Research Methods for the study of religion

An online training resource

Rigour and validity

Being clear about the criteria we use for evaluating what is rigorous and valid research is important for our ability to think critically about our own research, as well as other research we draw upon. In some important respects these criteria vary across epistemological and methodological traditions. But there are also basic issues about the design of research questions and identifying appropriate evidence that are common to all of these.

Steve Bruce identifies qualities which define effective and ineffective research.

Listen to his talk on 'Why we need a social science of religion'.


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Key Reading

Steve Bruce (2009) 'The importance of social science in the study of religion', Fieldwork in Religion, 4, pp.8-29.

Bruce argues for greater clarity about what different kinds of data are needed in order to advance different kinds of academic argument, critiques unsubstantiated claims by researchers and makes the case for the particular value of statistical research.

Bent Flyvbjerg (2001) Making Social Science Matter. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp.25-37.

Flyvbjerg critiques the claim of positivist social science to be able to generate predictive or explanatory theory in ways similar to natural science on the grounds that it fails to take sufficient account of the contextual nature of social knowledge. He advances an alternative view of rigorous social science in terms of the study of values, meanings and practices operative in particular contexts.


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Last Updated: 07/09/2011