Tuesday, February 25, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Methodological Thinking - Basic Principles of Social Research Design


Great quotes from the book …

A book on research methods should begin and end with the importance of critical thinking: everything between the beginning and the end should be about critical thinking.

The elements of social research methods are no more and no less important than the consequences of thinking about how to gather information about to gather information about human social life in ways that will lead to the highest quality information possible.  
Critical thinking is thinking about thinking:  It is analyzing and evaluating what you think and why you think it. pg 7

All data can be categorized in terms of content, origin and form.  These dimensions are independentpg 17

While social research requires data, which are traces of the physical world, everything of interest to researchers- social class, ethnicity, inequality, narrative, identity, deviance, crime, migrations and so on - are concepts, which are abstractions that do not have a physical existence.

All social research from all perspectives is about the relationships between the physical world that can be captured through the sense (data) and the abstract world of meaning (concepts). pg 65

What we like about it most - why it is useful

Have you ever read really dense material and said to yourself, "Wow, this person really knows their stuff?" That is the way I react to Donaileen Loseke's book: Methodological Thinking: Basic Principles of Social Research Design. Sage Publishing (2013).

This book is not a first read, or even a second read along the methodological pathway towards building the design for your doctoral dissertation or thesis, but if you are studying issues in a social science sooner rather than later you should have it in your bookshelf, because it will help you sort out the subtleties that make the difference between good and great design.

Discussed here are issues of:
  1. Positivist, interpretive, and critical perspectives: and their assumptions on social life, social research and about researchers (pgs 21-26, Chapter 2).
  2. Critical analysis of research questions from several angles (pgs 38-47, Chapter 3).
  3. Conceptualization of measurement and how to operationalize them (pgs 66-75, Chapter 5).
  4. The problems of meaning, multidimensionality, interconnectivity and measurement imprecision (pgs 77-78, Chapter 5).
  5. An exhaustive discussion of the variety of data generation techniques (pgs 82-97, chapter 6).
  6. It is wrapped up with a thorough summary of issues of concern in both writing and evaluating social research design. (pgs 114-125, Chapter 8).

From the back of the Book 

Methodological thinking: Basic Principles of Social Research Design focuses on the underlying logic of the social research and encourages students to understand research methods as a way of thinking. The book provides an overview of the basic principles of social research, including the foundations of research (data, concepts, theory), the characteristics of research questions, the importance of literature reviews, measurement (conceptualization and operationalization), data generation techniques (experiments, surveys, interviews, observation, document analysis) and sampling. The text is organized to help students become good consumers and producers of research by developing skills to design small-scale research projects and evaluate research done by others. The author highlights the relationship among various components of research; she also explains that it is not possible to argue that one form of research is better that any other and that good researchers understand the differences among - and appreciate the capabilities of - different tools.

Key Features
  • Takes an interdisciplinary approach, with examples in criminology/criminal justice, sociology, political science/international relations, and social work.
  • Offers a balanced account of theoretical perspectives, providing students with an unbiased presentation.
  • Minimizes technical details of social research design to emphasize logic and the general principles.
Visit www.sagepub.com/loseke to explore the open-access Student Study Site, which features the full versions of the journal articles that are referenced throughout the book

About the author

Donileen Loseke - University of South Florida

Donileen R. Loseke received her bachelor’s in psychology and master’s in behavioral science from California State University Dominguez Hills, and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She currently is a professor of Sociology at the University of South Florida.

Her books include The Battered Woman and Shelters (1992, New York Press), which won the 1994 Charles Horton Cooley Award from the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction, and Thinking About Social Problems: An Introduction to Constructionist Perspectives, 2e (2003, Aldine deGruyter), and Current Controversies on Family Violence, 2nd edition, edited with Richard Gelles and Mary Cavanaugh (2005, SAGE).

Numerous journal articles and book chapters report the findings of her empirical research projects that have been on a variety of topics (including evaluation research, social problems, criminal justice, social service provision, occupations, emotion, identity, and narrative), and have used a variety of data collection techniques (including field experiment, written survey, in-depth interview, ethnography, and document analysis).

She has been the editor of the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography and an Advisory Editor for Social Problems. Currently she is an editorial board member ofSocial Psychology Quarterly, an Advisory Editor for The Sociological Quarterly, and an Associate Editor of Symbolic Interaction and Journal of Contemporary Ethnography.

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