Student Review: Qualitative Research Methods in Psychology: Combining Core Approaches

November 3, 2011

Author: Nollaig Frost

Edition: First

Publisher: Open University Press/McGraw-Hill Education

Pages: 384

Price: £70.00 and £26.99

ISBN 9780335241507, 41514 and 41521 (e-book)

A text on research methods seldom makes an exciting read. The contributors to this volume, however, draw on interesting examples and make the process relatively appealing. The focus of the book's first part is on four qualitative approaches: grounded theory, interpretative phenomenological analysis, discourse analysis and narrative analysis. The authors provide a good overview of the history, development and applications of each tradition.

In part two, the book explores pluralistic approaches, guiding the reader through ways of combining different methods of qualitative research. Each stage is systematically unpacked: from choosing an appropriate mixed-methods approach, to implementing it and writing it up. The researcher is urged to assess each method closely and carefully, and consider critically how they may complement each other. The volume shows clearly how different methodological and analytical styles can generate distinct interpretations of the data.

Nevertheless, I have a couple of caveats. In part one, issues (regarding ethics, recruitment and data management, for example) arising from the use of one approach may also be relevant to others, and this is not always flagged up. This is potentially problematic given that most students, I suspect, will simply dip in and out of the book in an effort to expand their knowledge of particular areas. Getting the right balance between the general and the specific in a textbook is always tricky, but in this case readers are likely to require some prior knowledge of qualitative research if they are to avoid confusion and potential misinterpretation.

More generally, although Qualitative Research Methods in Psychology reads well on the whole, it occasionally employs terms that may be unfamiliar to undergraduate students (such as ethnography, hermeneutics and ontology). Researchers must become familiar with these concepts, but some further introduction and elucidation is perhaps warranted. That said, the concise glossary is helpful.

This text will be useful to psychology students, but more experienced researchers will also gain from its in-depth examination of qualitative methodologies - in particular, those who wish to undertake a pluralistic approach.

For complete novices, something a little more general might be appropriate before moving on to this more complex text.

Who is it for? Psychology students with some prior knowledge of qualitative research methods.

Presentation: Clear and consistent.

Would you recommend it? Yes; to students wanting to further their knowledge of qualitative research methods, particularly with regard to pluralistic approaches.

Highly recommended

Positive Psychology: Theory, Research and Applications

Authors: Kate Hefferon and Ilona Boniwell

Edition: First

Publisher: Open University Press/McGraw-Hill

Pages: 288

Price: £24.99

ISBN 9780335241958


Introduction to Applied Psychology

Author: Graham Davey

Edition: First

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons

Pages: 692

Price: £34.99

ISBN 9781444331219

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