When seeking to test specific hypotheses in large data sets, social and behavioral scientists often construct models. Although useful in such situations, many phenomena of interest do not occur in large samples and do not lend themselves to precise measurement. In addition, a focus on hypothesis testing can constrict the potential use of models as organizing devices for emerging patterns -- summaries of what we believe we know about the dynamics of situation.
This book bridges the gap between "quantitative" and "qualitative" modelers to reconcile the need to impose rigor and to understand the influence of context. Although there are many different uses for models, there is also the realistic possibility of doing credible research without their use. A critical reexamination of the assumptions used in quantitatively-oriented models, however, suggests ways to increase their effectiveness as organizers of both quantitative and qualitative data.
Students of methods in psychology, sociology, education, management, social work, and public health -- and their instructors -- are increasingly expected to become familiar with both quantitative and qualitative approaches. Unfortunately, they find few vehicles for communication regarding the implications of overlapping work between the two approaches. Using models as organizing devices for a better dialogue between assumptions and data might facilitate this communication process.
"Britt's approach is effective; not only did I learn more about theory construction, it became easier to help others improve their own theories and research projects…it will give students essential concepts they need to understand theory-driven qualitative and quantitative research….provides examples, exercises, and additional readings in each chapter. His references include many of the most important publications about theory and methods that have appeared over the past 20 years."
—Cultural Anthropology Methods
"…graduate students working on their dissertation proposals will find this as a useful guide to thinking and writing more systematically about their research questions. Numerous examples from applied settings should make this reading appealing to sociologists working outside academics. Also, anyone with an active interest in the methodological unity of the social sciences will find Chapters 1-7 stimulating."
Contents: Preface. First Steps, Basic Dilemmas, Gulfs, and Bridge Building. The Big Leap: Carving Situations Up Into Concepts. Sticks and Spaces: Relationships Between Concepts. Elaboration Within the Constraints of an Additive Model. Closing Circles and Uncovering Dynamics: Feedback in Social Life. Conditional and Moderating Relationships: Elaborating the Contexts of Action. Criteria for Evaluating Models. Strategies for Moving From Elaborated to Working Models. Epilogue.