The Routledge Companion to Military Research Methods: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Routledge Companion to Military Research Methods

1st Edition

Edited by Alison J. Williams, Neil Jenkings, Rachel Woodward, Matthew F. Rech


432 pages

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pub: 2016-05-12
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This new handbook is about the practices of conducting research on military issues. 

As an edited collection, it brings together an extensive group of authors from a range of disciplinary perspectives whose chapters engage with the conceptual, practical and political questions raised when doing military research.  The book considers a wide range of questions around research about, on and with military organisations, personnel and activities, from diverse starting-points across the social sciences, arts and humanities.

Each chapter in this volume:

  • Describes the nature of the military research topic under scrutiny and explains what research practices were undertaken and why. 
  • Discusses the author's research activities, addressing the nature of their engagement with their subjects and explaining how the method or approach under scrutiny was distinctive because of the military context or subject of the research. 
  • Reflects on the author’s research experiences, and the specific, often unique, negotiations with the politics and practices of military institutions and military personnel before, during and after their research fieldwork. 

The book provides a focussed overview of methodological approaches to critical studies of military personnel and institutions, and processes and practices of militarisation and militarism.  In particular, it engages with the growth in qualitative approaches to military research, particularly research carried out on military topics outside military research institutions. The handbook provides the reader with a comprehensive guide to how critical military research is being undertaken by social scientists and humanities scholars today, and sets out suggestions for future approaches to military research. 

This book will be of much interest to students of military studies, war and conflict studies, and research methods in general.


‘In the face of increasing conflict and growing security and defence threats, social scientists today are increasingly interested in the armed forces. Drawing together leading scholars in the field, this volume dissects the distinctive methodological challenges which attend military research. It will be required reading for any scholar interested in researching the armed forces.’-- Anthony King, Warwick University, UK

Table of Contents

  1. An Introduction to Military Research Methods, Matthew F. Rech, K. Neil Jenkings, Alison J. Williams & Rachel Woodward
  2. SECTION 1: Texts

  3. Reflections on Research in Military Archives, Matthew Farish
  4. From Declassified Documents to Redacted Files: Tracing Military Compensation, Emily Gilbert
  5. Biography and the military archive, Isla Forsyth
  6. Analysing Newspapers: Considering the use of print media sources in military research, K. Neil Jenkings & Daniel Bos
  7. The uses of military memoirs in military research, Rachel Woodward & K. Neil Jenkings
  8. A Military Definition of Reality: Researching Literature and Militarization, John Beck
  9. Archaeological Approaches to the Study of Recent Warfare, John Schofield & Wayne Cocroft
  10. SECTION 2: Interactions

  11. Comparing Militaries: The Challenges of Datasets and Process-Tracing, Jocelyn Mawdsley
  12. Conducting ‘Community Orientated’ Military Research, Ross McGarry
  13. Ethnography in Conflict Zones: The Perils of Researching Private Security Contractors, Amanda Chisholm
  14. Researching Proscribed Armed Groups: Interviewing Loyalist and Republican Paramilitaries in Northern Ireland, Neil Ferguson
  15. Psychoanalytically-informed Reflexive Research with Service Spouses, Sue Jervis
  16. Ethnomethodology, Conversation Analysis and the Study of Action-in-Interaction in Military Settings, Christopher Elsey, Michael Mair, Paul V. Smith, Patrick G. Watson
  17. Researching Normativity and Non-Normativity in Military Organizations, Aaron Belkin
  18. SECTION 3: Experiences

  19. The Aesthetic of Being in the Field: Participant Observation with Infantry, John Hockey
  20. Ethnography and the Embodied Life of War-making, Ken MacLeish
  21. Biting the Bullet: my time with the British Army, Vron Ware
  22. Researching Military Men, Stephen Atherton
  23. Putting ‘Insider-ness’ to Work: Researching Identity Narratives of Career Soldiers about to Leave the Army, David Walker
  24. Researching at military airshows: a dialogue about ethnography and autoethnography, Matthew F. Rech & Alison J. Williams
  25. Perceptions of past conflict: researching modern understandings of historic battlefields, Justin Sikora
  26. SECTION 4 - Senses

  27. Researching the visual and material cultures of war and conflict, Jane Tynan
  28. Studying Military Image Banks: A Social Semiotic Approach, Ian Roderick
  29. Critical methodologies for researching military-themed videogames, Daniel Bos
  30. Photo-elicitation and military research, K. Neil Jenkings, Ann Murphy & Rachel Woodward
  31. Visualising the Invisible: Artistic Methods Toward Military Airspaces, Matthew Flintham
  32. Taking Leave: art and closure, Gair Dunlop
  33. Overt Research – fieldwork and transparency, Neal White & Steve Rowell
  34. The Audible Cold War, Louise K. Wilson

About the Editors

Alison J. Williams is Senior Lecturer in Political Geography in the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology at Newcastle University, UK. She is co-editor of From Above: war, violence and verticality (2013) and co-author of The Value of the University Armed Service Units (2015).

K. Neil Jenkings is Senior Research Associate in the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology at Newcastle University, UK. He is the author/editor of numerous titles, including most recently The Value of the University Armed Service Units (co-author, 2015) .

Matthew F. Rech is Lecturer in Human Geography in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental sciences at Plymouth University, UK. His research engages with everyday militarism and popular culture, particularly in the British context.

Rachel Woodward is Professor of Human Geography in the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology at Newcastle University, UK. She is the author of Military Geographies (2004) and co-author of Sexing the Soldier (Routledge, 2007).

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Military / General
HISTORY / Military / Strategy
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / International Security