Skip to content
CO:RE
ux-indonesia-ywwuOBJy60c-unsplash.jpg
Photo by UX Indonesia on Unsplash.
Resource Methods Toolkit CO:RE at TUNI Published: 12 May 2022

What to study?

Most important item on the research endeavour is to have high relevance topic to study. There are several avenues to develop research topics but most important is sociological imagination as formulated by C. Wright Mills. Mills (2006)  defined an eight-item checklist for researchers to test their ideas against most common relevance criteria. Those items underline the use on sociological imagination as well as being scientifically sound.

Be a good craftsman: Avoid any rigid set of procedures. Above all, seek to develop and to use the sociological imagination. Avoid the fetishism of method and technique. Urge the rehabilitation of the unpretentious intellectual craftsman, and try to become such a craftsman yourself. Let every man be his own methodologist; let every man be his own theorist; let theory and method again become part of the practice of a craft. Stand for the primacy of the individual scholar; stand opposed to the ascendancy of research teams of technicians. Be one mind that is on its own confronting the problems of man and society.

Avoid the Byzantine oddity of associated and disassociated Concepts, the mannerism of verbiage. Urge upon yourself and upon others the simplicity of clear statement. Use more elaborated terms only when you believe firmly that their use enlarges the scope of your sensibilities, the precision of your references, the depth of your reasoning. Avoid using unintelligibility as a means of evading the making of judgments upon society—and as a means of escaping your readers' judgments upon your own work.

Make any trans-historical constructions you think your work requires; also delve into sub-historical minutiae. Make up quite formal theory and build models as well as you can. Examine in detail little facts and their relations, and big unique events as well. But do not be fanatic: relate all such work, continuously and closely, to the level of historical reality. Do not assume that somebody else will do this for you, sometime, somewhere. Take as your task the defining of this reality; formulate your problems in its terms; on its level try to solve these problems and thus resolve the issues and the troubles they incorporate. And never write more than three pages without at least having in mind a solid example.

Do not study merely one small milieu after another; study the social structures in which milieux are organized. In terms of these studies of larger structures, select the milieux you need to study in detail, and study them in such a way as to understand the interplay of milieux with structure. Proceed in a similar way in so far as the span of time is concerned. Do not be merely a journalist, however a precise one. Know that journalism can be a great intellectual endeavor, but know also that yours is greater! So do not merely report minute researches into static knife-edge moments, or very short-term runs of time. Take as your time—span the course of human history, and locate within it the weeks, years, epochs you examine.

Realize that your aim is a fully comparative understanding of the social structures that have appeared and that do now exist in world history. Realize that to carry it out you must avoid the arbitrary specialization of prevailing academic departments. Specialize your work variously, according to topic, and above all according to significant problem. In formulating and in trying to solve these problems, do not hesitate, indeed seek, continually and imaginatively, to draw upon the perspectives and materials, the ideas and methods, of any and all sensible studies of man and society. They are your studies; they are part of what you are a part of; do not let them be taken from you by those who would close them off by weird jargon and pretensions of expertise.

Always keep your eyes open to the image of man—the generic notion of his human nature—which by your work you are assuming and implying; and also, to the image of history—your notion of how history is being made. In a word, continually work out and revise your views of the problems of history, the problems of biography, and the problems of social structure in which biography and history intersect. Keep your eyes open to the varieties of individuality, and to the modes of epochal change. Use what you see and what you imagine, as the clues to your study of the human variety.

Know that you inherit and are carrying on the tradition of classic social analysis; so try to understand man not as an isolated fragment, not as an intelligible field or system in and of itself. Try to understand men and women as historical and social actors, and the ways in which the variety of men and women are intricately selected and intricately formed by the variety of human societies. Before you are through with any piece of work, no matter how indirectly on occasion, orient it to the central and continuing task of understanding the structure and the drift, the shaping and the meanings, of your own period, the terrible and magnificent world of human society in the second half of the twentieth century.

Do not allow public issues as they are officially formulated, or troubles as they are privately felt, to determine the problems that you take up for study. Above all, do not give up your moral and political autonomy by accepting in somebody else's terms the illiberal practicality of the bureaucratic ethos or the liberal practicality of the moral scatter. Know that many personal troubles cannot be solved merely as troubles, but must be understood in terms of public issues—and in terms of the problems of history-making. Know that the human meaning of public issues must be revealed by relating them to personal troubles—and to the problems of the individual life. Know that the problems of social science, when adequately formulated, must include both troubles and issues, both biography and history, and the range of their intricate relations. Within that range the life of the individual and the making of societies occur; and within that range the sociological imagination has its chance to make a difference in the quality of human life in our time.

The art of building a sustainable and relevant research is interplay between interests of the stakeholders, feasibility of the research setting, and practical aims and requirements. The last criteria is the most difficult to meet as there might be opposite, even conflicting interest of knowledge creation. The research in the context of children and youth is also about the awareness of personal experiences as well as the phenomena in their natural context. It is almost impossible to isolate actors, activities, frameworks, or activity systems thus those should be addressed naturalistically exciting the virtues presented by Mills.

TAU_Jussi_Okkonen-2021.jpg

Jussi Okkonen

CO:RE Methods at TUNI

  1. Mills, C. W. (2000). The sociological imagination. Oxford University Press.

  2. Giddens, A (1994). Sociology. Cambridge: Polity

Share this post:

Authors

TAU_Jussi_Okkonen-2021.jpg
Team co-Leader, CO:RE at TUNI

Jussi Okkonen

Jussi Okkonen, PhD, is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Information Technology and Communication of Tampere University (FI). Okkonen’s research interests lie in socio-technical environments and digital literacy. He has recently done research on educational technology, children and youth in socio-technical context, and impact of AI.

Tampere University
Tampere University
CO:RE at TUNI
Methods

The team at the Faculty of Information Technology and Communication of TUNI identifies, develops and provides access to resources on qualitative, quantitative and mixed research methods together with evaluating their validity in research practice.

These resources are collated in the CO:RE methods toolkit that cross-reference resources from the evidence base, the compass for research ethics, and the theory toolkit, to give users tools to apply to their individual research contexts.

Leave a comment

Required fields are marked with a *
Your email address will not be published.
Leave a comment

Cookie preferences

We use cookies on our website. Some of them are essential, while others help us to improve this website and your experience.