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Reading :: Designing Qualitative Research

Posted by: on Jan 17, 2008 | No Comments

Designing Qualitative Research
By Catherine Marshall, Gretchen B. Rossman

I just finished reviewing Maxwell’s Qualitative Research Design, and here I am reviewing Designing Qualitative Research. I suppose there’s a finite number of titles you can give to this sort of text. At any rate, Designing Qualitative Research is a fine book, but suffers from comparison to Maxwell’s more economical and clearly organized text.

Not that Designing Qualitative Research is a monster text, by any means. The body is only 152 pages (Maxwell’s is 115). But whereas Maxwell’s book was an overview of principles, Marshall and Rossman’s book gets into more details about discrete qualitative research approaches as well as details about data collection and analysis. At present I’m on the fence about whether this is a better approach: I think that a student could design a reasonable study solely based on what s/he learns from this book, a claim that I couldn’t make for Maxwell’s book, but the discussions are necessarily quite constrained.

Like Maxwell, Marshall and Rossman settle on developing a research proposal as the objective readers should accomplish. But unlike Maxwell, Marshall and Rossman use the generic sections of the research proposal as an organizing scheme for the book: the chapters roughly correspond to these major sections. The advantage of this organizational scheme is that it puts the nascent argument front and center, really demonstrating that research design is an argument. But that’s not as big an advantage as it sounds; a research argument has to underlie the design, and breaking the text into proposal sections results in segmenting that argument. I’d have to work around this if I were to use this text in my grad class.

Pragmatically, Marshall and Rossman include a welcome chapter on managing time and resources — something that many QR texts don’t address — and a chapter on defending qualitative research. In addition, they use many, many vignettes throughout the chapters to illustrate the concepts they are trying to teach. These features make the book easy to follow and, I imagine, easy to apply for graduate students and advanced undergrads.

Overall, this book is a solid entry. I don’t think I will use it in one of my classes (I still like Creswell), but if I were asked to do so, I would be happy to use it.

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