Social Science Research Methods in Contemporary Liturgical Research: An Introduction


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Joint Liturgical Studies 69

Why don’t people do more research on liturgy that focuses on people rather than on history, texts or language? With any research it is always important to be aware of that motivates the researcher – and it is helpful if the researcher states this openly. It might be a local vicar trying to gain support for a particular new policy on an aspect of worship, or a new incumbent genuinely wanting to discover the different experiences members of her congregation have, or an MA student who has chosen to do some research into people’s feelings in worship and is now worried in case his selection of people questions and methodology do not stand up to the test of academic rigour. It might be a lecturer in worship wanting to test out if a theory about how people react to the exchange of the Peace is correct; if it is going to be produced as a paper at a conference or as a possible contribution towards a further degree, it is important to get it right.

This monograph reviews a number of different approaches and tools that can be used, deliberately provoking questions such as ‘Was the method chosen the most appropriate for the subject’ ‘Why was this method chosen rather than others? Was it because of cost, speed or simplicity in operation?’ Would the conclusion have been different if a different research method had been used?’ All of these are valid reasons for some situations but it is as well to acknowledge them in an opening discussion on the choice of method. It is equally important to consider using more than one method. Why is it that different people sometimes get dissimilar results and interpretations from the same data or situation? Sometimes it is because they are using slightly different definitions, of categories of people for instance. Sometimes it is simply that time has moved on and events ha e changed the situation and those involved. But it may also be that two people are using different methods of research and so arriving at differing conclusions. One reason might be that the research is insufficiently objective’ another might be a failure to look more widely at the subject using different tools. So look at what chapter two says on the importance of triangulation.¬†One method is sufficient, and by giving first-time researchers an overview or map of where they might go in choosing the tools they will use, this monograph may open some doors and indicate hat to read next. But it will also give those who think they know what they are doing some markers against which to review their current practice!