Reviews

Using social theory

A book concerning social theory that is a core text for an Open University module about ‘Human geography, philosophy and social theory’ may not be a text to which nurse researchers are immediately drawn. However, this publication is worth a closer look.

The book itself is divided into three key sections: asking questions, investigating the field and writing practices. It is thus intended to take the reader through the key stages of the research process by demonstrating how an understanding of social theory and key philosophical approaches can promote deeper thinking and more rigorous research.

While the authors all come from a background in geography, the various chapters do consider wider issues relating to social science research. For example, one chapter examines the importance of the research question and explores how an understanding of the works of Rorty and Foucault can assist us in considering different approaches. As the author states such philosophical positions ‘provide a set of resources’, but if we adopt either approach then this will have consequences for the entire research process.

Another chapter examines ethical issues and arguments concerning the relative roles of research committees and individual researchers.

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The book itself is divided into three key sections: asking questions, investigating the field and writing practices. It is thus intended to take the reader through the key stages of the research process by demonstrating how an understanding of social theory and key philosophical approaches can promote deeper thinking and more rigorous research.

While the authors all come from a background in geography, the various chapters do consider wider issues relating to social science research. For example, one chapter examines the importance of the research question and explores how an understanding of the works of Rorty and Foucault can assist us in considering different approaches. As the author states such philosophical positions ‘provide a set of resources’, but if we adopt either approach then this will have consequences for the entire research process.

Another chapter examines ethical issues and arguments concerning the relative roles of research committees and individual researchers. Data analysis is also explored, and the question as to which activities actually constitute analysis is examined. As can be seen, all of these areas are relevant to nurse researchers.

The information is presented in an accessible style, and those unfamiliar with key philosophical approaches and social theories should not be put off by the fact that these form the basis for discussion. The key ideas are presented in an understandable manner, and their relevance to the research process under consideration is made explicit.

This is probably not a book that is going to be purchased by many individual nurses, rather it is one that would be a useful addition to nursing libraries. In particular, I feel it would be a useful resource for research students, especially if they access it at an early stage of their studies since it would support them in thinking carefully about the decisions they make in relation to their research project. For more experienced researchers, it also has something to offer since it can be useful to examine in more depth the sometimes-taken-for-granted aspects of research.

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