By Jennifer Platt
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Extra resources for Social Research in Bethnal Green: An evaluation of the work of the Institute of Community Studies
This gives it a certain ambivalence, and perhaps means that each subject is treated less fully than it otherwise might have been. Several samples were used: a general sample of 933 adults in Bethnal Green, drawn from the Electoral Register, and interviewed with short factual schedules by hired interviewers; a 'marriage sample' of 45 couples with two or more children under 15, drawn from the general sample, and interviewed at greater length and with a much less structured schedule by the researchers themselves and a colleague; and a similar 'marriage sample' of 4 7 couples interviewed in the same way, drawn from former inhabitants of Bethnal Green who had moved to Greenleigh.
Apart from the question of how representative Bethnal Green is, this prevents consideration of whether it might not be better to change Bethnal Green rather than public policy. This question is particularly hard to avoid when the problems of old men in retirement are being discussed. That old men should cease to be respected within their own families when they lose the status of wageearners suggests to me that it would be desirable to change the values of the family rather than to invent artificial ways of keeping the old men earning wages - especially when even the most uneconomic schemes would still be beyond the physical capacity of many.
Attractive as the idea is of involving far more people in research, some of them given special ad hoc training courses to equip them for it, this does seem likely to generate a lot of rather poor research. The more there is, the harder it is for anyone to keep up with it all and sort out the good from the bad; and so the more likely it is that much will remain uncriticised, and that the natural affection for one's own results and interpretations will lead to a confusion of conflicting views rather than an emergent consensus.