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Research for Development

Research for Development
A Practical Guide

Second Edition

February 2013 | 440 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

Perfect for practitioners, teachers and students, this book offers a comprehensive guide to commissioning, managing and undertaking research in development work. It serves both as a practical reference manual and an indispensable learning tool.

Divided into three parts, the book provides a complete overview of the entire research process spanning:

  • The uses, planning and management of research
  • How to review existing evidence
  • Learning development research skills
  • Choosing research methods and data collection
  • Undertaking ethical research
  • Research analysis and writing an effective research report
  • Promoting research uptake and assessing research
  • Monitoring and evaluation

This fully revised and updated Second Edition includes new sections on how to use the internet for research, promoting research uptake, assessing research work and on monitoring and evaluation. The highly accessible content is supported by a wide variety of international case studies, checklists of key points, learning exercises, helpful references to further reading, engaging illustrations and a detailed glossary of terms.

Drawing on considerable hands-on experience, Research for Development is an ideal practical companion for students of development studies and public policy, as well as practitioners in the field.

How to use this book  
Introduction: Why Research for Development Matters
So What Is Research?  
'But I'm not a Researcher': The Contribution of the Development Worker  
Who Should Do Research for Development Work? The Broader Issues  
Research and Social Change  
How to Tell When Research is the Best Approach to a Problem  
Using Research in Development Work
So What is the Right Approach to Research for Development Work?  
Two Major Research Approaches  
Types of Research in Development Work  
Programme-Focused and Issue-Focused Research  
Using Research for Programme Development  
Using Research to Influence Policy  
Planning for Effective Research
Quality in Research  
Choosing a Research Focus  
Defining the Research Questions  
Writing a Research Brief  
Managing Research
Attracting and Engaging with Funders  
Deciding Who Should Do The Research  
Selecting and Appointing External Researchers  
Managing Costs and Time  
Supervising Researchers  
Reviewing Existing Evidence
How to Look  
Where to Look  
How to Use the Internet for Research  
Learning Development Research Skills
Where to Start?  
Some Ways of Learning Research Skills  
Supporting Southern Researchers  
Choosing Methods
Choosing a Research Approach  
Choosing Research Techniques  
Triangulation: Using More Than One Technique  
Collecting and Managing Quality Data
Three Characterisics of Good-quality Data  
Ways to Improve Quality in Data Collection  
Improving Communication with Respondents  
Collecting, Recording and Managing Data  
Ensuring 'Trustworthiness'  
Thinking about Ethics in Research
Codes of Ethics  
Responsibilities Towards Respondents: Some Ethical Issues to Consider  
Wider Accountability  
Responsibilities to Colleagues  
Choosing a Sample
What Does Sampling Mean?  
Quantitative or Qualitative Sampling?  
Probability or Random Sampling  
Purposive or Non-Random Sampling  
How to Sample For Cases, Location, Time and Events  
Including 'Hard-To-Reach' People  
Incentives: What Are The Issues?  
Collecting Data
How to Ask Questions  
Focus Groups  
Use of Documentary Sources and Secondary Data Analysis  
Participatory Research
Participation for...?  
Participation by...?  
Participation in...?  
Some Participatory Research Methods  
Practical Challenges in Participatory Research  
Critical Perspectives on Participatory Research  
Undertaking Research Analysis
Getting Organized  
What is Analysis?  
The Process of Data Analysis  
Participation in the Analysis Process  
Methods of Analysis  
Qualitative Analysis  
Quantitative Analysis  
So What Does It All Mean?  
Writing Effectively
What to Write  
What Not to Write  
What Must Be Included  
How to Write: The Process  
Writing Press Releases, Policy Briefs or Journal Articles  
Promoting Research Uptake
Building a Successful Communications Strategy  
Promotion for Implementation: Influencing Programmes  
Promotion for Policy Influence  
Some Tools for Communication  
Dealing with the Media  
Capacity Building  
Assessing Research for Development Work
What, Who and When?  
Assessing Research Output  
Assessing Research Uptake  
Assessing Research Impact  
Appendix 1: On Monitoring and Evaluation  
Appendix 2: Useful Websites  

In the decade since it was first published, Research for Development has become the 'go to' text for development practitioners, students and researchers alike. This substantially revised second edition is even better: brought fully up to date with many new topics and chapters, this book is comprehensive, authoritative and highly informative. Whether one is seeking a quick definition or brief explanation of a subject, or needing a more detailed guide to how to go about doing research for development, this book is quite simply indispensible.
David Lewis
Professor of Social Policy and Development, London School of Economics & Political Science

Research for Development is undoubtedly the best guide to its subject that we have. The first edition has become an indispensable work of reference for development researchers and practitioners engaged in commissioning and managing research. Oxfam staff around the world have benefitted from its use, and all of us are looking forward to the publication of the new edition. Sophie Laws, Caroline Harper, Nicola Jones and Rachel Marcus are to be congratulated for the work they have put into updating the text and keeping it relevant to the ever-changing demands of development research, and for their contribution to our common goal of making the world a better place..
Duncan Green
Senior Strategic Adviser, Oxfam


Drawing from their wide experience, the authors showcase examples from various fields including poverty studies, child trafficking, environmental issues, health and sanitation, and gender studies. This ensures that the book appeals to a wide range of development researchers and practitioners.[...] The clear, engaging written style is suited both to readers looking for an overview of certain research approaches, as well as those with more time who can engage with the exercises in each chapter. The chapters are punctuated with real-life examples and case studies that will help a novice development researcher envision what their own research may look like in the field.

Chandni Singh
LSE Review of Books

A good general text on key elements of development research.

Mr Kelechi Ekuma
Institute for Development Policy and Management, University of Manchester
February 22, 2014

I think this is a super book - the ideas are not only relevant to research in international development, but also for social research in any context that wishes to engage 'respondents' as research participants.

The book covers, among the usual topics, other issues relating to planning and managing research, participation, and uses of research findings to influence policy, programming and practice. A key theme running through the book are the social and political elements of research.

Perhaps more could have been made of the emancipatory intentions of (some) research by addressing critical perspectives in addition to positivist and social constructionist approaches. A critical realist take on research may also be a useful addition here (usefully brought to life in Alderson P (2013) Childhoods, Real and Imagined)

That said, the book goes into enough depth for most small-scale studies - and shows readers how, for example, to carry out simple qualitative and quantitative analysis; a useful outline for studies in resource poor contexts/settings.

This is a book I'll recommend to postgrad students (as well as other tutors) on our education-related programmes.

Dr Ian Warwick
Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education
August 10, 2013

The MA course policy research and evaluation attracts more and more foreign students who want to conduct their dissertation project in their own country. This book is really helpful because it outlines the essential steps in a research project in an accessible manner (making it relevant for all students) whilst at the same time highlighting specific issues in developing countries. I particular like the summaries at the end of Chapters (key points, further reading, web sites, etc.).

Dr Anne Krayer
School of Social Sciences, Bangor University
July 30, 2013

A substantive and highly useful reference text. Well-written and relevant both in terms of range of topics and approach.

Dr Conor Galvin
College of Human Sciences, University College Dublin
March 25, 2013

A really valuable book concerning the methods of research for the students of international development. Thanks for the great service!

Mr Wolfgang Gruber
Department of Development Studies, University of Vienna
March 19, 2013
  • A new section on how to use the internet for research
  • New international case studies, checklists of key points, learning exercises, helpful references to further reading and engaging illustrations
  • A detailed glossary of terms.

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

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