International Social Research Methods

Framework Part 1 Headings and Questions

Part 1

The first part of the Framework provides headers and a checklist of questions that should be used selectively in writing up International Social Research Methods Case Studies for the ReStore web resource repository. Many of these questions can also be found in the relevant chapters of the web companion to International Comparative Research at






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1.1  Research ContextBack to the top
1.1.1 What was the research context for your project (postgraduate / post-doctoral research, EU Framework programme project, research council award, government funding, other)?
1.1.2 What was your role in the project (lone researcher, research assistant, co-ordinator, partner)?
1.1.3 What research and personal skills, competencies and experience did you bring to the project (topic, discipline, linguistic and cultural knowledge, previous experience of working in international contexts or organisations, and / or with other team members)
1.2 Research topic / themeBack to the top
1.2.1 What was the topic / theme of your research project?
1.2.2 Why did you select this topic / theme?
1.2.3 How relevant was the topic in different contexts in relation to policy, academic debates and wider public debates?
1.2.4 How specifically / generally was it defined?
1.2.5 How much research had been carried out on the topic in different countries / societies?
1.2.6 What expertise was available on the topic in other countries / societies?
1.2.7 Did the proposal adequately justify the choice of the research topic / theme?
1.3 Aims, objectives and research questionsBack to the top
1.3.1 What were the aims and objectives of the project?
1.3.2 Were the aims and objectives explicitly international / comparative?
1.3.3 What were the research questions?
1.3.4 Were the research questions explicitly international / comparative?
1.3.5 Were you seeking to describe or explain a phenomenon? Were you seeking to examine / test a hypothesis? Were you aiming to generate theoretical insights? Or were you aiming to do all three?
1.3.6 To what extent were the questions or phenomena (for example a policy issue) relevant or did they make sense in all the countries / societies under study and for the researchers with whom you were working?
1.3.7 How did your research questions (together with epistemological and theoretical underpinnings) shape your research design and determine the choice of methods?
1.3.8 If you had several different research questions, each with different aims, did you consider the need for a research design that called for different methods?
1.3.9 Were the research questions relevant, substantial and tractable?
1.4 Resources and governanceBack to the top
1.4.1 What sources of background information and secondary data did you draw on in preparing the research proposal?
1.4.2 Which funders / sponsors did you approach and why?
1.4.3 If you approached more than one funding body, how did you need to adapt the proposal for different funders?
1.4.4 What was your experience of the application process: what problems did you encounter and how did you deal with them?
1.4.5 What level of resourcing did you receive (duration, budget, scope and scale of the research)?
1.4.6 What were the contractual arrangements stipulated in the award (duration of funding, staged payments, scheduling of meetings, room for negotiation, reporting requirements)?
1.4.7 What were the requirements of funders concerning the number and nature of partners / units of comparison, and the distribution of project management responsibilities?
1.4.8 How did the requirements of your funders / sponsors influence and constrain the scope of the project, (choice of the research topic and question, team structure, research design, units of comparison, methods, findings and outputs)?
1.4.9 To what extent was funding tied to policy relevance and policy impact and how were you expected to address policy issues in the research?
1.4.10 How much leverage did you have to make changes to the research design and methods in the course of the project?
1.4.11 What were the support staff needs (research, administration, translators, trainers) for the project?
1.4.12 Did you receive logistic support from your institution? If so, were you charged for it against your project budget?
1.5 Management and coordinationBack to the top
1.5.1 Did you manage your project by yourself; together with a home team; in conjunction with researchers from other institutions in your own country and / or across sectors; or in conjunction with partners / key informants based in other countries?
1.5.2 Did you act as the overall project coordinator?

1.5.3 How many people did the team include and what was the mix in terms of status, time available for the project and length of contract?

1.5.4 What was the disciplinary mix of team members, and to what extent was it determined by the funders, the research questions and the methods to be used?
1.5.5 What research skills and competences did you and your team members need to have?
1.5.6 What were the expectations of researchers from different disciplinary and cultural backgrounds in terms of the objectives, research design and methods to be used in the research project?
1.5.7 What were the implications of team size and composition for the organisation of work ’packages’, venues, timing and duration of meetings and budgeting?
1.5.8 What strategies did you put in place to manage communication, meetings, the division of labour, deadlines for submitting deliverables at various stages in the project, the final report and the dissemination of findings to different audiences?
1.5.9 What arrangements did you make to deal with researchers from different disciplinary, linguistic and cultural backgrounds (intellectual traditions, methodological preferences, contentious concepts, attitudes to authority, cultural bias, time-keeping, drafting of reports, institutional demands)?
1.5.10 How far were team members involved in the choice of research design and methods and in their development in the course of the study?
1.5.11 How were junior researchers accommodated and encouraged?
1.5.12 How were team members who lacked experience in writing reports, writing in English, or in using particular research methods supported and trained?
1.5.13 If your project involved fieldwork, who conducted it and how were they trained?
1.5.14 What languages did team members speak? What was the common language? If English, what were the implications for the research process, and how were they managed? Did you personally have in-depth knowledge of the languages and cultures of the units of comparison?
1.5.15 Who wrote up the data analysis and findings, and who drafted and edited reports?
1.6 Professional and ethical standardsBack to the top
1.6.1What were the legal requirements in the countries / societies / cultures where the research was being conducted, and also in applicable international law, with regard to issues of conflict of interest, data protection, permissions, libel, intellectual property, procurement and confidentiality?
1.6.2 What arrangements did you make to ensure that these requirements were met?
1.6.3 What arrangements did you make to avoid social and personal harm (discrimination, consent)?
1.6.4 How did you ensure that researcher and other forms of bias would be avoided?
1.6.5 How did you plan to check for accuracy, consistency and comprehensiveness in data collection, reporting, analysis and interpretation?
1.6.6 How did you plan to validate the findings?
1.6.7 What were the requirements of your sponsors regarding acknowledgement of their support and release of the findings?
1.7 Rationale for the research designBack to the top
1.7.1Was the rationale of the design theoretical or pragmatic?
1.7.2 Was the selection of countries, cases and units for comparison properly justified?
1.7.3 How many units of analysis did you select for comparison?
1.7.4 What were your criteria for selecting the mix of comparators (most similar, most different, membership of international organisations)?
1.7.5 Did you match cases on particular dimensions?
1.7.6 What size of unit did you select, and how were the units delimited?
1.7.7 Did you subdivide each unit with reference to variables such as gender, age, socio-economic status and ethnicity?
1.7.8 If your research design required access to particular groups / individuals / organisations, what plans did you have to ensure access?
1.7.9 Did your research design explicitly take account of the comparative policy dimension?
1.7.10 What were the implications of your selection of comparators for the research design, methods and findings?
1.8 Rationale for the research methodsBack to the top
1.8.1Did your project involve secondary analysis of published and grey literature, and international statistics?
1.8.2 Was the review of the literature fully exploited for each unit of comparison?
1.8.3 Did you collect new data using large-scale surveys, case studies, longitudinal studies or mixed methods studies?
1.8.4 What were your reasons for selecting these methods?
1.8.5 How did you ensure the comparability, validity, reliability and quality of your data?
1.8.6 How did you train researchers who were less expert in some of the methods proposed?
1.8.7 What latitude did you have to adapt your methods and the timetable in the course of the research?
1.8.8 How were the data from the team members and different methods integrated?
1.8.9 How did you ensure that knowledge about the ‘bigger picture’ in international research informed your understanding of your particular research focus?
1.8.10 How did you monitor and review the research process?
1.8.11 Were the research design and methods appropriate given the aims and objectives?
1.8.12 Were the methods clearly defined, rigorous, feasible and adequately justified?
1.9 Conceptual issuesBack to the top
1.9.1What theories and concepts were specified in the research protocol? How were these arrived at?
1.9.2 What assumptions did you make about the relevance of concepts in different contexts?
1.9.3 How well did the concepts you selected translate across disciplines and cultures?
1.9.4 How did you ensure that team members had a common understanding of key concepts in the research?
1.9.5 How were issues of equivalence of concepts and variables across units of comparison dealt with?
1.9.6 How were conceptual perspectives brought to bear in the research design, data collection (equivalence and comparability) and analysis?
1.10 Data collection and analysisBack to the top
1.10.1Were the data sources to be used in the research explicit and was the choice justified?
1.10.2What problems did you encounter in data collection, and how did the methods you selected enable you to overcome them and achieve reliability, validity and quality of data?
1.10.3 Were the potential problems in accessing the data carefully assessed and was access secured?
1.10.4 How were issues of standardisation of national datasets across countries resolved?
1.10.5 How did you ensure that clear frameworks were developed for data analysis?
1.10.6 How did you deal with issues of translation at the data analysis and reporting stage of the project?
1.10.7 How did you organise the division of labour for carrying out the analysis and writing up the data?
1.10.8 If qualitative methods were used, how were cases selected from the primary data for analysis and how did you ensure that the criteria were transparent and rigorous?
1.10.9 How did you deal with the possible impact of methods on the interpretation of findings?
1.10.10 To what extent were you able to draw causal inferences and / or extrapolate from your data?
1.10.11 If you used mixed methods, how did you accommodate and integrate different types or levels (macro, meso and micro) of data in the analysis?
1.11 Interpretation and dissemination of findingsBack to the top
1.11.1Who were your target audiences (academic, policy, media, other stakeholders at local, national and international level)?
1.11.2How did you organise the analysis, interpretation and validation of data to ensure that your findings were objective, robust and accessible to the relevant target audience?
1.11.3 How did you deal with any findings contested by team members or which were unexpected, contrary to received wisdom and / or likely to be unwelcome to funders and stakeholders?
1.11.4 How did you assess the research process, the impact of decisions taken during the research design and implementation stages in the research and any adjustments made in the course of the research?
1.11.5 To what extent did the disciplinary and intellectual traditions, and research cultures of the team members influence the findings of the research?
1.11.6 How did the choice of methods affect the findings?
1.11.7 How did you evaluate the extent to which you achieved your project’s aims and objectives?
1.11.8 How did you write up the findings for presentation to different target audiences?
1.11.9 If your brief was to examine the potential for policy learning and policy transfer, what strategies did you employ to ensure that your findings were feasible and applicable?
1.11.10 What strategies did you employ to ensure your project and your dissemination plan took account of the perspectives of different policy stakeholders?
1.11.11 What dissemination activities did you organise to meet the needs of different target audiences?
1.11.12 How did you demonstrate accountability to funders?
1.12 Lessons learnedBack to the top
1.12.1Can you give examples from your project of the main lessons you have learned from the experience of carrying out international (comparative) research?