Book title bleg

by Eszter Hargittai on July 17, 2007

The edited volume on research methods that I mentioned earlier is shaping up nicely and I’ll be shipping it off soon. However, I’m still not sure about the title and subtitle, and was hoping for some input from anyone who’s willing to give it some thought. This is what I’m working with now:

Research Methods from the Trenches:
The Nitty-Gritty of Empirical Social Science Research

However, having “research” in there twice doesn’t seem right. Any thoughts on either the first or the second part?

As a reminder, the chapters in this book provide helpful behind-the-scenes accounts of doing empirical social science research for a wide range of methods such as use of large-scale data sets, interviews, observations, experiments and historical documents. The unique contribution of this collection is that it provides readers with a realistic idea of what to expect when embarking on empirical investigations by offering richly detailed descriptions of the logistics of individual research projects. The volume draws on the experiences of recent successful dissertation writers and young scholars doing cutting edge research in their respective social scientific fields.

If someone comes up with a title I end up using, I’ll happily send the person a copy of the book and will think of some additional gesture of gratitude. (CT mug anyone?:) Thanks!



dominic 07.17.07 at 6:16 pm

How about using “inquiry”? Or just putting, after the colon, “how social scientists find things out”?


Lville 07.17.07 at 6:16 pm

Why can’t you just drop the last ‘research’? Insert joke about the benefits of calling it Harry Potter and the Nitty of Gritty etc. etc. here.


Kieran Healy 07.17.07 at 6:22 pm

Drop the subtitle and just call it “How Social Science Gets Done,” or “Doing Social Research.”


pdx mama 07.17.07 at 6:23 pm

You could downsize to “From the Trenches: The Nitty-Gritty…”

Although, Id’ think twice about buying a research methods text that had both “trenches” and “nitty gritty” in the title. Graduate school is clicheed enough…


Jeremy 07.17.07 at 6:25 pm

Why not just drop the first use of “research”?

Methods from the Trenches: The Nitty-Gritty of Empirical Social Science Research

One problem with this submission is that I would feel guilty about receiving a copy of the book or even a mug for such a simple change.

Actually, you could drop the second use of the word research. Either way.


Michael Zimmer 07.17.07 at 6:27 pm

I’d suggest dropping the first “research” and just make it “methods from the trenches:” – seems to have a nice symmetry…


omicron 07.17.07 at 6:28 pm

Research from the Trenches:
The Nitty-Gritty of Empirical Social Science Methodology?


Rich B. 07.17.07 at 6:28 pm

Without getting too specific, the problem appears to be that you haven’t determined whether you want your title to be:

SERIOUS TITLE: A quirky, clever subtitle,



You just can’t have “from the trenches” on one side of the colon and “nitty-gritty” on the other. It flaunts the title/subtitle convention too blatantly.


will 07.17.07 at 6:34 pm

I have to agree with Nos. 6 and 7. The combination of “from the trenches” and “nitty-gritty” makes me wince.


M. Townes 07.17.07 at 6:34 pm

“Life or Methods: Empirical Research for the Social Science User”.

I’ve been telling folks that ICPSR is a month-long “Meth Lab”, so I don’t have to admit to going to nerd camp.


rea 07.17.07 at 6:41 pm

Get rid of “Nitty-Gritty” unless you plan on singing, “Will the Circle be Unbroken”


rui 07.17.07 at 6:43 pm

methods from the trenches


Bernard Yomtov 07.17.07 at 6:44 pm

How about

“Digging up the Data: The Practical Side of Empirical Social Science Research”


tom s. 07.17.07 at 6:45 pm

I was going to write what 7 said, but he got there first. There is a little mixing of metaphors going on around the general theme of getting your hands dirty. If you mean that as a gardening metaphor how about “The Green-Fingered Social Scientist” (or green thumbs on t’other side of the pond)


blatherskite 07.17.07 at 6:45 pm

Deep in the Weeds: Empirical Social Science Research Methods in Practice


Mark 07.17.07 at 6:47 pm

Piggybacking on Kieran’s suggestion and stealing from a book I used as a TA in a Poli Sci methods class – Doing Social Science: A Hands-On Guide to Research Methods


Justin 07.17.07 at 6:53 pm

I’d just drop the last ‘research.’ Isn’t ’empirical social science’ sufficiently descriptive?


jay 07.17.07 at 6:56 pm

I agree with #5, and vote for dropping the first mention of “Research.”


Jonathan Lundell 07.17.07 at 6:57 pm

Shortening is almost always a good strategy. If you like the original well enough, I’d just edit it a bit.

Research in the Trenches:
The Nitty-Gritty of Empirical Social Science


Social Science in the Trenches:
The Nitty-Gritty of Empirical Research

Like other commenters, though, I wonder about “nitty-gritty”, so:

Empirical Social Science:
Research in the Trenches


Empirical Social Science:
Research from the Trenches


omicron 07.17.07 at 6:57 pm

14: I don’t know… I thought the book was about methods of collecting data, not the final product.


will 07.17.07 at 6:58 pm

I’ll put in “Social Science from the Trenches: Methods of Empirical Research” as my suggestion.


Bloix 07.17.07 at 7:14 pm

Boy, I was about to say some the same things that have already been said, but more politely. I wouldn’t say that “trenches” plus “nitty-gritty” make me wince, but I do think that they are overly cliched or colloquial. But the real problem is that the title doesn’t really convey what you want it to. This is in effect a self-help book. Go to the self-help section of borders to see how you need to title your book.

You need to appeal to the needs of your target readership. What do they fear? Making a mistake that invalidates their work. What is their hope? To produce a publishable product. What promise do you hold out? That you will save them time and effort and protect them from error. Your title has to convey all this in a reassuring manner.

So how about:

Doing Effective Social Science Research: Practical Lessons From Published Papers

Nice alliteration there, but maybe too obvious.


The Logistics of Social Science Research: Practical Lessons From Successful Projects


Social Science Research: A Practical Guide to Efficient, Effective Projects

You get the idea. Stay away from the cliches and the cutesy and go straight for the vulnerabilities of your readership. You wrote this book to help people. The title should let them know it.


nnyhav 07.17.07 at 7:30 pm

Empirically Fit: Strengthening Social Science through Tracking Field Research


Joel Turnipseed 07.17.07 at 7:31 pm

Like many here, I’d run quickly from your current title. While the the content/audience mix for this book is probably pretty-well circumscribed anyway, you can find a better title. (Though who am I to talk: the title of my first book sucked.)

One strategy I’d suggest is to read through your case-histories for something outlandish/funny, then use a serious subtitle. For instance, I’m thinking just now of Tom Wolfe’s old Harper’s essay on American social reality overcoming the possibilities of fiction. If he were writing a social science text, he might have titled it: “Stalking the Billion-Footed Soccer Mom: The Hard Realities of Empirical Social Science Research.”

Meanwhile: there are Crooked Timber coffee mugs? Where do I get one?


Bloix 07.17.07 at 7:33 pm

PS- maybe it’s because I know too much about the First World War, but I’ve always been allergic to “trenches” metaphors. The trenches were an extremely unpleasant place to be, and the people there generally accomplished little or nothing. You don’t want to make your readers feel that that’s where they are headed.


tom s. 07.17.07 at 7:39 pm

25 – Working for a software company that talks about software “on the front lines”, I am also allergic to military metaphors.


Joel Turnipseed 07.17.07 at 7:57 pm

Yes: trenches. You don’t want to dig those. Or fill sandbags or build bunkers or burn shit in a cut-off steel drum. No fun & certainly not something of which anyone wants to be reminded.


laura 07.17.07 at 8:02 pm

Instead of the nitty gritty subtitle how about using some funky research terminology. I can’t think of anything great right now. How about…

“Double Barrel Questions, Large N’s, and Random Samples”


radial 07.17.07 at 8:05 pm

How about Measuring the Real World:
The Nitty-Gritty of Empirical Social Science Research


super ju 07.17.07 at 8:52 pm

I love titles. Not that I’m good at making them up, but I love them. How about something like this:
“What Does It All Mean?” Social Science Research Methods for the Real World


Ingrid Robeyns 07.17.07 at 8:56 pm

I vote for #16,
_Doing Social Science: A Hands-On Guide to Research Methods_
Perhaps boring but seems to me very clear.

I also had slightly irritable reactions to “trenches” and “nitty gritty” –

Or perhaps put something with “practice” in the title, like “the practice of social science research methods” (without subtitle) (though I fear the publisher will veto that for being too boring! ;-)


Clay Shirky 07.17.07 at 9:06 pm

Agree with #2, above: drop the second ‘Research.’ The inclusion of ‘Empirical’ after the colon makes the point.


Wrongshore 07.17.07 at 9:18 pm

Methods, Examples and Advice for the Practice of Social Science Research


Bloix 07.17.07 at 9:39 pm

Rereading this, it seems to me that #16 and #30 are on to something. “Doing Social Science” has a nice meter (three trochees). But adding a final stressed syllable would make it really memorable:

Doing Social Science Right: A Practical Guide to Effective Methods From Researchers In The Field


Eszter 07.17.07 at 9:41 pm

Thanks for all the great feedback. Not surprisingly there is lots of contradicting advice.. some people like some of what’s there, others don’t like any of it, etc. Lots of food for thought, for sure, and some great suggestions, all of which is much appreciated!

I brought up the issue at lunch and fellow fellows had some good ideas as well. Their advantage in this discussion was that they got to ask me questions about the content and possibly got a better sense for what’s in the book. One point I may not have conveyed very well is that the chapters are mainly about the behind-the-scenes issues that happen, ones that never get written up in the perfect-looking final drafts we tend to send off to editors for review and how researchers have handled them.

People suggested use of the following words somehow, in line with some of the above recommendations:

Doing [insert what:)]
Tips and Tricks
Solving Problems
Behind the Scenes

Or full title ideas:
Getting it Done: Methods from the Trenches of Social Science Research
Beyond the Textbook: Research Methods in Real Social Science
What the Textbook Doesn’t Tell You: …


Matt Kuzma 07.17.07 at 10:00 pm

You may want to avoid the use of the term Nitty Gritty, since some people still remember the historical meaning of it and are turned-off by it, to say the least.


Bloix 07.17.07 at 10:26 pm

#36- you may be referring to the false etymology having to do with slave ships. No evidence of this. It’s more likely related to nits, meaning lice eggs – so getting down to the nitty-gritty means combing out the tiny lice eggs that adhere to hairs close to the scalp. I’ve cleaned heads of lice and I find this etymology pretty persuasive, but it may be false as well. In any event, the earliest written record is only 1956, and there’s absolutely no factual support for the very recent slave ship story.


vivian 07.18.07 at 12:30 am

I agree, skip the faux-folksy stuff. If you want a more collegial or intimate subtitle, perhaps something like “What your advisor should have shown you before turning you loose” or “advice on field research from people who still do it” or something similar.
More honest than “What the textbook doesn’t tell you” is “What your other textbook doesn’t tell you.” Or “Solutions to Common Problems Most Researchers Pretend They Never Had”
Inspired by an earlier thread: “Beyond autodidacticism: read this before attempting field research on your own”


P.D. 07.18.07 at 2:44 am

Given your clarification in 35, you might title it “The Part that isn’t Published: Methods for Empirical Social Science Research”

Or, to put my sarcastic hat back on, “Nitty-gritty trenches outside the box: New paradigms for synchronicity in social science research”


R Hayes 07.18.07 at 3:03 am

Nitty-Gritty Social Science: A Casebook of Empirical Research Methods


clew 07.18.07 at 4:01 am

I liked 28. If there are any handwaving cool-stuff terms that everyone feels they are already supposed to understand, list them — if you explain them, of course.


David 07.18.07 at 4:17 am

At Ground Level:
The Actual Conduct of Social Science Research


Martin L Martens 07.18.07 at 4:21 am

Research Methods at the Vanguard: The Cutting-Edge of Empirical Social Science Research

Research Methods at the Cutting-Edge: The Front Lines of Empirical Social Science Research

Digging for Data at the Front Lines: The Vanguard of Empirical Social Science Research


Doug 07.18.07 at 7:53 am

The Nitty Gritty Error Band and Other Practical Points of Social Science

As an ex-bookseller, I’d echo the point above about self-help books. Consider the audience first. What will grab their attention? Why should someone buy this book? If you want to be really mercenary about it, make a promise of some sort in the title or subtitle. For example: Avoiding Oops – The Seven (or Twelve or whatever) Things Nobody Tells You About Social Science. That’s two promises for an especially titillating title.


Ben Saunders 07.18.07 at 8:26 am

Simple version: I’d go with removing the second ‘Research’.

But, to be honest, I echo #4, 8, etc in having serious reservations about the whole thing – I’ll get back to you if I come up with anything better…


mollymooly 07.18.07 at 9:30 am

1000 Social Science Research Methods to Use Before You Die


aaron_m 07.18.07 at 10:12 am

Trench warfare is a static form of battle where opposing sides are fixed and using the same methods. Your book sounds like it is about dynamic warfare.

Methods out of the Trenches: Diversity in the Practice of Empirical Social Science

The “out” gives trenches a double meaning. Trenches indicates both that your book is about the actual business of social science research, but also that methods must be increasingly dynamic.

Too subtle maybe.


Chris Williams 07.18.07 at 10:33 am

Lose the trenches – social science research can be difficult, but I’d take it over being shelled and living in shit. ‘Coalface’ if you must.

NB – trench warfare, though dangerous, was considerably less dangerous than open warfare in 1914-18. Casualty rates on the Western Front were highest at either end of the war.


abb1 07.18.07 at 11:56 am

I say keep the trenches and add something like ‘rapid fire’ or something.

Carpet Bombing of Empirical Social Science Research. Now, that’s exciting, I’d buy it.


abb1 07.18.07 at 11:58 am

Empirical Social Science in the Crosshairs.


W.P. Fleischmann 07.18.07 at 12:32 pm

Per (8), Research Methods: The Nitty-Gritty of Empirical Social Science


mollymooly 07.18.07 at 12:55 pm

How about something like “A Social Science Cookbook: Recipes from successful research projects”. Cliché of O’Reilly computer books, but fresh and original in the humanities.


abb1 07.18.07 at 1:12 pm

‘dissected and demystified’


abb1 07.18.07 at 1:17 pm

‘dismembered and reassembled’


Bloix 07.18.07 at 1:35 pm

#48- “coalface” is entirely English. I was at a meeting in California last week with an Englishman who said “at the coalface” three times over two hours and based on their faces a number of people in the room had no idea what he was talking about.


engels 07.18.07 at 1:46 pm

In the Line of Duty: Stirring Tales of Courage, Sacrifice and Statistics from the Social Science Theatre of War


engels 07.18.07 at 1:53 pm

You Can’t Handle the Truth! Shocking Reportage from an Embedded Social Scientist


aaron_m 07.18.07 at 1:53 pm

The Thin Black Lines: Every social scientist fights her own data set

Way too subtle?


abb1 07.18.07 at 1:56 pm

The Research To End All Researches, The Method To End All Methods.


abb1 07.18.07 at 2:02 pm

‘Shell-shock’ would be a great word to use in the title.

But I think maybe I’m getting carried away.


engels 07.18.07 at 2:17 pm

Lies and the Lying Social Scientists who Tell Them: Why Everything You Thought You Knew about Empirical Social Research is Wrong


Chris Williams 07.18.07 at 2:29 pm

“Sidewalk Social Scientists Don’t Get No Satisfaction”


homechef 07.18.07 at 4:56 pm

“The Joy of Social Science Research: Methods for a New Millenium”


dearieme 07.18.07 at 5:00 pm

Data is the Plural of Bollock: Social Science Revealed.


John G. Fought 07.18.07 at 6:03 pm

My suggestion is

Empirical Methods of Social Science Research:
Views from the Trenches

Whatever you pick, be sure to tell us how to get a copy.


Ingrid Robeyns 07.18.07 at 7:31 pm

#61 evoked the following:

_What research method textbooks don’t teach_

or perhaps

_What research method textbooks should teach_

but I guess that’s too much on the popular tour…

Sometimes the editors of the publishing company have great suggestions too – did s/he make any?


Jeff 07.19.07 at 12:01 am

Parameters and Outliers: Social Science Research Confidential (What They Don’t Want You to Know)


Eszter 07.19.07 at 1:00 am

Some great additional suggestions here, wow, I’m officially overwhelmed. (Also some silly ones, but most made me smile so thanks.)

Ingrid, yes, I’m in touch with my editor. She thought it was a good idea to post about it here. I look forward to discussing the options with her.

It’s very interesting to see how many people have a problem with either trenches or nitty-gritty or both, while others are clearly supportive of it having left it in their suggestions. Yikes.


peli 07.19.07 at 2:50 am

You have enough suggestions on title– just wanted to say that I think this is a great book idea, and I will look for it when it comes out.


Peter Macy 07.19.07 at 3:01 am

How to do social science research

Maybe slightly boring, but it’s the simplest way of saying what the book is about, and sounds appropriately ambitious. And you get points for not having a subtitle.

Trenches is ok, but nitty-gritty sounds very odd to me.


veblen 07.19.07 at 10:35 am

How about:

How to Stop Worrying about Methods: The Social Scientist Guide to (Almost Irrefutable) Significant Results

since methodology is by far the #1 criticism of any research, regardless of whether you have any substantive knowledge about the topic.

This from the experience of a grad student watching professors and senior grad students give would-be assistant professors hell during job interviews. When all else fails to unnerve the would-be candidate, attacking the methodology always works.

I’d totally get the book!


Efren 07.19.07 at 11:44 am

How about either of the following:

A Method To The Madness:
Challenges and Opportunities in Social Science Research

Inquirers Want to Know:
The Promise and Perils of Social Science Research


Ben Saunders 07.19.07 at 3:19 pm

What the Didn’t Tell You in Grad School: The Reality of Social Science Research
(or put the two bits the other way round, I’m not sure)


Ben Saunders 07.19.07 at 3:20 pm

Should be ‘*they* didn’t tell…’ of course.


asm 07.21.07 at 12:42 am

I am sure this event has been a while in the making (Congratulations, Eszter :)).

We have been asked this question exactly ten days after the Day of the Seven Wonders. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Readers, I believe this is part of the Grand Plan. A decision was taken to post this after 10 whole days exactly had passed after the Day of the Seven Wonders. The Day of the Seven Wonders, readers will recall, was 07/07/07, and was the date the Provider chose to provide us the names of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Praise be to the Provider who profits from this. His profits are richly deserved, and His approach to sociological research unassailably scientific indeed!

For the title, may I suggest the tongue-in-cheek “The New Wonders of Empirical Social Science Research : Research Methods from the Trenches“?

Hat tip to lville at #2. I would suggest “Hairy Potters and Well-groomed Netizens” if this were not a serious request. Truly, I tell you – the End is Nigh.

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