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Reflexivity
The Essential Guide

  • Tim May - Professor of Social Science Methodology, Sheffield Methods Institute, University of Sheffield, The University of Sheffield, UK
  • Beth Perry - Professorial Fellow, Urban Institute, University of Sheffield


September 2017 | 248 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
Reflexivity—the critical examination of how we see the world—is integral to good research practice. From this state-of-the-art, accessible tour of its history and contemporary relevance, readers will learn of its importance to social research and to society generally. The text introduces a host of influential thinkers and their key ideas on reflexivity, and incorporates examples from a range of disciplines and research settings. Drawing on the authors’ extensive experience of real research settings, this book:
  • Pinpoints the importance of reflexivity in social research
  • Demonstrates its relevance to everyday life
  • Firmly locates the concept in the history of ideas
  • Explores key questions about the bases of knowledge and understanding
  • Presents key thinkers, concepts and issues in easy-to-understand learning boxes
The result is a book that provides students and researchers in the social sciences with the knowledge and understanding necessary not only to examine the role of reflexivity in contemporary life, but to apply it in their own research practice.

 
Introduction
What is reflexivity?

 
The structure of the book

 
The reflexive difference

 
 
Chapter 1: Thought and Knowledge in the History of Ideas
Introduction

 
In search of certainty

 
Context matters

 
Enduring concepts: reason and scepticism return

 
Summary: reflexivity rooted

 
 
Chapter 2: Will, Interpretation and Being
Introduction

 
The will and representation

 
Facts, values and interpretations

 
Interpretation and being

 
Summary: reflexivity matters

 
 
Chapter 3: Pragmatism, Practice and Language
Introduction

 
Thought, action and the self

 
Thought, action and other minds

 
Language, meaning and everyday speech

 
Summary: reflexivity embedded

 
 
Chapter 4: Critique and Transformation
Introduction

 
Critical theory

 
Recovering the promise of reason

 
Critiquing critique

 
Summary: Reflexive relations

 
 
Chapter 5: Power and Action
Introduction

 
Power and the subject

 
A Realpolitik of reason

 
Standpoints and difference

 
Summary: Reflexive limits

 
 
Chapter 6: The Dynamics of Science in Society
Introduction

 
Co-producing society

 
'New' modes of knowledge production

 
Co-producing research

 
Summary: Reflexivity centred

 
 
Chapter 7: Reflexive Practice
Introduction

 
The work of making context

 
The context of making work

 
Reflexive research design

 
Summary: Reflexive messes

 
 
Chapter 8: Reflexivity Realised
Introduction

 
Who am I?

 
How do I relate to others?

 
Why and how might I practice?

 
Final words

 

"Finally, a sensible, detailed and complex analysis of reflexivity in all its guises. Both intellectually rigorous and practically applicable, this book is essential reading for students across the social sciences."

Karen O'Reilly
Loughborough University

Spanning philosophy and social science, disciplined inquiry and individual reflection and theory and practice, this new work provides an invaluable overview of the key thinkers, ideas and issues involved in the reflexive turn in social inquiry. One marvels at its comprehensiveness, precision, and lucidity. Highly useful for students and established scholars alike.

Mustafa Emirbayer
University of Wisconsin-Madison

In their book, "Reflexivity. The Essential Guide", Tim May and Beth Perry provide an extensive examination of the role of reflexivity in social research. Drawing on insights from a wide range of disciplines such as anthropology, psychology, sociology, history, linguistics, and above all, philosophy, the authors propose an enriching intellectual journey for social researchers and lay audience alike.

Anca Ilie
Pforzheim University

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