Friday September 13, 2013
In the past week Raquel Rolnik, a UN special rapporteur (what a great job title!) has released her findings on housing in the UK. High on her agenda was the so called ‘bedroom tax ’ which she says should be suspended immediately and re-evaluated.
It is a controversial policy here in the UK and understandably her comments were seized on by both sides in the debate. But this blog isn’t about the rights and wrongs of the policy. It’s about the basis of making an argument.
The Guardian reported that the UK Government Department for Work and Pensions was ‘both defensive and dismissive’ in its statement on her findings. A key criticism, they reported, was that her report was ‘insubstantial’, and ‘drawn from anecdotal evidence and conversations after a handful of meetings’.
I read this and thought ‘surely not’. But, having checked her statement online there is a noticeable lack of evidence generated through robust research. To be fair, she calls her work an ‘assessment’ rather than research. But how can you assess something without doing research and how can you do research without a methodology?
Research methodology is top of mind with us at the moment as many of our CIPR PR Diploma students are working on their final assignment - research projects which involve devising an appropriate research methodology, explaining and justifying their approach.
Anyone who questions what this has to do with PR only has to look at the example of Raquel Rolnik’s report. For me, her findings fall down because there is no real explanation of how they were arrived at. It could well be that there was a methodology here. Interviews, conversations, meetings can all be part of a valid research approach – but if you don’t explain that then you are open to challenge.
If you want to present a case and make an argument you need some research to back it up and that research needs to be the result of a strong methodology. If it isn’t, you can’t really blame people for not taking you seriously.