Principles of Sociological Inquiry – Qualitative and Quantitative Methods
Amy Blackstone, University of Maine
ISBN 13: 978-1-4533288-9-7
Publisher: Saylor Foundation
Conditions of Use
This review considers this book's usefulness for a political science qualitative methods course. Political science programs typically require only read more
This review considers this book's usefulness for a political science qualitative methods course. Political science programs typically require only quantitative methods training, therefore I am approaching this text with a distinct student population in mind--one that is not the original intended audience. The book is most comprehensive on questions of data gathering and research ethics. Blackstone quickly runs through research design and philosophy of social science questions. Chapters 6 and 7, on measurement and sampling, respectively, are useful reference points. Chapters 8 through 12 introduce approaches to gathering data--surveys, interviews, field research, content analysis, and, briefly, focus groups and experiments. These chapters explain the advantages and disadvantages of each approach, tips for using each approach, and a very brief note on analysis. Students would need additional readings, exercises, and exposure to software before analyzing any data they collect. As a text covering both qualitative and quantitative methods, the book is a useful primer with a pragmatic approach to choice of methods (what does your question require?). Blackstone treats quantitative and qualitative methods in parallel, and convincingly construes them as complementary approaches. Chapters on sampling, interviews, and content analysis (under "unobtrusive methods"), for example, consider qualitative and quantitative methods in turn. Students with quantitative methods training may find this reassuring, as the book draws connections between the familiar and the unfamiliar. Much of the book is applicable across the social sciences, though the discussion of levels of analysis, prominent theories, and library research tools are specific to sociology, as are example research questions. Instructors might supply, or ask students to come up with, examples suitable to political science. Sociology does not typically refer to "puzzles", so political science instructors would need to introduce that in other course materials. There is no index or glossary.
Like other reviewers, I have some concerns about terminology, such as in the discussion of paradigms and theories in the earlier chapters.
I was struck that gender remains male/masculine, female/feminine, or "other, though. This is an outdated approach, both within and beyond the academy. Blackstone uses some contemporary (ish) examples, such as the Brangelina phenomenon, but she explains them well enough to keep readers on board. Links out to videos and cartoons are an excellent idea, but some links are already dead (for example, in section 10.1 there is a dead link to a cartoon: Cotham, F. (2003, September 1). Two barbarians and a professor of barbarian studies. The New Yorker. Retrieved from http://www.cartoonbank.com/2003/two-barbarians-and-a-professor-of-barbarian-studies/invt/126562 )
This book is concise and easy to read. Blackstone uses clear, unpretentious language. In the online interface, readers can hover over bolded technical terms to see a quick definition.
I have no concerns here.
The chapters and sections lend themselves to easy rearrangement. For example, I plan to use chapter 15 (Research Methods in the Real World) belongs at the beginning of a course. I am also incorporating sections of chapters into my online course. I find it helpful that each section of a chapter comes with its own learning objectives, key take aways, and exercises. Sections are clearly labeled, and the linked table of contents makes it easy to send students straight to a section of interest.
The chapters lead students from basic terminology to research design, on to data gathering, and then to possible uses of both research and newly acquired skills. I appreciate the early chapter on research ethics, prior to questions of research design. Within each chapter, there are several sections of a manageable length. Each section opens with learning objectives, and closes with "key take aways" in a green box and "exercises" in a blue box.
The online interface is extremely simple. The most consistent navigation tool is a link to the Table of Contents, top and center of the interface. The additional navigation tools, though, vary somewhat. In some chapters, a reader can navigate to the next section (of that chapter); in other chapters, a similarly placed link allows the reader to navigate to the next chapter only. I found this inconsistency mildly troublesome, and quickly decided to rely on the ToC for moving between chapters and sections. I notice that the PDF has unfortunately placed page breaks--some tables sit across two pages. The PDF also lacks a table of contents.
Blackstone writes in a casual tone, often using informal constructions and technically incorrect but ordinary usages. I find this inoffensive, and suspect that students will too. I noticed just one typographical error substantial enough to confuse a reader.
The text includes examples referring to gender roles, people of color, urban and rural contexts. As mentioned above, the use of male/female/other categories for gender is problematic, and hopefully would be addressed in any updates.
Citations are oddly inserted into sentences. Immediately following each regular in-text parenthetical citation, there is also a full (works cited list) citation, right there in the text. This is distracting.
This book covers all of the important concepts in an introductory research methods text. Some of the more advanced concepts (e.g. types of validity read more
This book covers all of the important concepts in an introductory research methods text. Some of the more advanced concepts (e.g. types of validity and reliability) are cut out of this textbook, which is a choice I understand. Students are often overwhelmed by the more advanced concepts within a chapter. This book does a great job of focusing on the important parts of each concept.
The content inside the book is accurate. Definitions of key research concepts are explained correctly and clearly.
This book is relevant well outside of its own discipline of sociology. Additionally, the research used for examples is generally from the last few years. While those examples would need to be updated as time moves forward, the core content will remain relevant for decades.
The language used to write this research textbook is the best I have seen so far in my career as a research methods instructor. Students are often put off by research language, and the author does an excellent job of avoiding jargon and making her language plain.
The framework of the book is perhaps its greatest strength. The author has framed research concepts within the proper epistemological and ontological frameworks, which allows her even-handed treatment of qualitative and quantitative methods to cohere well within each section.
This is a highly modular book. Chapters are subdivided into smaller subsections, so they can be easily assigned and rearranged by professors teaching from the text. Because the pages are hosted in HTML format, students can follow links to each chapter and subsection, rather than scrolling through a long PDF.
Organization is remarkably clear throughout. Each chapter flows conceptually into the next.
I had problems with almost all of the graphics used in this textbook. They are referenced in the text and are often integral to understanding concepts as presented. This happened in both the HTML and PDF versions of the text. In spite of those issues, the overall ease of navigation was strong.
No grammar errors noted .
Culturally inclusive language is used throughout the text.
What is perhaps most promising about this text is that it is hosted on GitHub. Any professor who wanted to adapt this text for their discipline or make changes can easily do so using an HTML editor and GitHub. Additionally, the author does a fantastic job of putting qualitative and quantitative research on equal footing, rather than relegating qualitative research to one or two chapters.
There is no index or glossary. The chapter on theory provides many useful explanations, but never focuses on the question of what theory or why it read more
There is no index or glossary. The chapter on theory provides many useful explanations, but never focuses on the question of what theory or why it is an important part of sociological research. The chapter on research ethics is better. though in discussing the issue of confidentiality it is important to mention that not all researchers promise confidentiality (see Mitch Duneier's "Sidewalk", for example) and that this is a controversial issue in research given the fact that some research participants would prefer their identities to be known. It would also be helpful to explain more about the IRB process and to talk about recent examples of research fraud and the replicability crisis. The discussion of sociological questions uses language different from what most sociologists use, contrasting empirical questions to ethical--rather than normative--ones. Ethics, to me, are a subset of normative issues, not synonymous with them. However, the section on what makes a good question is very strong, though it never points out the importance of having a NEW question. In discussing the literature review process, the book focuses insufficient attention on the parts of the article important to reviewing literature--students following the author's advice are likely to turn in literature reviews focused on methods and limitations rather than findings. The section on conceptualization is very good, and more thorough than in many texts. However, the discussion of operationalization is weaker, not giving students the foundation they need to really struggle through what many believe is the hardest part of the research methods curriculum. It would be useful to mention binary variables. The discussion of sampling does not address appropriate sample size, margins of error, etc. The discussion of study design (cross-sectional, longitudinal, etc.) appears inside the survey research chapter, making it appear as if study design is not an important criterion in other sorts of research. But the discussion of survey question design is great. The chapters on individual methods of data collection are generally stronger, though the chapter on unobtrusive measures would benefit from more attention to archival research. Also, the discussion of experiments would benefit from more attention both to the benefits of experiments for studying causality and the ethical issues that experiments raise. The chapter on sharing work should say more about the structure and format of articles and should contain a section on writing research proposals, as that is a key element of many research methods courses. If this text were used in a one-semester research methods course, it probably has too little on data analysis; if it is used in the first semester of a two-semester course where analysis is covered separately, then the coverage of many topics seems a bit superficial.
In general, the content is accurate and unbiased, but there are a few exceptions. Many research methods instructors and textbooks would take issue with the way reliability and validity are defined here and the examples provided. The author also ought to present MUCH more in the way of cautions around convenience samples. The text also does not seem to understand the difference between a phone survey and an interview--but given the closed-ended (and machine-administered) nature of many contemporary phone surveys, there is a big difference. It also seems odd that focus groups are shunted off to a different chapter rather than treated as a kind of interview.
The discussion of measurement of gender, on page 71, seems to be a bit out-of-date--most scholars of gender now would suggest that just adding "other" to male and female is insufficient. The most recent examples seem to come from about 2011, with more clustered between 2008 and 2010. While I absolutely agree that we should not have new editions just to have new editions, there does come a time when books begin to seem out of date. A couple of years from now, these examples will be from when our students were in middle school--so I hope there is a plan to update the book by then. Examples, though, would generally seem relevant to students, and I like the examples from student work throughout the book (I do hope the author had permission to use them).
There are several instances in which the author uses terminology different from that typically used in research methods texts and courses. I wouldn't say the terminology is inaccurate, exactly, but it would require a major adjustment among instructors to adapt to using language consistent with the text. Otherwise, the writing is generally clear and terms are defined as needed.
There are some issues with internal consistency. For example, Table 2.1 on page 17 lays out four theoretical paradigms; table 2.2 on page 18 applies these paradigms to the sociology of sport, but it leaves one of them out with no explanation--these seem like editing problems more than authorial ones, though.
Many sections of the book are self-referential, which would make it hard to fully reorganize the text. This is especially notable in the section on reading research articles in chapter 15, which many instructors would want to use along with material from early in the text about the literature review process. Subsections are clearly marked with subheadings, but the format of the book would make it more difficult to locate, find, and separately assign these subsections.
The text does seem to jump around quite a bit--the section on how to read research results occurs long after students are introduced to reading articles, for instance. In the chapters on different research methods, the discussion of strengths and weaknesses comes before students are fully introduced to those methods. And the lack of detailed table of contents or chapter summaries at the beginning of chapters makes it harder to follow the flow of the book.
The text does not have a cover page or a table of contents. The pagination is not very well done--tables break across pages in the middle of rows, for example. Similarly, headings sometimes occur at the end of pages, with the text on a subsequent page. Fonts sometimes seem to change sizes, particularly for endnote references and and table titles referred to in the text (and endnote numbers are not clickable, which seems unfortunate in an electronic text). A number of links referred to in the text are broken. It would be helpful to have a detailed table of contents laying out chapter subsections. Some keywords appear in bold and others do not. There are editing errors, typos, spaces missing after periods, etc. Many figures are indicated but are missing (for example, diagrams of inductive and deductive research processes are mentioned, but they do not appear in the text--this is a really bad omission). Generally, this text does not make use of any of the features which would be beneficial in an online text, but yet is not set up to be a well-designed print text.
Other than typos, as referenced in the interface section, I noted no issue with grammar or writing.
I did not notice anything which was culturally insensitive of offensive. Examples were generally appropriate, though primarily focused on American sociology. Given the author's scholarly focus as a sociologist of gender, work, and family, it should not be suprising that examples are more likely to relate to these areas, leaving issues of race, sexuality, ethnicity, immigration, language, religion, disability, etc. to have much lesser coverage. Given that this is a research methods course, this may not be a primary concern for many instructors, but those teaching in very diverse institutions may want to think about whether the text has sufficient relevance to their students' backgrounds, concerns, and experiences. I would also point out here that the text does seem to assume a traditionally-aged residential classroom composition, not the norm for many of us.
The text includes suggested exercises, but these are not really exercises. Some are discussion questions, others suggest students "check out" links or view images which are not contained within the text (no link given). I do not recommend instructors use this text unless they really have no other adequate alternatives--the lack of appropriate visuals, editing errors, etc. make it easy for students accustomed to higher-quality resources to dismiss it, and you'd be just as well off using a collection of websites as this.
This text's comprehensiveness, in combination with simple language suited to first exposure to the topic, is one of the chief strengths of the book. read more
This text's comprehensiveness, in combination with simple language suited to first exposure to the topic, is one of the chief strengths of the book. However, community-based participatory action research methods were not included in this text, thus reducing its utility for the social work discipline. I especially liked the linked in-text definitions, which provide an easy-to-use glossary to enhance reading comprehension for undergraduates.
The text is accurate and unbiased for its discipline. For optimal utility in social work teaching, the text would need to be used with a companion file using social work examples, including social justice-focused research using community-based participatory action methods. These methods were not included in this text.
Relevance/longevity of content is one of the main objectives of this textbook. For social work, chapters 14 “Reading and Understanding Social Research” and 15 “Research Methods in the Real World”, are the most directly relevant since, as a profession, we do applied research.
Its simple language makes it accessible to most undergraduates, and the in-text "drop-down" definitions provide adequate support to allow comprehension of technical terminology.
The content was internally consistent, and sufficient aids were provided in tables and headings/subheadings to promote consistency.
Tie-ins to earlier material, tables, and headings/subheadings made the text easily divisible into smaller reading sections and discrete modules for instructor use.
Accessibility is one off the main objectives of this text. It succeeded in reaching this objective, through logical and clear organization, structure, and flow, including many connectors to earlier concepts.
The online version had greater interface than the pdf version, but both were useable.
I did not see any grammatical errors.
Cultural diversity is discussed within the context of the social constructivist theoretical perspective. Measurement and study examples which focus on cultural differences are presented throughout, making this text particularly syntonic with social work values. The text makes use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.
With a companion portfolio of materials on community-based participatory action methods and social justice-focused research examples, this text would be suitable to use in an undergraduate social work research course.
Text is comprehensive in two senses: it covers what is standard in Research Methods texts and it serves the author’s focus on teaching research read more
Text is comprehensive in two senses: it covers what is standard in Research Methods texts and it serves the author’s focus on teaching research design/methods to prepare students for undertaking a research project (or doing a research proposal). Late in the book (159) is review of 6 key “diagnostic” questions on a research project: Why? How? For whom? What conclusions can I draw? Knowing what I know now, what would I do differently? How could the research be improved? These are diagnostic questions, to ask at the end of a project (and could be used as guidelines that reflect a grading rubric). Missing for me at the start are: a) flow-chart that would list of the steps in doing a project, roughly: 1. Turning an interest into a research question, 2. Design the research, 3. Choosing appropriate methods, 4. Collecting Data, 5. Summarizing/Synthesizing, 6. Write up a report & b) a look-forward to the last chapters including the 6 key “diagnostic” questions that says what you will learn from the book I like that the text conveys to students a sense of agency – if you learn methods, you can design/do research. I like section 13.3 which suggests that sociologists write for both academic or public audiences. The author comes to the writing having done both academic and public sociology – that adds a engaging perspective lacking from mainstream texts (Babbie, Schutt) Great ! On that point, a special feature of the text is the final chapter (Research Methods in the Real World) that gives a rationale for the benefits/payoffs of studying sociology: getting a job/building a career, being a judge of research reported in the media. One regret is that too little is said of the payoff having sociological research skills (surveys, statistical training) for doing environmental stewardship and public citizenship I used the pdf and think most students will not be logged on while reading the text. It does not provide a Table of Contents, glossary, or an index. Adding them would make much easier to use the book. BTW Table 15.1 "Transferable Skills Featured in This Text" could be redone as a TofContents.
There are many strong chapters (measurement, survey methods, fieldwork plus other qualitative methods that are sometimes left out) and well-written sections (conceptualization, operationalization) But I found Ch 2 Linking Theory with Methods confusing. The setup says it will cover “connections between paradigms, social theories, and social scientific research methods. We’ll also consider how one’s analytic, paradigmatic, and theoretical perspective might shape or be shaped by her or his methodological choices” Then: “While paradigms may point us in a particular direction with respect to our “why” questions, theories more specifically map out the explanation, or the “how,” behind the “why.” We go from 4 paradigms to 3 theoretical perspectives in a chart of examples on sport – these are illustrated but not well-explained. I like the treatment of styles of doing research in Charles Ragin, Constructing Social Research I found discussion of micro-, meso-, and macro confusing. One study question asks: “Identify and distinguish between micro-, meso-, and macrolevel considerations with respect to the ethical conduct of social scientific research” Hard to answer based on text I think that the terms “nomothetic” and “ideographic” are not well-defined nor is the link btw causality and tests of hypotheses well-explained. The matter of “falsifiability” is not discussed In my view, most confusing chapter. Text lacks a discussion of control in the section on experimental design Might ask students what prior knowledge of experiments they got before coming into the course I believe there is confusion about the roles of quantitative/qualitative in confirmation vs contextualization (p56) Multi-methods folks sometimes use “theoretical” sampling to assemble focus groups to clarify (more than contextualize) survey responses from subgroups One small error: Rik Scarce studied radical environmental movement, not animal rights
Up-to-date and easily updated
Here the book shines. Major strengths: clear writing, engaging research examples, easy-to-understand tables, plus provides Learning objectives/Takeaways that encourage preview and review by students Re use of jargon/technical terminology – Add glossary
Internally consistent – enhanced by “look-back” devices such as Table 15.1 "Transferable Skills Featured in This Text"
High modularity both of chapters: Easy to re-arrange the order to fit different instructor’s styles and of entries: Short and crisp – can be read in a short sitting. As written, allows instructors to insert other examples/illustrations or remove sections that are less central (eg Conversation Analysis) The inclusion of links to YouTube and other media (Colbert interview with Sudhir Venketash) is a very important feature that allows instructors to have students preview at home & review in class for discussion .... The book opens way to using resources outside of it
I might introduce What is Sociology? ahead of Ethics – but that option is open to an adopter of the book
Online and pdf versions differ – While most links work in pdf, it does not include some Figures, Table of Contents
No objections to author’s usage. Some sentences are truncated. (p55)
In my view, not culturally insensitive or offensive. However, the book has a bias in that it reflects Armstrong’s research on women’s movements & sexual harassment. Few examples address race, ethnicity, class – These could be added for balance and reaching instructors who cover fields different from author.
I love how the book invites students to engage the topic by sharing examples of the topics offered by students in her course. A strong text that matches the organization of standard texts which replicate themselves from generation to generation. Hoping to go beyond them, I wish the text had more full-blown discussions of how sociologists write for different audiences as in Charles Ragin, Constructing Social Research and of how sociologists make inferences from data (which comes into some of the examples eg The Second Shift). Give a bit more on how to write up results
This text is comprehensive in scope and depth of content. The HTML version is extremely effective in helping the reader identify material as listed read more
This text is comprehensive in scope and depth of content. The HTML version is extremely effective in helping the reader identify material as listed in the ToC. The PDF and DOCx versions are difficult to manage and do not have an attached ToC.
This text was written by a professor who teaches this material in the higher ed setting. His expertise and familiarity with how to make this subject matter accessible is evident.
This text is covering both timeless, mainstream research methods relevant to all social and behavioral science professions, as well as newer methods common in post-modern research.
The layout makes the information very easy to access. The outline / section formatting "chunks" (breaks down into manageable form) information that is otherwise dry when assembled in the traditional narrative format.
Concepts build on each other, and consistent language is used throughout.
As I was reviewing clarity, its strength is its use of divided sections - very nicely done making the text easy to use.
Research methods has a natural flow to the way information builds on each other, and that is evident in this text.
Loved manuevering in HTML, but had preferred PDF so I could annotate. Wished that the ToC was in all formats.
Well edited; no issues with grammatical errors.
Sociology is by nature aware of contextual identities, and this is evident in the types of examples given.
Two main recommendations: 1. Please make the author's name visible 2. Please include the Table of Contents attached to all versions of the text. Thank you for a great resource!
I find the text to be very comprehensive. I think it covers most of the topics and subtopics one would expect to see in an undergraduate sociology read more
I find the text to be very comprehensive. I think it covers most of the topics and subtopics one would expect to see in an undergraduate sociology research methods text. However, within topics, this text may not cover details as comprehensively as some other texts out there (I describe the texts I am familiar with at the end of this review). Just as one example, in the survey research chapter (ch. 8), the author(s) point out that different methods of survey delivery (in person, online, etc.) have pros and cons, but these are not contrasted in any detail, particularly in terms of how they might influence response rates or allow (or not) for sufficient coverage of the sampling frame. However, for those instructors that incorporate a research project (such as developing a research proposal), the text covers elements of research planning, design, and development that are not necessarily well-covered in some other texts, an addition which I believe adds to the texts’ comprehensiveness. The final chapter (Research methods in the Real World) that connects research skills to possible career tracks and one’s role as an engaged citizen is excellent and is material that is often not present in these sorts of books, but should be.
My read suggests that this text is generally accurate. I was not aware of any instances of bias in the presentation of material (although as a white, women academic, I may be subject to the same biases as the author of the book!).
In thinking about the relevance/longevity of a research methods text, I would focus on: 1) examples used to illustrate key concepts; and 2) how up-to-date more rapidly changing topics are in terms of addressing areas of development (survey methods, sampling). This text utilizes examples (like illustrations from President Obama’s election), that may seem dated at some point. On the other hand, the topic on survey research accurately (see point 2, above) reflects the current state of knowledge about the relationship between survey response rates and the potential for bias. This is an area that has been changing rapidly, so keeping up with current state of knowledge will be important. In general, though the examples and cultural references are those most likely to date a text. There are such references in this text that may make students say “huh?” in just a few years.
In general, writing clarity is a strength of this text. Overall, the ideas are delivered in a very clear, understandable way. However, one element that detracted from clarity for me were embedded, full citations in the text. Throughout the book, when a particular research study is mentioned, the entire citation is embedded in the sentence, which was cumbersome to encounter as a reader. In addition, there are places where the clarity of the text falls apart (see point 10 in this rating for more). The embedded citations are cumbersome enough, that I think they detract substantially from clarity, which is reflected in my rating.
There is an inherent tradeoff in writing a text that utilizes hyperlinks and makes references to earlier sections or discussions and modularity, or the ability to use portions of the text in a stand-alone fashion. I do think it would be possible to use sections of the text, rather than the whole text, to support teaching in particular areas. There will be some references to material in previous chapters or sections that the student has not read, but many of the chapters could also stand on their own to support teaching of a particular topic in research methods.
The organization of ideas and subtopics adds to the overall clarity. Similar ideas are grouped together and hyperlinks back to earlier ideas in later sections reinforce the organization, which enhances the overall clarity of the text (see clarity, above).
The .pdf of the text does not contain a table of contents, which I found limiting in using the text. There is also no information about the author in the beginning of the document. The only way to get either of these pieces of information is in the open text web entry for this book. The text does contain a number of hyperlinks. While I did not try every link (not even close), my own attempt to use some of these found just a few that don’t work (e.g., the link at the bottom of p. 9). Most links, however, did connect as expected. There are also places within the text where the font changes—this is distracting.
There are regular writing errors in the text. For instance, in section 9.1, it looks like a sentence referencing Regis Filban (will anyone know who this is in a few years?) was cut off and lives as a fragment in the current version. In fact, this whole opening paragraph is not well-written. Similar problems are apparent in the opening paragraph of chapter 10.
In thinking about cultural relevance in a research methods text, I tried to think about the descriptions of research—what sorts of examples get used to illustrate particular techniques or problems, as well as depictions of what a methods student might look like. In terms of research examples, I think the text utilizes a fairly wide variety of examples, although studies focused on gender seemed more common than those investigating race/ethnicity or class, for example. I also noted one instance of depictions of methods students (p. 152, focus group chapter) that provided illustrations of research participants using names like “Sally,” “Joe” and “Ashley.” A more diverse set of names (Jose, Darnisha, etc.) in an instance like this might add to cultural relevance of the text.
? I have been regularly teaching undergraduate research methods since 2005, and I teach in both in-person and fully online formats. I have been using Schutt’s Investigating the Social World as my primary teaching text in these courses, and this is the book that was my implicit comparison as I read the Blackstone text. However, I am also familiar with Neuman’s text and had parts of that book in mind, as well, as I read this text. The strengths of the text include its coverage of how to construct research questions and research documents as well as how the skills developed in an undergraduate course might translate to life outside of higher education. Weaknesses include a still “rough” look to the final document and some topic areas where coverage might not be as detailed as one would like. Overall, a solid text that has the potential to make teaching research methods more affordable for students.
This textbook covers all of the research methods needed for an undergraduate level research methods course. I have specific concerns that I will read more
This textbook covers all of the research methods needed for an undergraduate level research methods course. I have specific concerns that I will address in the "accuracy" section, but overall I am pleased with this book. I have used it in one undergraduate methods course, so I have the benefit of reporting both my and my students concerns. However, as far as I could tell (and just in case I missed an update, I just downloaded the PDF from Saylor's Website just now), there is no glossary or index for this book. It would be great to have at least a glossary of terms, as there are quite a few! Given that this is one of the criteria for comprehensiveness, I do have to grade accordingly.
The author works very hard to diminish biases that are often found in Research Methods texts, and are taught in classes. Dr. Blackstone is no "Methods snob" -- she does the correct thing by telling students that it is the nature of research question that should drive one to use the method. This means that no method should be privileged just because the researcher(s) prefers it. As far as accurate and error free, this is where I have concerns. I'll address them one by one: (1) When discussing the micro-meso-macro level definitions and examples on page 13, the author muddles the concepts by suggesting that the meso-level is about studying groups, and the micro-level is more about individuals. Actually, micro-level scholars study groups, too. Accordingly, the author should use some definitions from the sociology of organizations literature, and define the meso-level as that which describes ORGANIZATIONS and the micro-level as potentially for SMALL GROUPS, such as dyads and triads. This issue is also found on page 14, first two full paragraphs. (2) In the "Sociological Theories" section starting on page 17, the author has some problems discussing what is and isn't theory. The problem, of course, is not the author's, but rather the fact that sociologists cannot agree on what is theory! Accordingly, there's a way to deal with this issue -- I recommend using Abend's (2008) typology for the 7 ways that sociologists discuss theory. For example, some would say that "symbolic interactionism" is NOT a theory, but rather a paradigm. So, the discussion of what a theory is and what a paradigm is gets muddled and confusing for students. Using the aforementioned typology will help sort this out. (3) In the section on IRB, page 25, the authors states that there are "human" and "non-human" sources of information, and that the "human" one refers to human subjects and the "non-human" one refers to data derived from humans, such as content analyses. However, there is a third possibility, and that is that "non-human" subjects are animals that are not homo sapiens. The IRB protocols for these subjects is a whole different ball of wax!! So, I would just use the terms "human" and "non-living" throughout. (4) On page 52, the terms "idiographic" and "nomothetic" are poorly defined, as well as throughout the text, and not well linked to the concepts of qualitative and quantitative research throughout the text, or to the concepts of deductive or inductive ways of knowing. I recommend a brief history of the concepts and a better way to connect all of these notions of the theory-data linkage. (5) In the section on causality, around page 54, I had many red flags. First, you simply cannot say that any qualitative method reveals causal relationships. This method is not designed for that! Qualitative research can suggest hypotheses, but it cannot reveal relationships. And, quite frankly, for other reasons, neither can quantitative methods! The author really must discuss the difference between causal theory and hypothesized relationships -- any test of a hypothesis can never be a perfect test of causation. Nomothetic theory can conceptualize it, but quantitative tests can never, ever completely capture causation. (6) When discussing hypotheses on page 59, hypotheses have two other qualities that are of utmost importance: (1) falsifiability and (2) repeatability. (7) On page 61, the use of the term "triangulation" is interesting. I realize that in the feminist literature that this is a way to describe multi-method studies, but it's confusing for students because triangulation is also a technique for qualitative studies to collect many points of view. I realize that this is problem with so many concepts in research methods -- take the term "control", for example. We have control variables, control conditions, experimental control -- just too many concepts that are different, but use the same word. Can we avoid this for yet another concept? (8) The section on Experiments is not great. First, "true experiments" are not ones with experiment and control conditions -- they are those that use random assignment. "Quasi-experiments", including those with just post-tests, are those without this technique. And yes, experimentalists have to deal with external validity, but the author writes the text as if they have never considered that or found ways to deal with it. That's simply not true. In general, I just don't use this section when I teach experiments. (9) I found the chapters on measurement and operationalization, survey methods, and qualitative methods to be first rate!
The content is up-to-date, and can be easily updated. However, I would like to see more examples of data collection using the Internet, social media, and other digital media.
I found the prose to be very accessible, and so did my students. The author does have a much more casual tone than other Research Methods books (for example, she uses "OK" a lot), but I like that, and so do my students. Methods is dry enough -- why not make the text more accessible and readable?
The text is very internally consistent. Dr. Blackstone correctly refers back to examples and concepts throughout the book.
I do think that the modularity is well done. In fact, I could easily assign chapters out of order. For instance, I always start my methods courses with ethics before we do anything else. That chapter stands alone very well, and can be assigned right away. Also, the chapter referring to "what is sociology" is somewhere around Chapter 4, but I just assign that next.
I would change the order of the topics, but this is just my style. Most Research Methods books follow the format of the author's, so that OK. However, Chapter 2's content on theory meanders a bit. I would reorganize it to start with paradigms, then theories, then the micro-meso-macro discussion.
We need a Table of Contents!!! And, throughout the text there are references to figures ... I looked in the back of the book, I downloaded it a couple of times to see if my computer was the problem, etc. No -- there are no figures!
I caught many mistakes. While Dr. Blackstone likes to split infinitives and use "in order to", a phrase that should be struck from the English language, I'm willing to forgive! However, there were typos that were problematic -- I'm not going to list all of them, but see page 55, paragraphs 5 and 6, for example. Both paragraphs have sentences that end with "in ." Weird. I would do another thorough edit.
Dr. Blackstone goes out of her way to make sure that she is inclusive, especially with her research examples.
I really liked how Dr. Blackstone discusses what it's like to be a professional sociologist. Many of my students wonder: (1) what do I do and (2) what kind of jobs that they can get with a degree in Sociology? It's nice that Dr. Blackstone includes examples from her own life, and explains to the students that being a strong methodologist could one day land them a job!
I used two online textbooks for my Fall 2014 course and this Blackstone text was far more comprehensive than the other one. It contained either read more
I used two online textbooks for my Fall 2014 course and this Blackstone text was far more comprehensive than the other one. It contained either chapters or short sections on nearly everything that I wanted to cover with the course, although for several of the shorter sections I assigned additional readings for more thorough treatments of the topics.
To the best of my knowledge the text was accurate. One student commented in the course evaluation that he found several typos in the text and that undermined his faith in the content, so possibly the book could use a check up by a copy editor.
This is a research methods book written specifically for undergraduate sociology students and it does a very good job of molding the information to fit that audience. I happened to be using the text for an introductory master's course in a different subject field, so the very purposeful focus on sociology made the book somewhat less translatable. In order to help my students make the cognitive leap to apply the concepts to their interests, I supplemented the text with articles and other readings from my discipline.
The book is well-written in a manner that makes the concepts clear and easy to understand for students who are beginners to research methods.
The book's structure and style was consistent across chapters and sections.
This book was available in two versions, a web version where you would click on a chapter from the index and it would take you to a separate page for that chapter, and a full length PDF. I strongly preferred the clickable web version as it was easier to jump right to the needed section, and I would use that to give the specific web site address for the chapter to students weekly. Many chapters were further divided into sections which were also linked so one could jump directly to that section of the chapter. This was a very useful feature.
The book was not arranged in the order in which I present the topcis in the course that I teach. However, the order that the author used is logical.
This was excellent. It was easy to access and easy to navigate. Several students reported being delighted with their ability to access and use the text easily from anywhere that was internet-enabled. One student suggested that the interface could be enhanced with a navigation bar on the side of the page that would facilitate jumping to other chapters.
I have no opinion on this - while I didn't notice grammatical errors, it's possible that they may exist in the text.
The author has given examples from sociological studies that have examined controversial topics, but she has done so with care and in a non-offensive manner.
There are some features of published works that were not available with this textbook. One is a date. I was unable to find any indication of when the book was written. Another is that it has no index. That is one function for which the PDF was a better option as one can use the "find" feature for keywords throughout the text.
Table of Contents
- Chapter 1: Introduction
- Chapter 2: Linking Methods With Theory
- Chapter 3: Research Ethics
- Chapter 4: Beginning a Research Project
- Chapter 5: Research Design
- Chapter 6: Defining and Measuring Concepts
- Chapter 7: Sampling
- Chapter 8: Survey Research: A Quantitative Technique
- Chapter 9: Interviews: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches
- Chapter 10: Field Research: A Qualitative Technique
- Chapter 11: Unobtrusive Research: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches
- Chapter 12: Other Methods of Data Collection and Analysis
- Chapter 13: Sharing Your Work
- Chapter 14: Reading and Understanding Social Research
- Chapter 15: Research Methods in the Real World
About the Book
The author of Principles of Sociological Inquiry: Qualitative and Quantitative Methods, Amy Blackstone, started envisioning this textbook while sitting in her own undergraduate sociology research methods class. She enjoyed the material but wondered about its relevance to her everyday life and future plans (the idea that one day she would be teaching such a class hadn’t yet occurred to her).
Now that she teaches the research methods course, she realizes that students today wonder the very same thing. While the importance of understanding research methods is usually clear to those students who intend to pursue an advanced degree, Amy wanted to write a text that would assist research methods teachers in demonstrating to all types of students the relevance of this course.
In addition, Amy Blackstone’s experience as an active researcher who uses both qualitative and quantitative methods made her acutely aware of the need for a balanced approach in teaching methods of sociological inquiry.
Together, Amy Blackstone’s experiences as a student, researcher, and teacher shape the three overriding objectives of Principles of Sociological Inquiry: Qualitative and Quantitative Methods: Relevance, Balance, and Accessibility.
Principles of Sociological Inquiry: Qualitative and Quantitative Methods emphasizes the relevance of research methods for the everyday lives of its readers, undergraduate students. Each chapter describes how research methodology is useful for students in the multiple roles they fill:
- As consumers of popular and public information
- As citizens
- As current and future employees. Connections to these roles are made throughout and directly within the main text of the book
Principles of Sociological Inquiry: Qualitative and Quantitative Methods also provides balanced coverage of qualitative and quantitative approaches by integrating a variety of examples from recent and classic sociological research. The text challenges students to debate and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of both approaches.
Finally, one of the most important goals Amy had for Principles of Sociological Inquiry: Qualitative and Quantitative Methods was to introduce students to the core principles of social research in a way that is straightforward and engaging. As such, the text reflects public sociology’s emphasis on making sociology accessible and readable. No one can validate that claim more than a teacher or student. So, take a look for yourself today and review Principles of Sociological Inquiry: Qualitative and Quantitative Methods by Amy Blackstone to see if its approach toward relevance, balance, and accessibility are right for your course and students.
About the Contributors
Amy Blackstone is Associate Professor and Chair of Sociology at the University of Maine. Using qualitative and quantitative methods, her research includes studies of workplace harassment, childfree adults, and activism in the breast cancer and anti-rape movements. Her work has appeared in a variety of journals and edited volumes including Gender & Society, Law & Society Review, American Sociological Review, and Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. Blackstone has served as a Consulting Editor for Contexts, the American Sociological Association’s public-interest magazine. She is currently a member of the Social Science Research Group on the University of Maine’s National Science Foundation ADVANCE grant, for which she examines faculty satisfaction and the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women faculty in particular. Blackstone enjoys her work with numerous undergraduate research assistants and student clubs. In 2011 she received the University of Maine’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Outstanding Faculty Award in Teaching/Advising. Blackstone received her Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of Minnesota and her B.A. in Sociology at Luther College.