI focused on the innovation, integration and impact of qualitative research methods within the social sciences. The research and capacity building programme built upon existing methodological and research capacity building strengths within the Cardiff School of Social Sciences. The research programme included methodological developments in relation to participatory and deliberative methods, multimodality and the sociological autopsy.

Timescapes Logo

Timescapes. The School played an important role in the Timescapes research programme. Becoming a father for the first time can be a life-changing experience. The Men as Fathers project seeks to find out just how life-changing it is, by drawing on and extending a previous Economic and Social Research Council-funded project (ESRC) carried out from 1999 to 2001 (referred to as our heritage sample). The extended project explores ways in which men come to terms with becoming a first-time father and any implications this has for their identities, relationships and lives over time. Timescapes 2010 Conference, SChool of Social Sciences, Cardiff University.

Decipher Logo

The Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health ImpRovement (DECIPHer) is a UKCRC Public Health Research Centre of Excellence. DECIPHer brings together leading experts from a range of disciplines to tackle public health issues such as diet and nutrition, physical activity; and alcohol, tobacco and drugs, with a particular focus on developing and evaluating multi-level interventions that will have an impact on the health and well-being of children and young people. The Centre engages strongly with policy, practice and public user communities as our stakeholders to translate the research results into practical outcomes.


Cardiff Institute of Society and Health (CISHE) aims to lead and facilitate research of international excellence, placing emphasis on tackling health inequalities and ensuring that our research has an impact on policy and practice in Wales and beyond. CISHE is home to the UKCRC funded Public Health Research Centre of Excellence DECIPHer - the Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement. It is also home to PHIRN - Public Health Improvement Research Network and WHIASU - Welsh Health Impact Assessment Support Unit.


 The Research Capacity Building Network (RCBN) was part of the Economic and Social Research Council's (ESRC) Teaching and Learning Research Programme (TLRP), and was based at the Cardiff University School of Social Sciences. The purpose of the RCBN was to support the research capacity building activities of the TLRP and, where possible, extend these to the wider educational research community. In particular, the RCBN was established to facilitate the sharing of research skills, knowledge and expertise, largely by providing and brokering needs-directed research capacity-building activities on a voluntary and career-development basis.

ESRC / Digital Social Research Logos

The SOCSI/COMSC Research Network was established in 2010 and is committed to promoting closer collaboration between computer and social scientists in the context of a key area of innovation in social research. Namely Web 2.0 technology, data representation, data harvesting, data analysis, visual analytics and informatics. These efforts will crystallise around the construction of a suite of digital social scientific methodological tools. The group is also concerned with the application and evaluation of existing analytic resources in relation to social scientific questions and problems as well as work concerned with the theorisation and conceptual framing of the emerging contours of digital society. Our empirical research programme is contextualised in terms of the ‘coming crisis of empirical sociology’ (Savage and Burrows, 2007), which is located in the increasing asymmetry between traditional social scientific methods and the power of transactional data generated through the internet. Our projects move beyond this perceived crisis through ground breaking, revolutionary, interdisciplinary engineering solutions for next generation social scientific research. Current projects include the ESRC funded Digital Social Research Tools, Tension Indicators and Safer Communities: A Demonstration of the Cardiff Online Social Media Observatory (COSMOS) (Matthew Williams, William Housley, Adam Edwards, Malcolm Williams, Luke Sloan SOCSI and Omer Rana and Nick Avis COMSC). This work will assist in the practical facilitation and development of the Cardiff Online Social Media Observatory (COSMOS). With the explosion in social media and the interactive web (Web2.0) the potential for systematic data mining and mixed method analysis in relation to key social science concerns and questions is now possible; COSMOS will provide a means of operationalising a next generation ‘social computational methodological tool kit’. It will also provide a means of augmenting social science research training, building research capacity and shaping the conduct of social inquiry for the 21st century.

KES Logo

The Imitation Game is a new research method that combines both qualitative and quantitative data. It is based on the parlour game that inspired the Turing test and can be use to explore the way knowledge is distributed between different social groups. The development of the Imitation Game is currently being funded by a five year European Research Council Advanced Grant awarded to Professor Harry Collins in June 2011.  The Imitation Game method is one application of the wider ‘Studies of Expertise and Experience’ programme being developed by Professor Harry Collins and Dr Robert Evans in the Centre for the Study of Knowledge, Expertise and Science (KES). Further information about the Imitation Game and other expertise-related work can be found on the ALL@SEE website.

Multimodal ethnography is a key direction in qualitative methodological innovations in the School. In this field, video, photography, mixed modes and participatory video are being developed as qualitative methodologies to help widen the repertoire of resources that researchers can draw on in ethnographic work. This closely links to other strands of methodological work in the School on digital social science research methods, including the SOCSI/COMSC Research Network.and Cardiff Hypermedia.

Cardiff Hypermedia. Since the early 1990s, researchers in the School of Social Sciences have been experimenting with hypermedia and multimedia for the conduct of qualitative research (in particular, ethnographic research). Past and present team members include: Amanda Coffey, Paul Atkinson, Bella Dicks, Emma Renold, Matthew Williams and Bruce Mason. This work has been supported by a number of grants from the ESRC. The main aim has been to explore the potential of hypermedia for all stages of the research process - from fieldwork through to analysis and dissemination. Now that social scientists of all persuasions are increasingly using web-based platforms for the dissemination and storage of their research data AND findings, we are confident that new work will emerge to explore further the uses of hypermedia for qualitative research. 

Publications Include:

There are six types of publication that showcase the work of SOCSI:  Handbooks, Benchmark sets, Journals edited, Monographs, Advanced Level Texts, and Key Papers.

Sage Handbooks of Social Science Research

M.Williams and P. Vogl (eds) (2010) Sage Handbook of Methodological Innovation

P. Atkinson, A. Coffey, S. Delamont, J. Lofland and L Lofland (ed) (2007) Handbook of Ethnography

Sage Benchmarks in Social Science Research

These are reference works for Libraries, each set is 4 volumes, totalling circa 1,600 pages, reprinting classic papers that have become hard to obtain.

B. Dicks (ed) (2011) Digital Qualitative Research Methods

P. Atkinson and S. Delamont (eds) (2006) Narrative Methods

P. Atkinson and S. Delamont (eds) (2008) Representing Ethnography

P. Atkinson and S. Delamont (eds) (2011) Sage Qualitative Research Methods

S. Delamont and P. Atkinson (eds) (2008) Gender and Research

M. Williams (ed) (2006) Philosophical Foundations of Social Research Methods


M. Williams Methodological Innovations Online 2011 Volume 6

P. Atkinson and S. Delamont Qualitative Research 2011 Volume 11


B. Dicks et al. (2005) Qualitative Research and Hypermedia:  Ethnography for the Digital Age.  London:  Sage

G.Payne avnd Williams, M (2011) (eds)Teaching Quantitative Methods. London: Sage.

Advanced Level Texts

P. Atkinson, A. Coffey and S. Delamont (2003) Key Themes in Qualitative Research, Walnut Creek, CA:  Alta Mira Press

P. Atkinson, S. Delamont and W. Housley (2008) Contours of Culture, Lanham, MI.:  Rowman and Littlefield

A. Coffey (1999) The Ethnographic Self, London:  Sage

A. Coffey and P. Atkinson (1996) Making Sense of Qualitative Data, Walnut Creek, CA:  Sage

M.Hammersley and P. Atkinson (1983, 1995, 2007) Ethnography, Principles in Practice. London: Routledge. This book has sold 40,000 copies

Key Journal Articles

Coffey, A., Atkinson, P. and Holbrook, B. (1996) Qualitative data analysis.  Sociological Research Online, 1, 1. 

This is the most downloaded paper in SR Online.


The history of methods and methodology within the School of Social Sciences includes the work of the ethnography group (see ‘An Open Exploratory Spirit’ - SOCSI Working Paper No 20)

Grants for advancing CAQDAS (Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software)

See A Weaver and P. Atkinson (1994) Microcomputing and Qualitative Data Analysis. Aldershot: Avebury

And developing Hypermedia –

See B. Dicks, B. Mason, A. Coffey and P. Atkinson (2005) Qualitative Research and Hypermedia. London: Sage

A.P.M. Coxon’s involvement with multi dimensional scaling and data base management can be found here.

The use of a range of innovative methods for getting data on sexual behaviour and identities can be traced via Project Sigma.

Research Groups and Seminars

The Ethnography Group

Members of staff working in the area of Innovations in Social Research