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Willie Van Peer, Jemeljan Hakemulder, and Sonia Zyngier. Muses and Measures: Empirical Research Methods for the Humanities.

Willie Van Peer, Jemeljan Hakemulder, and Sonia Zyngier. Muses and Measures: Empirical Research Methods for the Humanities. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007. xx + 366 pp. 39.99 [pounds sterling] cloth; 24.99 [pounds sterling] paper.

This twelve-chapter book is an extraordinarily valuable addition to a handful of books that can be used to learn or teach empirical research methodology in the humanities. And it is the only one that I know of that is dedicated to empirical methodologies in the humanities. The closest parallel with which I am very familiar is Hatch and Lazaraton's Research Manual: Design and Statistics for Applied Linguistics, an excellent but unfortunately out-of-print introduction mostly to empirical research in language acquisition and learning. There are multiple books introducing corpus linguistics (Biber, Conrad, and Reppen; Scott and Tribble) and statistical analysis for linguistics (Baayen; Oakes); however, Muses and Measures is dedicated particularly to empirical research and methodology in the humanities, neither widely known topics in the humanities in general.

The first two chapters explore the logical and empirical foundations of scientific research in the humanities. Chapter one examines the history of the traditional hermeneutic division of investigative methods and questions between the humanities and the sciences in Dilthey, Gadamer, and Habermas. The general backgrounded and foregrounded assumption in this tradition is that the objects of investigation in the humanities are not amenable to scientific methods. The authors of Muses and Measures believe that the humanities can indeed be studied by means of scientific methods. In this chapter, they use the Wundt curve as a curvilinear measure of perception of feelings of pleasantness as proof that aesthetic pleasure and displeasure can be investigated scientifically. Chapter two presents the logical and empirical foundations of scientific theory, illustrating the importance of Popper's distinction between verification and refutation with the famous hypothesis that all swans are white. Van Peer, Hakemulder and Zyngier exemplify basic hypothesis testing with empirical evidence concerning the sources of influence for the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke. One of the remarkable characteristics throughout Muses and Measures is the wide variety of published analyses used to illustrate various principles of empirical research: think-aloud protocols in a reading of "A Rose for Emily" (Davis and Andringa); interviews and questionnaires on morality responses to fairy tales (Zillmann and Bryant); pre-test post-test examination of perception of gender behavior in stories and films (Flerx, Filder, and Rogers); itemized rating scales and the correlation between loneliness and response to types of music (Gibson, Aust, and Zillmann).

Chapters three through six explore the fundamentals and details of research and experiment design. Chapter three summarizes the multiple methodologies available in research in the humanities, including both qualitative and quantitative methods. Further, it explains the importance of planning research, including understanding the possible relationships among variables in the research. Finally, it has helpful pointers on keeping background source reading and research both productive and organized. Chapter 4 explains the various methods of data collection, including think-aloud protocols, diaries, interviews, focus groups, experiments, surveys, and textual observation. The chapter contains helpful pointers on how to avoid subject interactivity and observer bias. The chapter ends with lists of resources for electronic texts, concordances, and qualitative analysis software. Chapter five contains details on questionnaire construction, as well as differences among nominal, ordinal, and interval measures, all important to both design and statistical testing. This chapter details types of questions in research design, such as checklists, multiple choice questions, graphic rating scales, itemized rating scales, and Likert scales. The discussion provides not only details on the construction and use of the types of questions but also guidelines on how to refine their use, as for example in eliminating questions to which all respondents answer the same. The instrument of measure should not lump but discriminate among respondents. Chapter six explores the differences between independent and dependent variables, between-subjects designs and within-subjects designs, and threats to both internal and external validity. The chapter thoroughly explicates the form of and variations on the classical pre-test post-test control group design.

Chapters seven through eleven present tutorials in using SPSS and the rationale behind both descriptive and inference statistics. Chapter seven demonstrates data manipulation in SPSS--entering data, changing data, and computing new variables from existing data. Chapter eight explains and demonstrates measures of central tendency (mode, median, and mean) and measures of dispersion (standard deviation and the normal distribution). The chapter also demonstrates how to generate various graph types in SPSS. Chapter nine introduces inference statistics, probability, the null hypothesis, and p values. It demonstrates the production and rationale behind Pearson and Spearman correlation statistics. Chapter ten discusses tests for normality, the t-test and non-parametric equivalencies in testing, e.g. Wilcoxon, Mann-Whitney, and Chi-square. Chapter eleven continues the discussion of inference statistics with Analysis of Variance tests (ANOVA) and General Linear Model (GLM). Muses and Measures comes with a CD that has three folders on it: one of assignments, quizzes for chapters and exams; one of answers for quizzes; and one of example questionnaires and sample data for learning procedures in SPSS.

Finally, Chapter twelve is a detailed chapter on how to present results of empirical studies, either in spoken or written report form. Thus, it covers conference presentations, poster sessions, abstracts, parts of a formal report, research sources, statistics reporting, graphs, and publication styles. The chapter has a helpful outline of the typical organization of an empirically based research paper (title, abstract, introduction, methods, discussion, etc.) and even includes, final checklist and a sample cover letter for submission of the article.

Muses and Measures would make an excellent textbook for a course in empirical research methods in the humanities. It also would make a valuable reference work for both students and professionals in the area.

Other Works Cited

Baayen, R. H. Analyzing Linguistic Data: A Practical Introduction to Statistics Using R. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2008. Print.

Biber, Douglas, Susan Conrad, and Randi Reppen. Corpus Linguistics: Investigating Language Structure and Use. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998. Print.

Davis, Sara, and Els Andringa. "Narrative Structure and Emotional Response." In Empirical Approaches to Literature. Ed. Gebhard Rusch. Siegen: Lumin-Publications. 1995.50-60. Print.

Flerx, Vicki C., Dorothy S. Filder, and Ronald W. Rogers. "Sex Role Stereotypes: Developmental Aspect and Early Intervention." Child Development 47 (1976): 998-1007. Print.

Gibson, Rhonda, Charles F. Aust, and Dolf Zillmann. "Loneliness of Adolescents and Their Choice and Enjoyment of Love-Celebrating versus Love-Lamenting Popular Music." Empirical Studies of the Arts 18.1 (2000): 43-48. Print.

Hatch, Evelyn, and Anne Lazaraton. The Research Manual: Design and Statistics for Applied Linguistics. Boston: Heinle and Heinle, 1991. Print.

Oakes, Michael P. Statistics for Corpus Linguistics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 1998. Print.

Scott, Mike, and Christopher Tribble. Textual Patterns: Key Words and Corpus Analysis in Language Education. Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 2006. Print.

Zillman, Dolf, and Jennings Bryant. "Viewer's Moral Sanction of Retribution in the Appreciation of Dramatic Representations." Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 13 (1975): 155-65. Print.

Donald E. Hardy

University of Nevada, Reno
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Author:Hardy, Donald E.
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 22, 2010
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