George P. Taylor, ed.: Integrating Quantitative and Qualitative Methods in Research.
Research and research papers at the undergraduate level in history often consist of one 15-20 page paper written in a capstone course. When students enter graduate school, then, they know little about research design. George P. Taylor's Integrating Quantitative and Qualitative Methods in Research can be a good first step for beginning history graduate students. The book is divided into three parts: the research process, quantitative and qualitative resource methods, and differences between quantitative and qualitative research.
One of the book's strengths is to explain to students that all research has certain components. Too often students assume that there is a major difference between quantitative and qualitative methods. While I personally do not like these labels since all research must be "quality" work, a distinction is important for budding scholars to understand. The difference, as Taylor explains, is not in the steps but rather in the content. Quantitative research includes "the gathering and manipulation of numerical data" whereas qualitative research involves "the analysis of complex data collected by observations, interviews, or actual participation by the research." Taylor makes his point in several chapters, especially in Part III, and even includes a chart (p. 55) to list the research methods for quantitative and qualitative research side by side. A second strength is his list of dos and don'ts as he discusses each aspect of research design and analysis.
On the downside, Taylor's book is less useful for historians than for other social scientists. His discussion of how to establish validity is less clear than his discussion of documenting reliability. This is perhaps because it is difficult for historians doing qualitative research to establish reliability. The major goal of qualitative research is to do in-depth research such as interviews and let the findings help determine the next steps in the research design. Taylor defines qualitative research as "deliberative, integrative, and historical." Yet quantitative research can also be historical. His distinction between primary and secondary sources is confusing at best, probably wrong-headed. He links newspapers with reference books as "secondary" sources when newspapers also can be primary. He suggests that a research project in history can be to distinguish between primary and secondary sources whereas he provides actual projects to consider for the other disciplines. He tells his readers, "Caution should be exercised in using secondary data sources because of frequent errors and mistakes made when information is changed or is passed from one person to another. Consequently, historical documents must be examined to validate their authenticity and accuracy before they can become reliable data sources." In fact, historians must validate both primary and secondary sources and there is room for errors in both. However, secondary sources also include monographs by historians who already have assessed the reliability of many primary sources. His section on the need for and how to conduct a review of the literature, which includes how to use databases, is helpful. However, it does not include some key history data bases such as JSTOR and government databases such as those maintained by the Library of Congress and National Archives. Therefore, faculty and graduate students in history will have to consult additional "how to" books if they begin by learning the basics from Taylor.
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|Publication:||Teaching History: A Journal of Methods|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2012|
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