Research Methodology

In 2022, we introduced a new section to our newsletter: Research Methodology! In it, we ask acclaimed UC Berkeley faculty on how they do research.

 

Edwin Lin (April 2022)

What is your favorite/most memorable research project you have done? 
My dissertation research where I interviewed Chinese immigrants in South Africa for 6 months, specifically in Johannesburg, Durban, and Bloemfontein.

How did you come up with your research question?
The research question came from a Senior Honors Thesis I did in my last year at Berkeley (under Development Studies, now Global Studies). I came up with the question while learning about anti-immigrant sentiments in South Africa, and the project evolved from there (first around Black southern African migrants and then Chinese migrants).

How did you design your research project?
I designed the project over the course of years of working with the Chinese community in South Africa as well as doing research in Johannesburg after graduating from UC Berkeley.

What would you say is the most important part/stage of research?
The most important part/stage of research is probably the initial phase when you discover a puzzle that you find compelling and you want to investigate more of. I find the initial inquiry to be critical as it helps define the direction and interest driving the project.

What advice would you give to an aspiring researcher? 
My best advice would be to have a clear idea of what you are interested in and why you find it interesting. Then, share that interest with others—this will help you practice thinking and explaining your interest in a way that connects to other people’s ideas. Their response will also help you further tease out your research ideas.

In 2022, we introduced a new section to our newsletter: Research Methodology! In it, we ask acclaimed UC Berkeley faculty on how they do research.

 

Loïc Wacquant (April 2022)

What is your favorite/most memorable research project you have done?
Learning how to box for three years in a gym on Chicago’s South Side and writing a book dissecting the crafting of the “pugilistic habitus” –the set of cognitive categories, practical skills, and desires that make the competent and appetent boxer. It was a great human experience (which I retrace in the expanded anniversary edition of BODY & SOUL: NOTEBOOKS OF AN APPRENTICE BOXER, 2022, just published) and it allowed me to elaborate an abstract theory with concrete materials, which should be the ambition of every sociologist.

How did you come up with your research question?
It came up for me! I was looking for a place to observe everyday life in the ghetto and understand the logics of urban marginality (see URBAN OUTCASTS: A COMPARATIVE SOCIOLOGY OF ADVANCED MARGINALITY, 2008) and I stumbled upon the gym. I didn’t have any intention to study boxers and even less to compete in the Chicago Golden Gloves. But I ended up doing both. The gym proved to be a fascinating laboratory in which to study a bodily craft and to grasp the role of the skilled, knowing, suffering body in social life more generally.

What would you say is the most important part/stage of research?
Every stage is equally important, from early hunches to method selection to data production and analysis to final writeup. You must always exercise epistemological vigilance at every step in the process.

What advice would you give to an aspiring researcher?
Keep your eyes, ears, and mind open, follow your curiosity, be ready to be surprised and taught new things about the social world and about yourself.