Unobtrusive methods in social research


Unobtrusive methods in social research

Raymond M. Lee

(Understanding social research / series editor, Alan Bryman)

Open University Press, 2000

  • : hbk
  • : pbk

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Includes bibliographical references (p. [144]-164) and index



: pbk ISBN 9780335200511


"a book all self-respecting social researchers should read" SRA News * What are unobtrusive methods in social research? * How are they undertaken and what are their advantages? * What are the problems associated with their use? Webb et al's 1966 classic, Unobtrusive Methods introduced the concept of unobtrusive research. Since then very little else has been written in the field. This book revisits the ground covered by Webb et al, re-contextualizing it for the information age and putting the case for an increased use of unobtrusive methods. Unobtrusive Methods in Social Research provides an updated discussion of the role of unobtrusive methods in social research. It explores the theoretical underpinnings of Webb et al's approach in order to understand more explicitly how unobtrusive methods are generated and examines some of the wider ethical issues raised by the use of unobtrusive methods in social research. In addition, it offers a discussion of using the Internet as a tool for unobtrusive research. Unobtrusive Methods in Social Research is a worthy successor to Webb et al. It is up to date, comprehensive and clearly written. It will help undergraduates to understand what has become a standard topic on research methods courses and it is hoped that it will encourage postgraduate students and professionals to make more use of unobtrusive methods in their research.


Series editor's foreword Acknowledgements Introduction to unobtrusive methods Found data Captured data Retrieved data running records Retrieved data personal and episodic records Unobtrusive methods and the Internet Conclusion Glossary References Index.

: hbk ISBN 9780335200528


This volume aims to provide an up-to-date discussion of the role of unobtrusive methods in social research, in a comprehensive and clearly written style. It explores how unobtrusive methods can be generated, looks at unobtrusive methods and the Internet, and examines some of the wider ethical issues raised by the use of these methods in social research. Social researchers often collect "self-report" data based on interviews and surveys. There are major problems associated with the "reactive" nature of these data, for example, people are not always honest when asked to supply information on "sensitive issues". Unobtrusive methods produce data that are not elicited in this way. Instead data are "found" in the word, captured from various forms of observation or are retrieved from data repositories of various kinds. The production of unobtrusive methods requires considerable ingenuity on the part of the researcher and this book explores the methods involved and how they are produced. There are also ethical problems associated with unobtrusive methods which are discussed in the book. The Internet promises to be a major source of unobtrusive data and so is discussed in some detail.


  • Generating unobtrusive data
  • found data
  • captured data
  • retrieved data
  • unobtrusive methods and the Internet
  • analyzing unobtrusive data.

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