You are here

Research for Development

Research for Development
A Practical Guide

Second Edition

February 2013 | 440 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
Research for Development offers a comprehensive guide to commissioning, managing and undertaking research in development work. It serves both as a practical reference manual and an indispensable learning tool.

Divided into three parts, the book provides a complete overview of the research process spanning:

- the uses, planning and management of research

- reviewing existing evidence

- learning development research skills

- choosing research methods

- undertaking ethical research

- writing an effective research report

- promoting research uptake and assessing research

- monitoring and evaluation

This fully revised second edition also includes a new section on how to use the internet for research. Its 16 chapters are enriched by a variety of international case studies, checklists of key points, learning exercises, helpful references to further reading and engaging illustrations. The book also includes a detailed glossary of terms.

Drawing on considerable hands-on experience, Research for Development is an ideal practical companion for students of development studies and public policy, as well as practitioners in the field.

Cover image © Jenny Matthews / World Vision/ PhotoVoice

How to use this book

Introduction: Why Research for Development Matters
So What Is Research?

'But I'm not a Researcher': The Contribution of the Development Worker

Who Should Do Research for Development Work? The Broader Issues

Research and Social Change

How to Tell When Research is the Best Approach to a Problem

Using Research in Development Work
So What is the Right Approach to Research for Development Work?

Two Major Research Approaches

Types of Research in Development Work

Programme-Focused and Issue-Focused Research

Using Research for Programme Development

Using Research to Influence Policy

Planning for Effective Research
Quality in Research

Choosing a Research Focus

Defining the Research Questions

Writing a Research Brief

Managing Research
Attracting and Engaging with Funders

Deciding Who Should Do The Research

Selecting and Appointing External Researchers

Managing Costs and Time

Supervising Researchers

Reviewing Existing Evidence
How to Look

Where to Look

How to Use the Internet for Research

Learning Development Research Skills
Where to Start?

Some Ways of Learning Research Skills

Supporting Southern Researchers

Choosing Methods
Choosing a Research Approach

Choosing Research Techniques

Triangulation: Using More Than One Technique

Collecting and Managing Quality Data

Three Characterisics of Good-quality Data

Ways to Improve Quality in Data Collection

Improving Communication with Respondents

Collecting, Recording and Managing Data

Ensuring 'Trustworthiness'

Thinking about Ethics in Research
Codes of Ethics

Responsibilities Towards Respondents: Some Ethical Issues to Consider

Wider Accountability

Responsibilities to Colleagues

Choosing a Sample
What Does Sampling Mean?

Quantitative or Qualitative Sampling?

Probability or Random Sampling

Purposive or Non-Random Sampling

How to Sample For Cases, Location, Time and Events

Including 'Hard-To-Reach' People

Incentives: What Are The Issues?

Collecting Data
How to Ask Questions


Focus Groups


Use of Documentary Sources and Secondary Data Analysis


Participatory Research
Participation for...?

Participation by...?

Participation in...?

Some Participatory Research Methods

Practical Challenges in Participatory Research

Critical Perspectives on Participatory Research

Undertaking Research Analysis
Getting Organized

What is Analysis?


The Process of Data Analysis

Participation in the Analysis Process

Methods of Analysis

Qualitative Analysis

Quantitative Analysis

So What Does It All Mean?

Writing Effectively
What to Write

What Not to Write

What Must Be Included

How to Write: The Process

Writing Press Releases, Policy Briefs or Journal Articles

Promoting Research Uptake
Building a Successful Communications Strategy

Promotion for Implementation: Influencing Programmes

Promotion for Policy Influence

Some Tools for Communication

Dealing with the Media

Capacity Building

Assessing Research for Development Work
What, Who and When?

Assessing Research Output

Assessing Research Uptake

Assessing Research Impact

Appendix 1: On Monitoring and Evaluation

Appendix 2: Useful Websites




In the decade since it was first published, Research for Development has become the 'go to' text for development practitioners, students and researchers alike. This substantially revised second edition is even better: brought fully up to date with many new topics and chapters, this book is comprehensive, authoritative and highly informative. Whether one is seeking a quick definition or brief explanation of a subject, or needing a more detailed guide to how to go about doing research for development, this book is quite simply indispensible.
David Lewis
Professor of Social Policy and Development, London School of Economics & Political Science

Research for Development is undoubtedly the best guide to its subject that we have. The first edition has become an indispensable work of reference for development researchers and practitioners engaged in commissioning and managing research. Oxfam staff around the world have benefitted from its use, and all of us are looking forward to the publication of the new edition. Sophie Laws, Caroline Harper, Nicola Jones and Rachel Marcus are to be congratulated for the work they have put into updating the text and keeping it relevant to the ever-changing demands of development research, and for their contribution to our common goal of making the world a better place..
Duncan Green
Senior Strategic Adviser, Oxfam


Drawing from their wide experience, the authors showcase examples from various fields including poverty studies, child trafficking, environmental issues, health and sanitation, and gender studies. This ensures that the book appeals to a wide range of development researchers and practitioners.[...] The clear, engaging written style is suited both to readers looking for an overview of certain research approaches, as well as those with more time who can engage with the exercises in each chapter. The chapters are punctuated with real-life examples and case studies that will help a novice development researcher envision what their own research may look like in the field.

Chandni Singh
LSE Review of Books

A good general text on key elements of development research.

Mr Kelechi Ekuma
Institute for Development Policy and Management, University of Manchester
February 22, 2014

I think this is a super book - the ideas are not only relevant to research in international development, but also for social research in any context that wishes to engage 'respondents' as research participants.

The book covers, among the usual topics, other issues relating to planning and managing research, participation, and uses of research findings to influence policy, programming and practice. A key theme running through the book are the social and political elements of research.

Perhaps more could have been made of the emancipatory intentions of (some) research by addressing critical perspectives in addition to positivist and social constructionist approaches. A critical realist take on research may also be a useful addition here (usefully brought to life in Alderson P (2013) Childhoods, Real and Imagined)

That said, the book goes into enough depth for most small-scale studies - and shows readers how, for example, to carry out simple qualitative and quantitative analysis; a useful outline for studies in resource poor contexts/settings.

This is a book I'll recommend to postgrad students (as well as other tutors) on our education-related programmes.

Dr Ian Warwick
Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education
August 10, 2013

The MA course policy research and evaluation attracts more and more foreign students who want to conduct their dissertation project in their own country. This book is really helpful because it outlines the essential steps in a research project in an accessible manner (making it relevant for all students) whilst at the same time highlighting specific issues in developing countries. I particular like the summaries at the end of Chapters (key points, further reading, web sites, etc.).

Dr Anne Krayer
School of Social Sciences, Bangor University
July 30, 2013

A substantive and highly useful reference text. Well-written and relevant both in terms of range of topics and approach.

Dr Conor Galvin
College of Human Sciences, University College Dublin
March 25, 2013

A really valuable book concerning the methods of research for the students of international development. Thanks for the great service!

Mr Wolfgang Gruber
Department of Development Studies, University of Vienna
March 19, 2013
  • A new section on how to use the internet for research
  • New international case studies, checklists of key points, learning exercises, helpful references to further reading and engaging illustrations
  • A detailed glossary of terms.

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

For instructors

Purchasing options

Please select a format:

ISBN: 9781446252376
ISBN: 9781446252369

SAGE Knowledge is the ultimate social sciences digital library for students, researchers, and faculty. Hosting more than 4,400 titles, it includes an expansive range of SAGE eBook and eReference content, including scholarly monographs, reference works, handbooks, series, professional development titles, and more.

The platform allows researchers to cross-search and seamlessly access a wide breadth of must-have SAGE book and reference content from one source.

SAGE Knowledge brings together high-quality content from across our imprints, including CQ Press and Corwin titles.