Orientation Observation In-depth interviews Document analysis and semiology Conversation and discourse analysis Secondary Data Surveys Experiments Ethics Research outcomes



Social Research Glossary

About Researching the Real World



© Lee Harvey 2012–2019

Page updated 25 January, 2019

Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012–2019, Researching the Real World, available at
All rights belong to author.


A Guide to Methodology

CASE STUDY Joining the gang (James Patrick 1973)

I was dressed in a midnight-blue suit, with a twelve-inch middle vent, three-inch flaps over the side pockets and a light blue handkerchief with a white polka dot (to match my tie) in the top pocket. My hair, which I had allowed to grow long, was newly washed and combed into a parting just to the left of centre. My nails I had cut down as far as possible, leaving them ragged and dirty. I approached the gang of boys standing outside the pub and Tim, my contact, came forward to meet me, his cheeks red with embarrassment.

'Hello, sur, Ah never thoat ye wid come.'

Fortunately, the others had not heard the slip which almost ruined all my preparations.

I had not planned to join a juvenile gang; I had been invited. For two years I had been working in one of Scotland's approved schools during my college vacations. I had met Tim, who had been committed to the school and we quickly became friends. During one conversation with a group of boys in a lunch-break at the school I was criticising people who got into trouble while on leave. Tim asked me what I knew about boys on leave and how they spent their time. The honest answer was nothing at all. At this point the signal for the end of lunch-break was given and, as the boys walked over to their 'line', Tim sidled up to me and asked me to come out with him and see for myself.

Adapted from Patrick (1973. p.13) ), p. 13).


Return to Access (Section 3.4)
Return to Negotiating with gatekeepers (Section 3.4.2)