Marshall, Catherine, and Gretchen B. Rossman, Designing Qualitative Research, Sixth Edition

By Walby, Kevin | Canadian Journal of Sociology, Summer 2015 | Go to article overview

Marshall, Catherine, and Gretchen B. Rossman, Designing Qualitative Research, Sixth Edition


Walby, Kevin, Canadian Journal of Sociology


Marshall, Catherine, and Gretchen B. Rossman, Designing Qualitative Research, Sixth Edition. Sage. 2016, 323 pp. $62.40 paper (9781452271002)

Designing Qualitative Research is meant for social science students training in qualitative inquiry and for professors who keep textbooks handy to check trends. The main purpose of this text is to elaborate on the steps involved in qualitative inquiry including ethics proposals, research design, data analysis, and exposition. The authors C. Marshall and G. Rossman indicate that the field of qualitative inquiry has undergone "seismic shifts" (pg. xvii) since the first edition of Designing Qualitative Research was published, and that this version of the text is updated accordingly.

In the first few chapters, Marshall and Rossman discuss how to get started with qualitative research. They argue that before any study commences the researcher should test both the feasibility and significance of the proposed research. Marshall and Rossman suggest researchers need to be trained in theory and methods but should also be aware of criteria for quality (or value, or success) in qualitative research. Next, the authors summarize genres of qualitative research, which they divide into major and minor genres. The major genres include ethnography, phenomenology, case studies, and grounded theory. The major genres refer to longstanding frameworks for inquiry, whereas the minor genres in this categorization tend to be newer and more explicitly critical. The minor genres are too numerous to elaborate here but include performance-based, participatory action research, feminist, and critical race inquiries. Next Marshall and Rossman offer a discussion of criteria for quality in qualitative research. They reject notions of validity, reliability, and generalizability, which they associate with positivist and quantitative inquiry, instead focusing on credibility, dependability, and transferability as replacement points of reference.

Other chapters assess how to use theory in qualitative research, how to engage in sampling and recruitment, how to conduct different types of data collection and data analysis, including visual methods, and how to write about empirical materials. In the conclusion, the authors return to debates about criteria for quality in qualitative research, making an argument for why credibility, dependability, and transferability should replace validity, reliability, and generalizability.

These chapters do a good job of covering the basics of qualitative research. However, there are several points in Designing Qualitative Research that I disagree with or find lacking.

First, Marshall and Rossman suggest that "the proposal is an argument" (11). The authors mean that during the proposal stage the author should try to figure out what their main point will be by the end of the research. I do not feel it is appropriate to finalize or even formulate an argument prior to collecting and analyzing any empirical material. …

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