Principles of Sociological Inquiry: Qualitative and Quantitative Methods

April 28, 2014 | Updated: March 28, 2019
Author: Amy Blackstone, University Of Maine-ME-Orono

Principles of Sociological Inquiry: Qualitative and Quantitative Methods emphasizes the relevance of research methods for the everyday lives of its readers, undergraduate students. Each chapter describes how research methodology is useful for students in the multiple roles they fill: (1) as consumers of popular and public information, (2) as citizens in a society where findings from social research shape laws, policies, and public life, and (3) as current and future employees. Connections to these roles are made throughout and directly within the main text of the book. Principles of Sociological Inquiry: Qualitative and Quantitative Methods also provides balanced coverage of qualitative and quantitative approaches by integrating a variety of examples from recent and classic sociological research. The text challenges students to debate and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of both approaches.

Subject Areas
Social Sciences, Sociology

Original source
http://www.saylor.org/site/textbooks/Principles of Sociological Inquiry.pdf

Adoptions:
Tell us you are using this Open Textbook

Adaptations:
Support for adapting an open textbook

Need help?
Visit our help page

Accessibility:
Textbooks flagged as accessible meet the criteria noted on the Accessibility Checklist

textbook cover image
More Questions than Answers (https://flic.kr/p/b6WaSP) by Tom (https://www.flickr.com/photos/an_untrained_eye/) is used under a CC BY-NC license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/)

Get This Book

Select a file format

Creative Commons License
Principles of Sociological Inquiry: Qualitative and Quantitative Methods by Amy Blackstone, University Of Maine-ME-Orono is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Similar Textbooks


Request to review this textbook

Reviews (2) Avg: 4.45 / 5

Brianne M. Collins

Institution:Ambrose University CollegeTitle/Position: LecturerCreative Commons License

Q: The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary

The textbook covers a lot of ground in a reasonable number of pages. It introduces and addresses, to varying degrees, key concepts and topics that are necessary for an introductory grasp of research methodology. Several quantitative (e.g., surveys, interviews, unobtrusive research) and qualitative (e.g., interviews, field research, unobtrusive research) methods are introduced in the book, as well as several additional methods that are not always found in introductory methods books (e.g., ethnomethodology and conversation analysis). There is, however, no table of contents in the PDF version of the book, and no index, glossary, or reference list provided in either format of the book (PDF or online).

There are many times that more examples would have been helpful for explaining some of the more complex concepts introduced in the book such as epistemology, ontology, paradigms, etc. Coming back more clearly and regularly to these key concepts throughout the book would also have resulted in a more thoroughly comprehensive text. In addition, more detail could have been added in a number of places.

Some of the highlights of this book’s coverage of research methodology, as compared to similar books I’ve encountered, are: (1) the introduction of some clear, concise, and helpful questions in Chapter 4 for readers to consider when beginning a research project; (2) addressing how to read and evaluate sociological research near the end of the book in chapter 14 after giving readers the tools to do so (rather than early on in the textbook, if at all); and (3) providing a balanced exploration of both qualitative and quantitative approaches to research that does not overtly favour one over the other.

Comprehensiveness Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased

Content was largely accurate throughout with one exception—qualitative research.

Throughout the book, qualitative research was largely discussed, alongside quantitative research, as one side of the same coin. While I do appreciate the approach where readers should not be dragged into the debate about which one is best or more preferable, the diversity and richness of the qualitative research field was not adequately captured. Among qualitative researchers, there are varying epistemological and ontological positions that affect what kinds of research questions can be asked and how research is ultimately conducted. While more advanced qualitative textbooks address this more fully, readers should at minimum be informed of several key aspects beyond what was presented: (1) qualitative research is substantially more diverse than presented in the book (additional suggestions for resources could be provided for those interested); (2) the language used by some qualitative researchers differs from that used by researchers who subscribe to the positivist paradigm; and (3) qualitative research is largely interested in experience (i.e., phenomenology) and meaning-making rather than simply differing from quantitative research because visual and/or textual data are collected (rather than quantities and measurements).

In following, how and in what way qualitative methodology is presented in the text alongside quantitative methodology needs to be reconsidered in some instances to reflect the above. For example, Chapter 6 (Defining and Measuring Concepts) does not mention qualitative research once and its absence is not explained to readers. Thus, readers may assume that the same measurement principles used in quantitative research applies to qualitative research. This is simply not accurate in many forms of qualitative research.

The diagrams and photos were accurate and helpful for clarifying content. The videos and links were helpful when they would play and/or when links were not broken.

Content Accuracy Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement

The material was relevant and addressed more recent events like the election of Barack Obama and studies as recent as 2011. An updated version is already warranted, however, given how quickly new research accumulates in the field and the changing global landscape.

A concern for longevity is the number of internet links provided within the text itself and at the end of some sections. There are quite a few links that no longer work (e.g., nearly all of the links to cartoons). Keeping links up to date would be important in order to ensure the text remains relevant and up to date over time. Similarly, the videos provided in the online version would not play and thus the ability to view those would need to be monitored over time as well.

Relevance Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used

The textbook is well-written, easy to read, and does a good job of clearly explaining various stages in the research process. Many examples are used to demonstrate the breadth of sociological research and to provide context for methodological content provided throughout the book. At the same time, some of the more difficult concepts (e.g., epistemology, ontology, paradigm, etc) would benefit from additional explanation early on and, subsequently, be more clearly interwoven throughout the book to allow readers to make connections between key concepts and research methodology.

Clarity Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework

While more connections could be made between concepts throughout the book (particularly the more philosophical concepts presented in the first few chapters), the textbook is consistent throughout in terms of what is being communicated to readers about the research process. There were no significant content related inconsistencies that were apparent in my view.

Consistency Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided). The text should not be overly self-referential, and should be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.

The book is well organized in terms of the consistent use of chapter sub-sections throughout that would allow instructors to assign certain sections at a time rather than an entire chapter. The use of sub-sections also ensures that readers feel like they are progressing through the material at a relatively quick pace. In some cases, however, the sub-sections within a chapter are quite short and result in the content being presented in a piecemeal way. As a consequence, readers may not make necessary connections between content provided in an earlier sub-section with material presented later on.

The inclusion of learning objectives, key takeaways, and exercises for each sub-section are helpful for ensuring that readers grasp concepts prior to moving on. Because these tools are reliably presented throughout the text in the same format, they would be helpful in the event that select sub-sections were to be assigned or discussed in the classroom.

Modularity Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion

The topics are presented in the order of the research process which is expected for a research methods textbook at this level. This could have been more clearly identified, however, in section 1.4 where the layout of the book was presented (though it did seem strange that the layout of the book was discussed at the end of the first chapter rather than in the preface).

It would be helpful to split survey research into two chapters—one qualitative and one quantitative—rather than one chapter that addresses both. More content could then be added, and it would be easier to assign in a classroom depending on how instructors intended to present survey research.

The inclusion of a chapter on reading and evaluating sociological research (Chapter 14) near the end of the book was helpful whereby readers learn about the research process prior to being introduced to evaluating research. This strategy is not always the case in other research methods texts (if it is discussed at all).

Organization Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader

This was the most notable concern in reviewing this book. Unlike a number of other open access textbooks, this book is only available in two electronic formats (PDF and online). After attempting to convert the PDF into an e-reader friendly format, I found that the text was choppy and navigation was quite problematic. It would be helpful if multiple formats were available to readers (e.g., .epub, .mobi).

Another concern regarding the two formats is that both versions are not the same in terms of content. The PDF, for instance, does not include the table of contents to aid in navigation (despite having bookmarks that can help if you know they exist). In addition, the images presented in the online version were not present in the PDF version. As well, the links provided when another section was referred to were only provided in the online version, while the same text in the PDF version was merely presented in a larger font size.

The referencing also differs between the two versions. In the PDF format, references are numbered and presented at the end of each sub-section, which is adequate though a reference list at the end of the textbook would be preferable. In the online version, however, full references follow the citation directly in the text itself. This is very confusing and made reading online unnecessarily frustrating.

Lastly, it would be nice if there were a book cover provided (at least in the PDF version), so it felt like a textbook one might buy from a publisher. This would help lend credibility to the book, if simply on the basis of appearance.

Interface Rating: 2 out of 5

Q: The text contains no grammatical errors

Aside from the confusion with referencing that impacted the text in the online version, the content itself provided by the author is reasonably error-free (i.e., no substantial errors were noted).

Grammar Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds

The textbook was culturally sensitive and examples were drawn from diverse areas of sociology, which resulted in the inclusion of a wide variety and diversity of research topics (e.g., gender, LGBTQ, class, etc).

Cultural Relevance Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: Are there any other comments you would like to make about this book, for example, its appropriateness in a Canadian context or specific updates you think need to be made?

The textbook is American in orientation and a Canadian version is always preferable when possible. While Canadian examples would be helpful, what is most pressing is the need for an ethics chapter that reflects Tri-Council policies and Canadian guidelines.

The most pertinent improvement needed in my view is in terms of the interface. The issues pertaining to the inconsistencies in formatting between the PDF and online version need to be sorted out. In addition, multiple formats should be provided for the book.

Overall, I most appreciated the non-divisive approach presented in this book in terms of qualitative versus quantitative research. While more nuances could be introduced to the reader in regards to the diversity within the qualitative field, the textbook is still a great starting point and encourages students to consider methodology in light of what they want to know (rather than which orientation to research one prefers).

Additionally, this book is a helpful course resource since it does not provide so much detail that it strips instructors of the ability to supplement in the classroom. Instead, instructors can focus on various methods or concepts to a greater or lesser degree depending on their preferences.

Dr. Sandra R. Enns

Institution:Langara CollegeTitle/Position: Instructor and Department Chair, Sociology and AnthropologyCreative Commons License

Q: The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary

I did not have access to the index and/or glossary either online nor on the downloaded PDF copy, so I cannot answer to that.

Regarding its comprehensiveness, there are a few elements missing that I would require from a text on sociological research methods:

1. No research is undertaken without a proposal first being submitted and there is very little, if anything, about the importance of a research proposal nor how to construct one and what needs to be included. I would be very surprised if any course on research methods would not include a research proposal as one of the major assignments. For me, a good text needs to be a how-to manual and while for the most part, this text is quite good at explaining the hows of social research, the missing section on the required research proposal is a bit of a glaring exception.

2. I also find the sections on data analysis to be a bit brief, particularly in terms of quantitative data. When teaching this course, I don't want to have to assign my students two texts - I want one that will cover it all, and that includes the basics of data analysis. As such, I would not consider using this text for my methods course.

3. While the author does include a section on "Writing Up Research Results" (Chapter 13), she doesn't actually explain how to write a research report (i.e., the necessary sections and what to include), nor how to write up results (a key skill for any social researcher). She refers students to other resources on how to do this, but once again, this requires another text or source. I see no reason why this can't be included here in more detail as it is a fundamental skill associated with conducting social research.

Comprehensiveness Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased

Chapter 4 - Beginning a Research Project - under Choosing a Topic - the text states "how many know that Barack Obama is our president..." which sadly and unfortunately is not accurate.

Other than this bit of wishful thinking (sigh), I find this text to be very accurate, as well as error and bias free.

Content Accuracy Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement

I think the author has done an impressive job of combining classical research with modern studies, as well as avoiding any information that will quickly become obsolete or with which students will be unable to relate in a few years. She sticks to the basics while providing excellent yet timeless examples of research that will continue to be relevant for some time to come, and could easily be updated in future editions if need be. i also think she does a admirable job of demonstrating that some methods that may seem out-dated may still be relevant and effective due to population characteristics and shouldn't be dismissed simply because there may be newer methods available.

Relevance Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used

I really enjoy and admire this author's writing style, as well as her sense of humour. Anyone who uses the "she's a witch" sketch from Monty Python's Search for the Holy Grail as an example of the inductive vs. the deductive approach to research (Chapter 2 Exercises) is someone who captures my attention and convinces me to keep reading. She does a good job of providing in-text definitions for concepts (rather than having students jump around in the text to try and find them), as well as providing strong examples and applications for these concepts that are relevant and effective. The writing is not boring, pedantic, or overly academic (in other words, alienating to students). It is engaging and interesting and written a a perfect level for a second year student with some knowledge of sociology but little to none regarding methods. Sections are short, unnecessary jargon kept to a bare minimum, and humour displayed at regular intervals.

Clarity Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework

I see no issues with internal consistency in this text in terms of terminology and framework.

Consistency Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided). The text should not be overly self-referential, and should be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.

I find this text to be very intelligently organized in terms of sections and sub-sections which are well-labeled and clearly descriptive. They are written in such a way as would allow them to be stand alone if necessary but also work very well together as a whole. The sections are not overly long and are well punctuated with pictures, charts, tables, and colourful boxes such as Key Takeaways, Exercises, and Learning Objectives which break up the black and white of the text and keep the eye engaged. It is both easy to skim to pick up the most important points as well as give a more in-depth reading that is not overly taxing in terms of attention and focus (both important for busy students). While I do find that the author does refer to her own life, work, and experience a fair amount, given the subject matter, I think this is both allowable and useful, as she establishes her strong knowledge of the subject matter as well as her experiences (the good, the bad, and the ugly) with social research in interesting and relevant ways to which students can relate. She also provides a good balance of other research and references so it does not appear that she is relying too much on her own work and experience.

Modularity Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion

Other than the missing topics I discussed earlier, I do find that the presentation of the topics in the text is both logical and well-organized. As this text is intended for a student with little knowledge of social research methods, I think it does a very good job of building that knowledge in a very logical way, with each section building on the one before and following the sociological research method from start to finish the way it would be conducted in a social research project. Although I would like to see more on data analysis and report writing, I do very much appreciate Chapters 14 and 15 as these are important parts of the research equation that are often ignored in methods texts.

Organization Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader

I don't know if this has something to do with the version of the text that I had access to (https://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/sociological-inquiry-principles-qualitative-and-quantitative-methods) but less than half of the internal links that I clicked on actually worked, including the ones that referred back to earlier chapters. (I was really excited to watch the clip from Monty Python's Search for the Holy Grail in Section 2.3, long one of my favourites, but alas, no). I saw a lot of Page Not Found, or Hmmm. We're having trouble finding that site, or just a blank page, so that was definitely frustrating and confusing. In addition, the author refers from time to time to New Yorker cartoons but the links do not take you to the specific cartoon but rather to the Cartoon Bank, which is less than helpful - I am not sure why the specific cartoons are not just used in the text rather than using a link to refer to them? As such, this text does not currently operate the way it should in terms of working links so this needs to be reviewed and addressed.

In addition, many of the Figures display very tiny text and as such are quite hard to read. Simple enlargement would solve this problem quite well.

Interface Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: The text contains no grammatical errors

While this text is for the most part very well-written, there are a few formatting issues here and there, such as in Section 9.1 in the following paragraph:

Knowing how to create and conduct a good interview is one of those skills you just can’t go wrong having. Interviews are used by market researchers to learn how to sell their products, journalists use interviews to get information from a whole host of people from VIPs to random people on the street. Regis Philbin (a sociology major in collegeThis information comes from the following list of famous sociology majors provided by the American Sociological Association on their website: http://www.asanet.org/students/famous.cfm.) used interviews to help television viewers get to know guests on his show, employers use them to make decisions about job offers, and even Ruth Westheimer (the famous sex doctor who has an MA in sociologyRead more about Dr. Ruth, her background, and her credentials at her website: http://www.drruth.com.) used interviews to elicit details from call-in participants on her radio show.Interested in hearing Dr. Ruth’s interview style? There are a number of audio clips from her radio show, Sexually Speaking, linked from the following site: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~chuck/ruthpg. Warning: some of the images and audio clips on this page may be offensive to some readers. It seems everyone who’s anyone knows how to conduct an interview.

There are two formatting errors just in this paragraph alone. Also, the last link is incorrect.

I think a close proof read as well as a check of all links would be in order.

Grammar Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds

I didn't notice any insensitive or offensive language in this text, but I did notice that the pictures weren't as inclusive as they could have been; although I can see that an attempt was made at diversity, I think it could have gone a bit further in representation of minorities. Keeping in mind that a methods text is not exactly the appropriate forum for discussing and debating minority issues, I think the author did a good job in balancing the research and studies that she presented in order to make them representative of the work that is available in the various fields.

Cultural Relevance Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: Are there any other comments you would like to make about this book, for example, its appropriateness in a Canadian context or specific updates you think need to be made?

Overall, I really like this textbook. I appreciate the way it is written and organized, the inclusion of humour (so very rare in methods texts), the useful and relevant links (if they all worked...), the good mix of pictures, and tables, and figures, the use of colour to keep the eye engaged, and the practical and interesting exercises at the end of each section.

My two main critiques, and the reason I would recommend it to others but not use it myself, are the missing topics I delineated at the beginning of this review (regarding the research proposal, data entry, and report writing) which would require further resources for students (which I try to avoid) and the strong American focus as I am a Canadian sociology instructor and would prefer a text with more Canadian research and examples. Otherwise, this is one of the better methods texts that I have seen (and I have reviewed quite a few in trying to find one for my methods course) and I quite enjoyed the opportunity to review it.