Q: The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary
The textbook covers a lot of ground in a reasonable number of pages. It introduces and addresses, to varying degrees, key concepts and topics that are necessary for an introductory grasp of research methodology. Several quantitative (e.g., surveys, interviews, unobtrusive research) and qualitative (e.g., interviews, field research, unobtrusive research) methods are introduced in the book, as well as several additional methods that are not always found in introductory methods books (e.g., ethnomethodology and conversation analysis). There is, however, no table of contents in the PDF version of the book, and no index, glossary, or reference list provided in either format of the book (PDF or online).
There are many times that more examples would have been helpful for explaining some of the more complex concepts introduced in the book such as epistemology, ontology, paradigms, etc. Coming back more clearly and regularly to these key concepts throughout the book would also have resulted in a more thoroughly comprehensive text. In addition, more detail could have been added in a number of places.
Some of the highlights of this book’s coverage of research methodology, as compared to similar books I’ve encountered, are: (1) the introduction of some clear, concise, and helpful questions in Chapter 4 for readers to consider when beginning a research project; (2) addressing how to read and evaluate sociological research near the end of the book in chapter 14 after giving readers the tools to do so (rather than early on in the textbook, if at all); and (3) providing a balanced exploration of both qualitative and quantitative approaches to research that does not overtly favour one over the other.
Comprehensiveness Rating: 4 out of 5
Q: Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased
Content was largely accurate throughout with one exception—qualitative research.
Throughout the book, qualitative research was largely discussed, alongside quantitative research, as one side of the same coin. While I do appreciate the approach where readers should not be dragged into the debate about which one is best or more preferable, the diversity and richness of the qualitative research field was not adequately captured. Among qualitative researchers, there are varying epistemological and ontological positions that affect what kinds of research questions can be asked and how research is ultimately conducted. While more advanced qualitative textbooks address this more fully, readers should at minimum be informed of several key aspects beyond what was presented: (1) qualitative research is substantially more diverse than presented in the book (additional suggestions for resources could be provided for those interested); (2) the language used by some qualitative researchers differs from that used by researchers who subscribe to the positivist paradigm; and (3) qualitative research is largely interested in experience (i.e., phenomenology) and meaning-making rather than simply differing from quantitative research because visual and/or textual data are collected (rather than quantities and measurements).
In following, how and in what way qualitative methodology is presented in the text alongside quantitative methodology needs to be reconsidered in some instances to reflect the above. For example, Chapter 6 (Defining and Measuring Concepts) does not mention qualitative research once and its absence is not explained to readers. Thus, readers may assume that the same measurement principles used in quantitative research applies to qualitative research. This is simply not accurate in many forms of qualitative research.
The diagrams and photos were accurate and helpful for clarifying content. The videos and links were helpful when they would play and/or when links were not broken.
Content Accuracy Rating: 4 out of 5
Q: Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement
The material was relevant and addressed more recent events like the election of Barack Obama and studies as recent as 2011. An updated version is already warranted, however, given how quickly new research accumulates in the field and the changing global landscape.
A concern for longevity is the number of internet links provided within the text itself and at the end of some sections. There are quite a few links that no longer work (e.g., nearly all of the links to cartoons). Keeping links up to date would be important in order to ensure the text remains relevant and up to date over time. Similarly, the videos provided in the online version would not play and thus the ability to view those would need to be monitored over time as well.
Relevance Rating: 4 out of 5
Q: The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used
The textbook is well-written, easy to read, and does a good job of clearly explaining various stages in the research process. Many examples are used to demonstrate the breadth of sociological research and to provide context for methodological content provided throughout the book. At the same time, some of the more difficult concepts (e.g., epistemology, ontology, paradigm, etc) would benefit from additional explanation early on and, subsequently, be more clearly interwoven throughout the book to allow readers to make connections between key concepts and research methodology.
Clarity Rating: 5 out of 5
Q: The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework
While more connections could be made between concepts throughout the book (particularly the more philosophical concepts presented in the first few chapters), the textbook is consistent throughout in terms of what is being communicated to readers about the research process. There were no significant content related inconsistencies that were apparent in my view.
Consistency Rating: 5 out of 5
Q: The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided). The text should not be overly self-referential, and should be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.
The book is well organized in terms of the consistent use of chapter sub-sections throughout that would allow instructors to assign certain sections at a time rather than an entire chapter. The use of sub-sections also ensures that readers feel like they are progressing through the material at a relatively quick pace. In some cases, however, the sub-sections within a chapter are quite short and result in the content being presented in a piecemeal way. As a consequence, readers may not make necessary connections between content provided in an earlier sub-section with material presented later on.
The inclusion of learning objectives, key takeaways, and exercises for each sub-section are helpful for ensuring that readers grasp concepts prior to moving on. Because these tools are reliably presented throughout the text in the same format, they would be helpful in the event that select sub-sections were to be assigned or discussed in the classroom.
Modularity Rating: 5 out of 5
Q: The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion
The topics are presented in the order of the research process which is expected for a research methods textbook at this level. This could have been more clearly identified, however, in section 1.4 where the layout of the book was presented (though it did seem strange that the layout of the book was discussed at the end of the first chapter rather than in the preface).
It would be helpful to split survey research into two chapters—one qualitative and one quantitative—rather than one chapter that addresses both. More content could then be added, and it would be easier to assign in a classroom depending on how instructors intended to present survey research.
The inclusion of a chapter on reading and evaluating sociological research (Chapter 14) near the end of the book was helpful whereby readers learn about the research process prior to being introduced to evaluating research. This strategy is not always the case in other research methods texts (if it is discussed at all).
Organization Rating: 5 out of 5
Q: The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader
This was the most notable concern in reviewing this book. Unlike a number of other open access textbooks, this book is only available in two electronic formats (PDF and online). After attempting to convert the PDF into an e-reader friendly format, I found that the text was choppy and navigation was quite problematic. It would be helpful if multiple formats were available to readers (e.g., .epub, .mobi).
Another concern regarding the two formats is that both versions are not the same in terms of content. The PDF, for instance, does not include the table of contents to aid in navigation (despite having bookmarks that can help if you know they exist). In addition, the images presented in the online version were not present in the PDF version. As well, the links provided when another section was referred to were only provided in the online version, while the same text in the PDF version was merely presented in a larger font size.
The referencing also differs between the two versions. In the PDF format, references are numbered and presented at the end of each sub-section, which is adequate though a reference list at the end of the textbook would be preferable. In the online version, however, full references follow the citation directly in the text itself. This is very confusing and made reading online unnecessarily frustrating.
Lastly, it would be nice if there were a book cover provided (at least in the PDF version), so it felt like a textbook one might buy from a publisher. This would help lend credibility to the book, if simply on the basis of appearance.
Interface Rating: 2 out of 5
Q: The text contains no grammatical errors
Aside from the confusion with referencing that impacted the text in the online version, the content itself provided by the author is reasonably error-free (i.e., no substantial errors were noted).
Grammar Rating: 5 out of 5
Q: The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds
The textbook was culturally sensitive and examples were drawn from diverse areas of sociology, which resulted in the inclusion of a wide variety and diversity of research topics (e.g., gender, LGBTQ, class, etc).
Cultural Relevance Rating: 5 out of 5
Q: Are there any other comments you would like to make about this book, for example, its appropriateness in a Canadian context or specific updates you think need to be made?
The textbook is American in orientation and a Canadian version is always preferable when possible. While Canadian examples would be helpful, what is most pressing is the need for an ethics chapter that reflects Tri-Council policies and Canadian guidelines.
The most pertinent improvement needed in my view is in terms of the interface. The issues pertaining to the inconsistencies in formatting between the PDF and online version need to be sorted out. In addition, multiple formats should be provided for the book.
Overall, I most appreciated the non-divisive approach presented in this book in terms of qualitative versus quantitative research. While more nuances could be introduced to the reader in regards to the diversity within the qualitative field, the textbook is still a great starting point and encourages students to consider methodology in light of what they want to know (rather than which orientation to research one prefers).
Additionally, this book is a helpful course resource since it does not provide so much detail that it strips instructors of the ability to supplement in the classroom. Instead, instructors can focus on various methods or concepts to a greater or lesser degree depending on their preferences.