Review of Keith Townsend and John Burgess (eds), Method in the Madness: Research Stories You Won’t Read in Textbooks. Cambridge: Woodhead Publishing Limited (Chandos), 2009. 242 pp. (pbk).
At regular intervals over the last 25 years or so, I have taught a qualitative Research Methods subject. The usual process – some epistemology, theory and methodology, how these direct researchers to particular research methods to be dutifully explored. All good worthy (and boring) stuff with research portrayed as a linear and unproblematic activity. Then late in 2009 I came across Method in the Madness: Research Stories You Won’t Read in Textbooks. This book is excellent – one of those once in a decade finds that will make it onto reading lists for years, and amuse and instruct novice and greyed researchers alike. It shows social science research into matters of work and employment, labour and management, as it really is – fey, unpredictable, frustrating and sometimes (but not always) richly rewarding. The focus is on understanding the whole of the research process in context – not as a separate dry and a-contextual set of formulae. As the editors note early in the book, ‘This book is not only about doing the research, but living and experiencing the research’ (p. 3). And because the book (mostly) lives up to its promise, researchers will learn much about core qualitative research methods – interviewing, focus groups, administering surveys and analysing data sources.