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  • Making Sense of Research
  • Tomaselli KG
  • ISBN: 9780627036019
  • eISBN: N/A
  • ePub ISBN: 9780627036026
  • 480 Pages | Published: 2018

The word “research” has its origins in old French in the 16th century. The word rechercher meant (and still means) “to search for”. Nowadays we would say that research, and specifically “scientific” or “scholarly” research, is the search for truth, or the pursuit of or quest for credible knowledge. It is precisely because research has become such a complex and multidimensional endeavour that we need to “make sense of” it. Making sense of research thus unpacks research as a technical and methodical process which starts with framing interesting questions and culminates in credible findings. (Johann Mouton)

Making sense of research is designed to take students beyond the messy experiential realm into what actually happens when getting registered, writing proposals, being examined and eventually crossing the stage to be capped.

Contents include the following:

·         Academic architecture and why history matters

·         How to do it (research)

·         Thematic techniques

·         Ethnographic, reception, visual and textual methods

·         Getting published

·         Some words on deconstructing deconstruction

·         Getting technically oriented

·         Getting conceptually orientated


Making sense of research is aimed at all research students.

I can say with some degree of confidence that no such book has yet been written in South Africa (or anywhere else for that matter) on how to do, think and suspect research. Witty, informative, and in parts irreverent, the wide range and critical treatment of research topics earns this volume a secure place on the bookshelf of a postgraduate student or a young faculty member trying to make sense of the world of scholarly inquiry in a digital age.

~Jonathan Jansen


Part 1: Academic architecture and why history matters

Part 2: Research in a digital age: Wot’s Wot app?
Section 1: Whereto the digerati with short attention spans?
Section 2: Paradigm wars, science, literature and numbers: wot’s app?
Section 3: How to do it (research)
Section 4: Thematic techniques
Section 5: Ethnographic, reception, visual and textual methods
Section 6: Getting published
Section 7: Some words on deconstructing deconstruction

Part 3: Getting supervised
Section 1: Getting technically oriented
Section 2: Getting conceptually orientated


The Conversation - 19 April, 2018

This article has also appeared on the following sites:

Inside Education - 23 April 2018 - 20 April 2018

Mail & Guardian - 24 April 2018

“Abnormal times. I suspect that the so-called "new normal"/"great reset" is going to wipe out - by sheer brute force - the old publishing models. So far, the response has been flat footed - and a bit like deer in headlights. So, it could help if Making sense of research itself, which was novel in proposing breaking with normative (and often untenable) research habits, could be marketed as having presaged the new normal. It is a prescient book whose main thesis is that we must recognise that we are stuck in 20th century paradigms; its main contribution is to set the scene for a ‘new normal’ in research, something that it achieves without the assistance of a pandemic. It is a primer on the new research agenda of the 21st century, and a toolbox for the agile researcher working in changing times, whether working from home or not, working alone or in teams, and in uncharted territory.”

-       - Professor Nyasha Mboti, Associate Professor, Communication Science, University of the Free State


"Making sense of research is far less an instrumentalist 'cookbook' on research-as-process, than it is a substantive reflection upon research-as-practice.

The first type appeals to the undergraduate textbook market and can be 'learned' for abstract assessment (i.e., 'tested'), whereas the second type appeals to those already having some experience of research and supervision. That is the market for Making sense of research.

The first type (e.g. Bezuidenhout, et al 2013, Research Matters), an introduction, follows the form of lecture notes -- measured by a didactic and technical standard. It can be read from a podium and consumed. It belongs to the monological lecture theatre. It is aimed at average students, particularly those who see education as a means to an end, rather than as a benefit for character. With these books, you learn with them. That is their market.


The second type (e.g., Making sense of research) is mostly read with some hindsight. You READ these books, rather than study them as lecture notes. They invite dialogue. One does not ask whether its content is correct or not, but whether it is true or false. With these books, you THINK with them. They are appreciated with experience. They are more valuable than useful. Hence, Making sense is for researchers more than for students doing a module on research. And that makes it a valuable book for any researcher to have; to be read from time to time, particularly early on in one's academic career. That said, the book is not so esoteric, not to be practical. There's nothing more practical than a good theory."


-      -  Professor Marc Caldwell, Department of Communication, University of Fort Hare


“Given the present zeitgeist of the #DecolonisationMovement, I see Making Sense of Research as being (1) a handy manual for 21st century post-positivist students/learners and (2) traversing the same route as Umberto Eco's How to Write a Thesis. And hopefully, it will also enjoy the multiple edition lifespan of Eco's book!”

-      -  Jeff Sehume PhD (UJ);  previously a policy analyst at the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection.


"Not merely a handbook, but really a hands-on book, it’s the only text that answers all those questions an emerging researcher has but either is afraid to ask or does not realize need to be asked."

-       - Thad Metz, Distinguished Professor, University of Johannesburg.


“The book is ideally suitable for undergraduates, graduate students, independent

consultants, policy experts and scholars or anyone interested in pursuing a challenging

and exciting career in research.”


-       - Blessed Ngwenya, University of South Africa


“Being a researcher in methodology itself, I always stress the central importance to students of how you do research. Since 2018, Making sense of research has been my go-to-guide in recommending them certain chapters. Two reasons for this is that I teach across a variety of fields and methods, including textual analysis, reception theory and ethnography, and Making sense of research contains a wide collection of different strategies that relate to these and other methods of data collection and analysis. Secondly, out of all the wider readings and chapters I suggest to the students I supervise, I most frequently receive notes of gratitude for the Making sense of research chapter/s.”


-       - Prof. Lauren Dyll, Associate Professor, Centre for Communication, Media and Society, University of KwaZulu-Natal - Durban


“Once Making sense of research gets into the hands of our postgraduate students, they sell the book to each other. It really is a compass to help students navigate their research journal, it’s even better when our students refer the books to their peers.”


-       - Eliza Govender, Associate Professor & Academic Leader, Centre for Communication, Media and Culture, University of Kwa-Zulu-Natal, Durban


“The Keyan Tomaselli edited Making sense of Research (Van Schaik 2018) which made the politics of doing a Masters or Ph.D (from both the supervisor and student point of view) a fun and even hilarious read - pure 'shooting from the hip' , while maintaining the requisite academic standards of a monograph. Most research books I have looked at over years of buying and selling them, are too 'clinical / didactic.' Making Sense of Research is the first locally, and perhaps among the few internationally that bring in the human element in the deep waters of Masters and Ph.D research.” 

-       - Cedric Sissing, ex-Adams Booksellers, now with Ike's Books, Durban. From The Thornveld

Making Sense of Research - 8 March 2021


“I used the book with my BEd Honours students in the module 'Introduction to Educational Research' last semester (2020).  The students found that the book enhanced their study tremendously, especially during the lockdown and the move towards self-directed learning. They appreciated the student-friendly approach to research matters, the use of everyday examples that they can relate to and the interesting ways in which research has been demystified. More importantly, they indicated that the practical hints and ideas had ensured success of their research initiatives.” 

-      -  Rajendra Chetty, Professor: Language Education, University of the Western Cape

“Being a researcher in methodology itself, I always stress the central importance to students of how you do research. Since 2018, Making Sense of Research has been my go-to-guide in recommending them certain chapters. Two reasons for this is that I teach across a variety of fields and methods, including textual analysis, reception theory and ethnography, and MSR contains a wide collection of different strategies that relate to these and other methods of data collection and analysis. Secondly, out of all the wider readings and chapters I suggest to the students I supervise, I most frequently receive notes of gratitude for the MSR chapter/s.”

-       - Prof. Lauren Dyll, Associate Professor. Centre for Communication, Media and Society Academic Leader | Community Engagement

Applied Human Sciences | College of Humanities

Howard College Campus | University of KwaZulu-Natal | Durban



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