Qualitative Research from Start to Finish: A Book Review

Article excerpt

As I set out to review Yin's (2011) book Qualitative Research from Start to Finish, I struggled with how to approach the book--as a qualitative researcher or as a teacher of qualitative methods to masters' and doctoral students? I decided to read the book first as a qualitative researcher to see what I could glean from Yin's writings that would further my understanding of qualitative methods from Yin's perspective. Then, I read the book through again, thinking about my students and their needs they've expressed over the past five years of my teaching at the graduate level. In this review I have provided a brief summary of Yin's focus and intent, and then my thoughts as a researcher and a teacher of research, as to how Yin's style and substance may meet the needs of various research communities.

Yin's (2011) focus was to provide a guidebook to the novice qualitative researcher about the process of conceptualizing, designing and conducting a qualitative research project. Yin described the book as "practical," "inductive," and "adaptive" (p. v -vi). Combining these approaches allowed the reader to think critically about their own paradigm of research, and to "adapt" Yin's approach as presented to fit the needs of the researcher's own project. Yin divided his book into four sections, three of which are fairly common to methodological books. Section one refers to understanding qualitative research; section two is on doing qualitative research; and, section three describes how to present the results from qualitative research.

A final chapter, which Yin (2011) included as the only chapter in part four--Taking qualitative research one step further--seeks to "place qualitative research within the broader realm of social science research" (p. 281). In this chapter, entitled "Broadening the challenge of doing qualitative research," Yin examined qualitative research as part of a paradigmatic worldview, and included discussion about multiple methodologies from multiple worldviews in an attempt to remind the reader that we rarely conduct qualitative research as an end in itself, but rather in order to answer questions that we and others have about the world. Qualitative research can illuminate specific contexts, while other methodologies have diverse purposes. Sometimes the social scientist may engage with multiple methodologies in order to answer complex questions, while other scientists find that all of their questions are confined to the realm in which qualitative methods are the best tool to answer those questions.

From my mid-career experience as a qualitative researcher, I found the topic of "worldviews" an interesting one in which to engage at the end of a book on qualitative research. In most books that I've read for my own resource in completing qualitative research projects, or used to teach research methods to doctoral students, the discussion on "worldviews" and how our questions are derived from our worldview is usually placed at the beginning of the text. However, I believe this approach has merit in that if Yin (2011) was trying to provide a guidebook for novice researchers, he might have assumed that a first project would consume the majority of the researcher's time. Only when that inaugural project was finished, the researcher might then ponder "what's next for me as a researcher?" Thinking about worldviews and other research methodologies as you are thinking about your next project works well with an action research or practitioner research approach (1) in which all research is seen as part of a cyclical process of formalized reflection.

I found other characteristics particularly useful to my teaching of doctoral students. As stated earlier, Yin's (2011) approach included an "adaptive" perspective so that the reader could adapt elements from the book to their own study. For example, in chapter four, "Choices in designing qualitative research studies," Yin included many subheading topics, each of which bears the parenthetical statement "or not" following the sub-heading. …


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