This chapter sets the context by defining basic terms, and describes the size and structure of what might be called the UK social research industry and by setting out the legal framework in which social researchers operate. Academics may receive direct financial support or, more likely, indirect support from their higher education institutions. In addition to the many academics and university departments undertaking social research, suppliers include many of the large market research companies and large private consultancy firms. Research, like any activity of human endeavour, is conducted within a legal and ethical framework. Major aims of legislation in liberal Western democracies are to protect human rights and to promote equality of opportunity, and these aims are as relevant when undertaking research as in any other aspect of life. The Freedom of Information Act places an obligation on public bodies to make information available. The chapter also presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book.