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Key concepts in the philosophy of social research / Malcolm Williams.
Williams, Malcolm.
London : Sage Publications, 2016.
230 pages ; 24 cm



Material Type
Call Number
Book H62.W725

On Order



"This is a splendid book, providing a readable and reliable guide to a very large range of topics and literature... the author brings together, as few of us can, the details of research methodology and practice with broader philosophical perspectives and approaches."- William Outhwaite, Emeritus Professor, Newcastle University

"We need researchers who are philosophically informed rather than philosophically obsessed or philosophically oppressed. With this book Malcolm Williams strikes the exact balance."- Ray Pawson, Emeritus Professor, University of Leeds

This book is an ideal introduction for any student or social researcher hoping to better understand the philosophical issues that inform social research. Williams is the perfect guide providing short focused introductions to key concepts alongside a persuasive and engaging overview of how we interpret and conduct research. The book covers everything from core research methods, to ethical concerns and an exploration of the metaphysics of social life, with each entry providing: Clear definitions Engaging real world examples Up-do-date suggestions for further reading Informative cross-referencing Lists of key thinkers. Relevant and authoritative, this book is an indispensable introduction to the philosophy of social research.

Author Notes

Malcolm Williams is Professor and Director of the Cardiff Q-Step Centre at Cardiff University.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

As dictated by its "key concepts" format, this work by Williams (Cardiff Univ.) introduces rather than elucidates. Readers seeking brief introductions to the philosophical underpinnings of social research will be pleased. Those seeking more advanced, in-depth representation of the ideas introduced here would do better to look to a different genre. Perhaps unavoidably, with the combination of its comprehensive scope and concise format, this work simply cannot support full understanding of the concepts introduced. However, the key readings and thinkers provided in each chapter do serve as a guide for readers who wish to further their investigations. The author's writing is extraordinarily concise; he conveys sophisticated ideas with clarity, brevity, and concrete examples. However, the broad scope of each deceivingly brief chapter (e.g., "Causality," "Falsification," "Idealism," "Materialism") may be difficult for readers to keep pace with: if the enterprise suffers a fatal flaw, it is that its complex subject, reference-work genre, and ambitious scope simply do not make good bedfellows. Key Concepts in the Philosophy of Social Research may be more useful as a supplemental text for research methods courses than a tool to grace the shelves of reference collections. Summing Up: Recommended. With reservations. Undergraduates and graduate students. --Lauren Stern, SUNY Cortland

Table of Contents

About the Authorp. ix
Introductionp. 1
Causalityp. 11
Complexityp. 17
Contingency and Necessityp. 24
Empiricismp. 32
Epistemolgyp. 36
Ethics and Moralityp. 42
Experimentsp. 47
Explanationp. 53
Falsificationp. 61
Feminismp. 68
Fu nationalismp. 76
Generalisation and Lawsp. 82
Hypothesis(es)p. 88
Idealismp. 94
Individualism and Holismp. 101
Inductionp. 106
Interpretation and Meaningp. 110
Languagep. 117
Logic and Truthp. 123
Materialismp. 130
Mechanisms and Modelsp. 136
Objectivity - Subjectivityp. 143
Observationp. 149
Ontologyp. 154
Positivismp. 160
Postmodernismp. 165
Pragmatismp. 171
Probabilityp. 176
Rationalityp. 183
Realismp. 190
Relativismp. 196
Social Constructionismp. 203
Statisticsp. 210
Theoryp. 218
Timep. 225