Qualitative Research Methods for Psychologists: Introduction through Empirical Studies

By Unruh, Anita | Canadian Psychology, November 2006 | Go to article overview

Qualitative Research Methods for Psychologists: Introduction through Empirical Studies


Unruh, Anita, Canadian Psychology


CONSTANCE T. FISCHER (Ed.) Qualitative Research Methods for Psychologists: Introduction through Empirical Studies Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2006, 512 pages (ISBN 0-12-088470-4, US$89.95 Hardcover)

Reviewed by ANITA UNRUH

This book is intended as an introductory textbook for psychology students and psychologists who have been trained in traditional psychological research methods with the goal of providing an orientation to qualitative research frameworks and how they are applied to the many research questions that might be considered by psychologists.

The book begins with a useful introductory chapter by the editor that provides a historical overview of the emergence of psychology as a science concerned primarily with determining causal relationships. The editor then examines the origins of qualitative research and the contributions it can make as a post-modern epistemological perspective that is concerned with the meaning of psychological phenomena and the interrelationships of outcomes and circumstances of these phenomena. This discussion is followed by a review of practical matters pertaining to undertaking a qualitative thesis (or study). Some of this section includes standard advice for graduate students but a number of issues that are often particularly complex for qualitative researchers are considered by the editor (how much personal interest in the topic should be acknowledged by the researcher, the process of qualitative data collection and analysis, writing and publishing qualitative research, and, attending to ethical issues in qualitative research). This introduction is very helpful in setting qualitative methodologies within psychology both as a therapeutic profession, and as a scientific discipline, with a qualitative overview for the novice reader.

There are 13 chapters in the body of the book and they are gathered into three parts. The five chapters in Clinical Practices make linkages between psychotherapy and the qualitative methods or analytical approaches of discourse analysis, grounded theory, and phenomenology. The five chapters in Affective and Cognitive Processes discuss feminist collaborative research, phenomenology, and dialogical approaches as applied to affective and cognitive issues. They include discussions about qualitative research concerned with sexual abuse, anger, joy, forgiveness, and thought processes. The three chapters in Life Situations examine intuitive inquiry, experiential method, and focus groups as qualitative methods to address, respectively, embodiment of contemporary female mystics, being a stranger in a foreign land, and HIV/AIDS interventions in Botswana.

The authors of these chapters are respected qualitative researchers in psychology. Most come from the United States but several are from Canada or the United Kingdom. All of the chapters are written in the first person, in a narrative style. They tell a story about an author's approach to a particular psychological issue using qualitative method or analysis. The focus is primarily on method, processes, and analytical strategies though usually there is also some discussion about research findings particularly in chapters that are more focused on data analysis.

The book ends with a Question and Responses chapter by the editor that covers many of the questions novice qualitative researchers often have about qualitative research. The last section is a detailed Glossary of terms that are significant in understanding qualitative research. Both of these sections clarify many of the questions that are often raised by graduate students and beginning qualitative researchers particularly if their background is in quantitative research methods.

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