Textbook that tells a story
People who know me well say that I am one of life's great sceptics and as such I've always been chary of the value of "textbooks" and their relevance to the real world.
So when tasked with reviewing Sheila Keegan's new book, Qualitative Research: Good Decision Making through Understanding People, Cultures and Markets, I was a little reluctant to say the least.
What a nice surprise, however, to find a book that cut right to the heart of the matter, providing inspiring and relevant information for those new to the industry, without neglecting the needs of those more experienced "know it alls" who want to get back to the basics of qualitative research.
The book itself combines theory with practice to give a comprehensive overview of the industry, how it works and the processes involved in qualitative research. This is classic textbook fodder, yet Sheila's writing style is so natural and free flowing that the book not only tells a story but also enables the chapters to work as stand alone providers of information.
Chapters one and two begin by grounding the reader in the world of research, looking at the industry in its broadest sense, and then at how it fits within the wider business community a good introduction for any new researcher.
Although it is important to have a good understanding of the theory behind research, long chapters that focus on academic theory can often feel quite daunting and overwhelming. Sheila's approach in chapter three, however, works perfectly. She gives a short review of the theories of positivism and interpretivism, and then backs this up with practically applied examples. This way the reader is able to grasp fully the reality of such concepts.
Practically applied and real life examples are used to help bring each chapter to life. Case studies illustrate how and when different stimuli or research methodologies have been applied in different situations. This means that anyone who is new to the industry can quickly understand the reasoning behind different methodological decisions and what factors might come into play.
One of the book's strengths is that it doesn't just take a "researcher centric" approach but also considers research issues from a client perspective. Sheila's balanced view of this topic means that the book improves our understanding of the subject matter and the realities of research, covering such issues as writing proposals, the challenges of managing projects and meeting client needs, all of which are covered in the later chapters.
Overall, this book is a practical, entertaining and logical read. It provides useful insights to the reader: an excellent investment for anyone new to the industry or for those who are looking to find out more about research.
Qualitative Research: Good Decision Making Through Understanding People, Cultures and Markets, is published by Kogan Page and is part of the Market Research in Practice series produced in association with the Market Research Society.
This article was first published in InBrief magazine, January 2010
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2010