Keith Townsend, Mark N.K. Saunders, How to Keep Your Research Project on Track Insights from When Things Go Wrong, Edward Elgar, 2018

Keith Townsend, Mark N.K. Saunders, How to Keep Your Research Project on Track Insights from When Things Go Wrong, Edward Elgar, 2018

Research can be a lonely path and there are myriad challenges and problems to face with any research project. In this research methods book, novice and experienced researchers tell stories of when things went wrong in their research projects. Drawing on real life experiences, researchers from post graduate research students to experienced professors will benefit from these insider insights, advice and lessons about the practical difficulties and how they may be addressed. The result is an engaging read and a helpful and reassuring guide to the research process. Arranged as a series of chapters interspersed with vignettes the researchers’ stories provide the reader with insights into different facets and stages of the research process from finding a supervisor thorough designing surveys and conducting interviews and analysing data, to re-writing and dealing with feedback. It will be invaluable for doctoral and more experienced researchers grappling with the realities of undertaking research.


Textbooks and journal articles on research methods are rarely of help regarding what to do when your research project goes off track. This book addresses this important, and usually hidden, aspect of research by providing students and researchers with insider insights, advice and lessons about the difficulties in the research process. Written by experienced researchers, PhD supervisors and examiners, it should prepare the reader for all that can go wrong when researching a PhD or any large research project.

The starting point of each chapter is the acceptance that research projects do not always go smoothly. Researchers must find ways to jump through a myriad of invisible hoops and over a plethora of hurdles of unknown heights to guide their research, from conceptualisation of worthwhile projects to the completion and dissemination to a range of different audiences. The book is divided into four sections: ‘getting started’, ‘getting data’, ‘getting it together’, and ‘getting finished’. Each section comprises chapters followed by short vignettes – all of which offer insights into researchers facing real-world problems or not quite getting things right in the first instance.

This ground breaking book will give hope to the early-career researcher, the PhD or Masters student, and provide experienced academics with reinvigoration and new perspectives on the research process



1. Shit happens, but you have a job to do!
Keith Townsend and Mark N.K. Saunders


2. Developing research ideas
Bill Lee

3. On the path to enlightenment? Reviewing the literature systematically – or not
Céline Rojon

4. The Master and Apprentice: Lessons from two PhD supervisors and a recent PhD graduate
Jillian Cavanagh, Hannah Meacham and Timothy Bartram

5. “Finders, keepers, losers, weepers!”: A doctoral candidate’s reality of changing thesis advisors
Polly Black

6. Reply all, tweets and social media: Technological friends for developing a professional identity that need to be treated with care
Hugh T.J. Bainbridge

7. Coming up with a research question: opinions, feedback, and networking
Deisi Yunga


8. Finding Epistemology
Neve Isaeva

9. Bounce back, firewalls and legal threats: reaching respondents using Internet Questionnaires
Mark N.K. Saunders and David E. Gray

10. Finding the truth amongst conflicting evidence
Heather Short

11. Rolling with the punches
Sharyn Rundle-Thiele, Julia Carins and Christiane Stock

12. Access, Involvement and Interference: encounters and experiences of case studies
Kenneth Cafferkey

13. Is a pilot necessary?
Polly Black

14. The precarious nature of access
Wojciech Marek Kwiatkowski

15. The diminishing dissertation: seven cases to three+
Ashlea Kellner

16. So, I Guess We’re Probably Finished Then
Keith Townsend

17. Your Incentives are Too Lucrative: Caution in Rewarding Interview Participants
Catheryn Khoo-Lattimore

18. Sales Skills for Researchers
Colin Hughes

19. Being flexible in interviews: Make sure that you account for power imbalance
Qian Yi Lee


20 . “… just one goat”: The importance of interpretation in qualitative data analysis
Keith Townsend and Rebecca Loudoun

21. Analysing Quantitative Data
Sameer Qaiyum and Catherine L. Wang

22. When the words just won’t come
Dawn C. Duke

23. I’m a paper person or maybe not?
Ilenia Bregoli

24. A Mug of Stress
Rohit Talwar

25. Excuse me… Should that comma be there? Dealing with awkward questions.
Kenneth Cafferkey

26. Finding the time to progress your research, and the big lie that you are part of!
Jennifer Kilroy


27. Authorship in Action
Kate L. Daunt and Aoife M. McDermott

28. ‘They think I’m stupid’: Dealing with supervisor feedback
Amanda Lee

29. Grasping roses or nettles? Losing and finding ourselves in research projects
Kiran Trehan, Alex Kevill and Jane Glover

30. Using social media to enhance your research
Angelique Gatsinzi

31. Organisations, clients and feminists: Getting in, coming back and having fun
Marian Baird

32. Born to… write, rewrite and rewrite again
Mark N.K. Saunders

33. ‘I’m over it …’
Peter J. Jordan


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