A look at what makes the swingometer swing

Political Research
February 1, 2002

This clear, sensible, if unexciting text is written for students with little knowledge of political research methodology. It is useful but uneven.

Part one, which "introduces quantitative methods, detailing the key issues and concerns; problems of interpreting data sources; using surveys; and analysing official data", is by far the strongest and most confident part of the text. I assume this reflects the disciplinary focus of the author and, indeed, it reflects the general and lamentable direction political-science research has taken in the United Kingdom over the past 20 years.

Part two, which "introduces qualitative methods, including: using interviews; evaluating existing research; archives; official reports and documents; and focus groups and observational research" is much weaker. I would not point a political historian towards it as a guide, but for an undergraduate political scientist it is probably adequate.

The practical guide in the final section and the linked website are both very basic and uninspired. Given the advances in quality and presentation of so many textbooks and the diversity of material offered on the web, it is astonishing that so little imagination and thought was devoted to the presentation of the text or the design and extent of the website. Neither will interest any but the keenest student. Overall, this book is worth adding to reading lists for part one, but it is unlikely to become a multi-edition classic.

Brian Brivati is professor of contemporary history, Kingston University.

Political Research: An Introduction

Author - Lisa Harrison
ISBN - 0 415 22655 4 and 22656 2
Publisher - Routledge
Price - £50.00 and £15.99
Pages - 200

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