A Good Textbook for Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods
Taking on research of any kind can be a daunting task. But when little is known about which method to utilize or how to go about conducting the research and/or evaluation, the pursuit can become frustrating, to say the least. So it is always beneficial to find a book or source that will help in the researcher's endeavor. One text that I find myself coming back to again and again as I complete my doctoral studies is Michael Quinn Patton's Qualitative Research & Evaluation Methods. This was originally one of my required texts for a course early in the research course phase of the degree. But it is now like a venerable, old friend that will stay by my side until the bitter end. It never has a chance to collect dust on my bookshelf.
Patton's 3rd Edition
Amazon.com, Inc. (2012) describes Patton's 3rd edition of Qualitative Research & Evaluation Methods as "The book that has been a resource and training tool for countless applied researchers, evaluators, and graduate students has been completely revised with hundreds of new examples and stories illuminating all aspects of qualitative inquiry. Patton has created the most comprehensive, systematic and up-to-date review of qualitative methods available."
I would describe Qualitative Research & Evaluation Methods as an easy to read text about the qualitative research process--from conceptualization to analysis, interpretation, and reporting. This text is great for novice, intermediate, and advanced researchers. I know this sounds too good to be true, but I find the mix of scholarly text and examples, parables, cartoons, interludes, and exhibits a great way to learn about the myriad aspects of qualitative research and evaluation methods.
Here are some basics about the book:
- Hardcover: 688 pages
- Publisher: Sage Publications, Inc; 3rd edition (October 2001)
- ISBN: 978-0761919711
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.5 x 10 inches
The book is composed of three parts:
- Part 1: Conceptualization Issues in Qualitative Inquiry
- Part 2: Qualitative Designs and Data Collection
- Part 3: Analysis, Interpretation, and Reporting
After one decides to take on quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methods research, it is paramount to find a text that will provide all the information possible in one place. I chose qualitative research for my proposed research. And as a result, I had to take a course strictly in qualitative methods. Patton's Qualitative Research & Evaluation Methods was one of the required texts. At first I found the size of the text intimidating. But after reading the introduction to the book and the beginnings of some chapters, my fears were put to rest. Here are my top 4 reasons why:
Reason 1: The content is easy to follow. There is a clear progression of ideas and stages of research. Where concepts need additional explanation or a recap of the content/main ideas, exhibits (tables and figures) are included for easy reference.
Reason 2: There is plenty of space in the margins to annotate. Many books out there have super-small print and/or very small margins, and it is difficult to make notes and annotate as you find something interesting.
Reason 3: The layout is easy on the eyes. There is good spacing, font size, and margins (as mentioned above). One of the worst things a published work can do to a reader is put words in microscopic font and then provide no space to underline or make notes. Another good aspect about the layout is nice, clear, bold headings. They are succinct enough to clearly identify new sections if you are just flipping through to find something quickly or going back to review sections.
Reason 4: There are a lot of great graphics and quips. Sometimes there is nothing worse than having to trudge through a massive, complicated text and there be no equivalent of comic relief. Patton is clearly writing for a specific audience. The wording is not cumbersome, and he is not above throwing in some jokes here and there. He keeps the text lively by adding in cartoons and some great parables from Halcolm.
Overall, this is an excellent resource for researchers. It should be a staple of every qualitative researcher's library. However, there are some aspects that I personally would like revamped for the 4th edition, because I know there has to be one at some point!
Recommendation 1: It would be great if Patton added a special beginning note or aside to novice qualitative researchers. While this text is geared for researchers of all levels, he has such a great tone and catalog of wisdom to pass on that it would be really special and nice to feel like he was talking directly to me before/as I began my journey into the world of qualitative research and evaluation.
Who Is Halcom?
Patton (2002) admits that Halcolm is a "qualitative inquiry muse and Sufi-Zen teaching master who offered stories that probed the deeper philosophical underpinnings of how we come to know what we know--or think we know" (pp.A1-A2). Halcolm is part Mulla Nasrudin, part Robert Heinlein's character Lazarus Long, and part Michael Quinn Patton.
Recommendation 2: Simply put, include more Halcolm. The parables and words of wisdom from Halcolm were so enjoyable to read that I simply wanted more. They were as entertainingly and creatively composed as the regular text. But they provided insight in a sophisticated and comical way from a voice from the past, present, and future all at the same time.
Recommendation 3: While there is an excellent list of references at the end of the book and even an index provided just for all the authors mentioned in the text, I wanted one more favor. At the end of each chapter there is usually an appendix with suggestions, templates, and so on for various parts of the research and evaluation process. But I would also like a list of authors right at the end of the chapter. This would help when us researchers are composing annotated bibliographies or need to find similar authors quickly within the section/source quickly. This could even be a section on recommended readings or further readings based on the concepts or part of research or evaluation being discussed at the time.
Michael Quinn Patton is an independent evaluation consultant, prolific author, and professor. Patton earned his doctorate in Organizational Sociology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has numerous honors for his work in the field. There are several books to his credit based on research methods and evaluation. He has edited volumes on the same topics. Patton has a rapier wit and keen sense of humor.
Quantitative Versus Qualitative Research
In case you were wondering what the difference between quantitative and qualitative research is, the video above covers the matter in a very humorous way: a great companion to the way Patton tackles all issues concerning qualitative research.
About the Author
Stephanie Bradberry is first and foremost an educator and life-long learner. Her present work is as an herbalist, naturopath, and energy healer. She spent over a decade as a professor of English, Literature, Business and Education and high school English teacher. She is the founder and owner of Naturally Fit & Well, LLC and former owner of Crosby Educational Consulting, LLC. Stephanie loves being a freelance writer and editor on the side.