Order this book
The book is divided in three section: (1) Theories and Analysis, consisting of five contribution, including the one with the best title 'Real Men Don't Collect Soft Data' by Gherardi and Turner; (2) Methodological Perspectives, consisting of five chapters; and (3) Empirical Studies, consisting of five chapters and a contribution from the authors.
The contributions offer advice and comments on a wide range of issues related to qualitative research, from the advantages of multiple investigators (Eisenhardt), to 'subtle relativism' (Hammersley), to levels of representation (Riessman). Several contributions mention the strengths of using both qualitative and quantitative methods. For example, Gherardi and Turner stated: "In qualitative analyses, there are no reasons why numbers should not be appropriately deployed" (p.89). Lofland (p.149). raised questions about the voice, role and status of the researcher.
"Is it possible or desirable for intellectuals to seek an independent empirical-analytical posture that has social and intellectual value and integrity that is not the same as or reducible to any other grouping? Stated yet more broadly, how exactly are intellectuals to relate to their societies? Are they the servants of the powerful, of the oppressed, or themselves, of whom?"Unfortunately, it is impossible to comment on all individual chapters in this review. However, I would want to draw attention to the final sentence from Van Maanen's contribution 'The Fact of Fiction in Organizational Ethnography' and highlight it as the overall recommendation for the whole book. Van Maanen (p. 115) quoted Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes as saying: "The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance will ever see." Hopefully, this book will help qualitative researchers to look at everyday life and the 'obvious' from a (slightly) different perspective and that can only benefit the quality of qualitative research.
The 15 selected contributions are followed by a short 'Reflections and Advice' chapter written by the editors. This final chapter, adapted from the second edition of the editors' book Qualitative Data Analysis, offers some sound practical advice (Miles & Huberman 1994). In seven paragraphs they advise the qualitative researcher to (1) Think display; (2) Be open to invention; (3) Expect iteration; (4) Seek formalization, and distrust it; (5) Entertain mixed models; (6) Stay self-aware; and (7) Share methodological learnings. If this book teaches undergraduate students this new lesson, and reminds 'old' qualitative researchers of this advice the quality of qualitative research can only improve.
Edwin van Teijlingen
University of Aberdeen