Research Methods for Public Administrators: Third Edition, 3rd Edition (Paperback) book cover

Research Methods for Public Administrators

Third Edition, 3rd Edition

By Gail Johnson


350 pages

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Paperback: 9780765637147
pub: 2014-03-30
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As in previous editions, this highly practical book is written with beginning MPA students and practitioners in mind. It focuses on the interpretation and use of research findings, not just number crunching. It covers the entire research process, from initial questions to final report, in clear, jargon-free language, and includes numerous easy-to-understand examples and exercises that provide opportunities for concrete applications of the concepts. It is solidly grounded in public administration and recognizes both the promise and limitations of research within a political environment.

Key features of the book:

--It is highly practical and written to accommodate a mix of readers: those who want to become analysts, managers who will oversee research contracts, and citizens who need to know whether to believe the facts and data they read in today's news;

--It minimizes the use of jargon and explains difficult concepts in clear language. Plentiful end-of-chapter exercises provide opportunities for concrete application of the concepts;

--Key points are highlighted as "takeaway lessons" so readers are reminded about what really matters. The tough questions to ask are suggested in every chapter;

--Examples and applications are used throughout the book to illustrate concepts and add topical interest;

--It covers the entire research process, from initial questions to the final report.

This book demystifies and makes practical the research every public administrator and policy analyst needs to do the job well. Online instructor's materials, including a Test Bank, PowerPoint slides, and a Survey and Documental Analysis (SDA) guide, are also available to adopters.


"Research Methods for Public Administrators is presented in a clear and comprehensible fashion which enhances the ability of even those with limited knowledge of research methods to understand the topic. The book is well structured, covers the topic with a minimum of jargon, and is designed to develop the critical thinking skills of students. Many examples of research concepts that are relevant to public administrators make the book extremely useful for students and practitioners alike." -- William Leavitt, Old Dominion University

"Research Methods for Public Administrators is extremely remarkable as it treats both qualitative and quantitative research methods in a comprehensive manner without compromising clarity and readability. The rare combination of broad coverage and reader-friendliness really makes this book an excellent resource for students learning basic research tools." -- Chih-Wei Hsieh, University of New Mexico

"Finally we have an approachable methods book. Gail Johnson's practitioner background helps her to discuss a very complex topic, research methods, in an understandable and practical manner. While covering the basics of research design and statistics, she also gives attention to the important topic of communicating research findings. Additionally, Johnson ties research methods to its uses in the public sector. This book is well suited for a variety of public administration programs, but it is particularly useful for those with many in-service students." -- Jami Taylor, University of Toledo

"This is the consummate methods survey text for public administration and policy study, somehow improved in the new edition over already superlative previous ones. In the new edition, conceptual frames continue to be covered with even greater nuance and depth--topics such as policy and program complexity, complex causation, logic modeling, the inter-relation of normative and descriptive/empirical questions in public sector research, research ethics, and the refinement of research questions in these contexts, for instance translating research questions into hypotheses. Most highly recommended!" -- Mario Rivera, University of New Mexico

"This textbook offers a comprehensive yet understandable overview of the process of research and its use in the field of public administration. The author's focus on how to use and interpret research findings is a welcome addition to the topic and the real-world exercises provide students with practical application of research skills essential for public managers. A great textbook for MPA students!" -- Pamela T. Dunning, Troy University

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Preface and Acknowledgments

1. Introduction: Research Methods for Public Administrators

Overview Goals: Research as a Critical Thinking Tool Research in the Public Sector What Is Research? Types of Research Ethics and Principles of Good Research

Overview of This Book


2. Basic Research Concepts


The Secret Language of Social Science Theory Hypothesis in Its Many Forms Variables Values Levels of Measurement Determining Causality Independent and Dependent Variables Control Variables Direction of Relationships Program Evaluation: Research in the Public Sector

Using Models for a Holistic View of Relationships

The Logic Model

Applying the Logic Model



3. What Is the Question?


Determining the Research Question

Learning from Others

Engaging the Stakeholders

Working Together

Types of Questions Descriptive Questions Normative Questions Relationship Questions Conclusion


4. Identifying Measures and Measurement Strategy


Defining Key Terms Conceptual Definitions Operational Definitions Setting Boundaries

Valid and Reliable Measures Validity Reliability Why Measurement Matters



5. Designs for Research: The Xs and Os Framework


Designing an Experiment

Applying the Design Elements: The Xs and Os Framework Nonexperimental Design Quasi-Experimental Design Classic Experimental Design Design Variations Using Statistical Controls to Create Comparison Groups Longitudinal Studies Internal Validity

Why Validity Matters

External Validity



6. Other Research Approaches


Secondary Analysis of Data

Evaluation Synthesis (Meta-Analysis)

Content Analysis

Survey Research

Case Studies

Cost-Benefit Analysis



7. Data Collection I: Available Data and Observation


Data Collection: The Degree of Structure

Available Data

Data Collection Instruments


Obtrusive and Unobtrusive Data Collection

The Design Matrix



8. Data Collection II: Interviews and Focus Groups


General Guidelines About Choosing the Appropriate Method

Encouraging Participation

In-Person Interviews

Focus Groups

Other Group Data Collection: Expert Panels, Public Hearings



9. Data Collection III: Surveys


Basic Methods

Response Rates

Telephone Surveys

Mail Surveys

Cyber-Research: E-mail and Web-Based Surveys

Developing Closed-Ended Questions

Using One-Way and Two-Way Intensity Scales

Ranking Questions

Demographic Questions



10. Sampling Demystified


Sampling Jargon

Random and Nonrandom Samples Random Samples Nonrandom Samples Random Samples: The Options Simple Random Sample Systematic Random Sample Stratified Random Sample Proportional Stratified Sample Disproportionate Stratified Sample Cluster Sample Nonrandom Samples: The Options

Determining Sample Size

Nonsampling Errors



11. Qualitative Data Analysis


Analyzing Qualitative Data

Identifying Themes and Quotes

Working with Qualitative Data



12. Data Analysis for Description


Simple Descriptive Statistics in Public Administration

Commonly Used Descriptive Statistics Counts Percents Rates Ratios Rates of Change Distributions Measures of Central Tendency Which Measure to Use? Comparison of Means Measures of Dispersion



13. Analyzing Survey Scales


Handling Exits and the Middle of a Five-Point Scale

Setting Benchmarks and Extreme Analysis

Handling the Middle Category in One-Way Intensity Scales

Should Means Be Used with Nominal and Ordinal Scales?

The Analytical Tool: Cross Tabulations



14. Data Analysis: Exploring Relationships


Using Crosstabs to Examine Relationships

Controlling for a Third Variable

Exploring Relationships: Comparison of Means and Medians

Measures of Association

Frequently Used Measures of Association

Working with Interval or Ratio Data



15. Data Analysis: Regression


Bivariate Regression: Key Elements

Using Bivariate Regression Analysis: Sunshine and Tourism

Multiple Regression Beta Weights: Relative Predictive Strength Regression in the News

Why Did the Violent Crime Rate Drop After 1991?



16. Data Analysis Using Inferential Statistics


Statistical Significance: Basic Concepts

The Logic of Statistical Significance Testing

Errors in Tests for Statistical Significance

Common Tests for Statistical Significance Chi-Square t-Tests: Analyzing Difference in Means Analysis of Variance Tests for Statistical Significance in Regression Analysis

Reporting Results of Statistical Significance

Population Estimates and Confidence Intervals



17. Communicating Research Results


Effectively Reporting Results

Reporting Data

General Guide for Communicating Research Results

Guide for Writing an Executive Summary

Guide for Writing a Formal Report

Guide for Using Charts and Tables

Guide for Oral Presentations

Presenting Unwelcome Information

Making Sense of Research Results



18. Conclusion: Research at the Intersection of Politics and Administration


The Research Process Revisited Planning Doing Reporting Ethics and Social Justice

Managing Research Projects

Assessing Credibility

The Limitations of Science

The Intersection of Research, Politics, and Administration

Closing Observations


Appendix A. Mathematical Formulas for Selected Statistics

Appendix B. Statistics as a Second Language

Appendix C. Bibliography

Appendix D. Logic Model Template

Appendix E. The Generic Design Matrix


About the Author

About the Author

Gail Johnson has worked in several public agencies, including the U.S. Government Accountability Office and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Her work with GAO included reports about management of federal agencies, transforming the civil service, and drug use among youth. She has taught in MPA programs for more than fifteen years, worked as consultant with several local governments, and helped design several research workshops for The World Bank. She recently published Trailblazing Governors: Six Remarkable Women, which tells the stories of six of the first generation of women governors. She maintains a blog, Research Demystified, which explores social science research in the context of politics, policy, public administration, program evaluation, and measuring for results and advocacy.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Affairs & Administration


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