Lessons from 'The Wire': Epistemological Reflections on the Practice of Sociological Research

Matthew Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Recent debates and controversies have highlighted several issues surrounding sociological research, which relate to the general conditions under which it is undertaken and how this is changing. There is a pressing need to respond to these issues as a whole, in particular by examining what they tell us about research practices. This article argues that a consideration of themes raised by the American television drama The Wire is useful for facilitating such a response, since it may be read as a discussion of working conditions within neoliberal societies. The following themes are pertinent here: the need to reflect upon the terms by which research is framed by funders, to take adequate time to conduct and complete research, and to encourage critical debate within research. Whilst these relate to influential epistemological discussions by Pierre Bourdieu and Michael Burawoy, this reading of The Wire is particularly helpful for highlighting the practical and inter-relational situations in which sociological research is carried out but which tend not to receive the systematic attention they deserve.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)742-759
JournalSociological Review
Issue number4
Early online date23 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014


  • Epistemology
  • Social research


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