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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

Crang, M. Telling materials. In: M. Pryke, G. Rose & S. Whatmore Using Social Theory, Thinking Through Research. London: Sage; 2003:127-144.

Author(s) from Durham


This chapter asks us to think carefully about what we do with material we have created out in the field. The way it is going to approach this is by thinking about the actions involved in analysis making sense out of the material you have so painstakingly gathered. However, I am not going to present a discussion of the criteria of a ‘good’ or ‘valid’ analysis, since there are many types of epistemological theories that underlie different sorts of analysis. That is, there are theories about how we know what we can claim to know, about how we judge truth claims and assess the reliability or validity of our work. The sort of claims you can then make and the type of analysis needed are thus going to vary according to your approach, your questions and hence the data, and the sort of answers, you need. So rather than work through a list of philosophies and their assumptions about validity, this chapter will focus on the actual activity of analysis, as a material process, an idea we will come back to shortly in the next section. When we write research proposals and timetables we often pencil some period for ‘analysis of data’. This chapter is going to unpack this process, first by suggesting analysis is a messier business than this suggests and second, by highlighting the tangible processes of interpretation.

Department of Geography