When to Use What Research Design
Guilford Press – 2012 – 378 pages
Systematic, practical, and accessible, this is the first book to focus on finding the most defensible design for a particular research question. Thoughtful guidelines are provided for weighing the advantages and disadvantages of various methods, including qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods designs. The book can be read sequentially or readers can dip into chapters on specific stages of research (basic design choices, selecting and sampling participants, addressing ethical issues) or data collection methods (surveys, interviews, experiments, observations, archival studies, and combined methods). Many chapter headings and subheadings are written as questions, helping readers quickly find the answers they need to make informed choices that will affect the later analysis and interpretation of their data.
Useful features include:
"A hugely useful resource to navigate through the initial stages of research design, applicable to students and seasoned researchers alike. … The layout of the book allows the reader to easily select those chapters that are most relevant to their interests, and is facilitated by signposting of additional sources to support the reader. The book is well written and accessible, posing questions throughout to guide the reader through the research process. A useful resource for any researcher." - Kareena McAloney, University of York, UK, in The Psychologist
"A masterful and thorough presentation of 'when to use what.' From beginning to end, it is clear that you are reading the work of very accomplished researchers and educators. The authors use a particularly rich, colorful, and practical set of examples, including classic and contemporary research studies as well as wonderful day-to-day illustrations, such as TV channel surfing to introduce the notion of sampling. Readers can pick and choose individual chapters or read straight through the entire book, depending on their needs. The summary tables are extraordinarily useful and can serve as a quick reference to chapter structure and content." - Karen M. Staller, University of Michigan, USA
"I am recommending this book as the core text for our required methods course at the graduate level. The reader is taken on a tour of the main research designs employed by social scientists, including various quantitative and qualitative, experimental and observational, and primary and secondary data designs. Highlighting how decisions about research design should be influenced by the nature of the research question, the authors also acknowledge when other factors come into play, including financial and ethical considerations. The text helps researchers decide when to use a particular research design; teaches how to choose appropriate methods for sampling, recruiting, and assigning treatments (for experiments); and explores the implications of these decisions. I like how the authors talk about debates in the literature and how they point out typical/common shortcomings of different approaches. Their frank language gives the book the feel of a trusted advisor providing honest advice." - Tracey LaPierre, University of Kansas, USA
"This book is on an essential topic – the questions it tackles are incredibly important in the social sciences. It reads like a field guide to conducting good research. I would recommend it to advanced undergraduates who need a handy reference or to graduate students who want one resource for their basic design, sampling, and ethics questions. It is accessible and easy to read. The authors present the process of research as full of choices that are best tackled by an informed researcher – no choice is universally the best one. The book emphasizes the importance of careful thought and weighing of pros and cons prior to conducting research." - Theresa DiDonato, Loyola University Maryland, USA
"The use of questions as subheads is an effective pedagogical technique. Teaching students to turn a heading into a question and then reading the textbook section to find the answer to the question has a rich history as an instructional strategy." - Susan Kushner Benson, University of Akron, Ohio, USA
"The book is very well written and readable, a real plus! I really like the authors’ premise that the research question determines the choice of method, rather than vice versa." - Rosemary L. Hopcroft, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA
General Introduction: Design, Sampling, and Ethics. Part 1: Research Questions and Designs. What Is the Role of Theory in Research Questions and Designs? 1. When to Use Survey Designs. When Are Surveys Likely to Be a Wise Design Choice? When Should You Use Which Mode of Administering Your Survey? What Design Should You Use to Study Change over Time? What Question Formats Can You Use in a Survey Design? Conclusion on Survey Designs: So Many Questions, So Little Time. 2. When to Use Interview Designs. Comparing Interviews with Surveys. Conclusion on Interview Designs in General. Specific Interview Types, Approaches, and Procedures. Conclusion. 3. When to Use Experimental Designs. What’s Wrong with Gold-Standard Thinking? When Is an RCT a Good Option? When Is an Experimental Design a Good Option for Your Research? When Should You Use the Basic Types of Experimental Design? General Conclusion on When to Use Experimental Designs. 4. When to Use Naturalistic and Participant Observational Designs. Overview of Observational Designs. When Is Observation a Good Design Choice? Further Distinguishing between Naturalistic and Participant Observational Designs. When Should You Use a Naturalistic Observational Design? When Should You Use Participant Observational Designs? Conclusion: Characteristics of All Observational Designs. 5. When to Use Archival Designs. What Kinds of Archival Data Are Available for Researchers? When Should You Collect and Use Preexisting Data Rather Than Produce Your Own? Types of Archival Research. Database Archives. Organizational Records. Textual Studies of Documents. New Media, Including Internet Sources. Conclusion. 6. When to Use Combined Research Designs. Simple versus Multipart Research Questions. When to Combine Research Designs. Types and Qualities of Combined Designs. Logistical Considerations in Combined Research Designs. Conclusion and Summary. Part 2: Sampling, Selection, and Recruitment. 7. Sampling for Surveys. Probability Samples. Nonprobability Samples. When Should You Try to Improve Response Rates? How Big Should Your Sample Be? Conclusion. 8. Identifying and Recruiting People for Interviews. How Interview Strategies Are Shaped by Research Questions. Making Basic Decisions about Interview Sampling. Conclusions on Selecting People to Interview. 9. Sampling, Recruiting, and Assigning Participants for Experiments. Randomized Controlled Trials. Alternatives to RCTs. Controlling for Covariates. Conclusion: Sampling, Recruiting, and Assigning Cases in Experiments. 10. Searching and Sampling for Observations. Overview of Searching and Sampling Concerns in Observational Research. Appropriateness and Relevance of the Sampl. Accessing Observation Sites. Decisions Influenced by Resources and Other Practical Considerations. Four Basic Sampling Decisions. Sampling and the Five Types of Research Questions. Conclusion and Summary. 11. Sampling from Archival Sources. When Do You Search and When Do You Sample? Sampling Research Literature to Build Upon and Synthesize It. Database Archives. Organizational Records. Textual Studies of Documents. New Media, Including Various Internet Sources. Conclusion. 12. Sampling and Recruiting for Combined Research Designs. When Should You Use Probability Samples in Your Combined Design Study? When Should You Use Purposive Samples in Your Combined Design Study? When Should You Use Both Probability and Purposive Samples in Your Study? Conclusion and Summary. Part 3: Research Ethics: The Responsible Conduct of Research. Responsibilities toward the Persons Being Studied. Responsibilities toward Other Researchers. Responsibilities toward the Broader Society/Community. 13. Ethics in Survey Research. Consent: Informed Participants Willingly Joining the Research Project. Harm: Preventing Injury to Respondents. Privacy: Ensuring Respondents’ Anonymity and/or Confidentiality. Conclusion. 14. Ethics in Interview Research. Consent: Informed Participants Willingly Agreeing to Be Interviewed. Harm: Preventing Injury to Interviewees during the Interview. Privacy: Ensuring Interviewees’ Confidentiality. Conclusion. 15. Ethics in Experimental Research. Consent: Informed Participants Willingly Joining the Research Project. Harm: Preventing Injury to Experimental Participants. Privacy: Ensuring Participants’ Anonymity and/or Confidentiality. Conclusion. 16. Ethics in Observational Research. Seeking and Acquiring Informed Consent to Observe. Avoiding and Minimizing Harm to Participants While Conducting the Study. Ensuring Participant Privacy. Conclusion. 17. Ethical Issues in Archival Research. Ethical Practice in Reviews of the Research Literature. Ethical Practices in Employing Database Archives. Ethical Obligations When Using Institutional Records. Ethical Issues When Using Documents, Including Public Documents. Ethical Issues When Using Blogs and Other Sources Published On-line. When Might the Honest, Correct Reporting of Archival Research Cause Harm? Conclusion. 18. Ethical Considerations in Combined Research Designs. Consent. Harm. Privacy. Conclusion: Culmination of Design, Sampling, and Ethics in Valid Data Coding. When to Use Qualities or Quantities, Names or Numbers, Categories or Continua? What Methods to Use to Code Concepts with Reliability and Validity. What Methods to Use to Improve Reliability. What Methods to Use to Enhance Validity. What to Use to Code Concepts Validly. Coding Decisions Shape Analytic Options. Glossary.
W. Paul Vogt, Dianne C. Gardner, and Lynne M. Haeffele, all at the Department of Educational Administration and Foundations, Illinois State University, Normal, USA