When to Use What Research Design (Paperback) book cover

When to Use What Research Design

By W. Paul Vogt, Dianne C. Gardner, Lynne Haeffele

© 2012 – Guilford Press

378 pages

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About the Book

Systematic, practical, and accessible, this is the first book to focus on finding the most defensible design for a particular research question. Thoughtful guidelines are provided for weighing the advantages and disadvantages of various methods, including qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods designs. The book can be read sequentially or readers can dip into chapters on specific stages of research (basic design choices, selecting and sampling participants, addressing ethical issues) or data collection methods (surveys, interviews, experiments, observations, archival studies, and combined methods). Many chapter headings and subheadings are written as questions, helping readers quickly find the answers they need to make informed choices that will affect the later analysis and interpretation of their data.
Useful features include:
*Easy-to-navigate part and chapter structure.
*Engaging research examples from a variety of fields.
*End-of-chapter tables that summarize the main points covered.
*Detailed suggestions for further reading at the end of each chapter.
*Integration of data collection, sampling, and research ethics in one volume.
*Comprehensive glossary.

See also Vogt et al.'s Selecting the Right Analyses for Your Data, which addresses the next steps in coding, analyzing, and interpreting data.


"A masterful and thorough presentation of 'when to use what.' From beginning to end, it is clear that you are reading the work of very accomplished researchers and educators. The authors use a particularly rich, colorful, and practical set of examples, including classic and contemporary research studies as well as wonderful day-to-day illustrations such as TV channel surfing to introduce the notion of sampling. Readers can pick and choose individual chapters or read straight through the entire book, depending on their needs. The summary tables are extraordinarily useful and can serve as a quick reference to chapter structure and content."--Karen M. Staller, PhD, School of Social Work, University of Michigan

"I am recommending this book as the core text for our required methods course at the graduate level. The reader is taken on a tour of the main research designs employed by social scientists, including various quantitative and qualitative, experimental and observational, and primary and secondary data designs. Highlighting how decisions about research design should be influenced by the nature of the research question, the authors also acknowledge when other factors come into play, including financial and ethical considerations. The text helps researchers decide when to use a particular research design; teaches how to choose appropriate methods for sampling, recruiting, and  assigning treatments (for experiments); and explores the implications of these decisions. I like how the authors talk about debates in the literature and how they point out typical/common shortcomings of different approaches. Their frank language gives the book the feel of a trusted advisor providing honest advice."--Tracey LaPierre, PhD, Department of Sociology, University of Kansas

"This book is on an essential topic--the questions it tackles are incredibly important in the social sciences. It reads like a field guide to conducting good research. I would recommend it to advanced undergraduates who need a handy reference or to graduate students who want one resource for their basic design, sampling, and ethics questions. It is accessible and easy to read. The authors present the process of research as full of choices that are best tackled by an informed researcher--no choice is universally the best one. The book emphasizes the importance of careful thought and weighing of pros and cons prior to conducting research."--Theresa DiDonato, PhD, Department of Psychology, Loyola University Maryland

"The book is very well written and readable, a real plus! I really like the authors’ premise that the research question determines the choice of method, rather than vice versa."--Rosemary L. Hopcroft, PhD, Department of Sociology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

"The use of questions as subheads is an effective pedagogical technique. Teaching students to turn a heading into a question and then reading the textbook section to find the answer to the question has a rich history as an instructional strategy."--Susan Kushner Benson, PhD, College of Education, University of Akron

"This has been an excellent text for my Advanced Research Methods course. Vogt et al. offer a well-rounded approach that addresses methods, sampling, and ethical issues for each research design. The book provides nice coverage that is relatively discipline neutral--appealing to the social sciences as well as business. Abundant references to key studies can be used as article reviews to further enhance each topic. The authors also incorporate statistical analysis tools that are appropriate for the designs, going beyond basic statistical procedures to explain a number of advanced procedures, as well."--Debbie L. Hahs-Vaughn, PhD, College of Education and Human Performance, University of Central Florida

Table of Contents

General Introduction: Design, Sampling, and Ethics
I. Research Questions and Designs
What Is the Role of Theory in Research Questions and Designs?
1. When to Use Survey Designs
When Are Surveys Likely to Be a Wise Design Choice?
When Should You Use Which Mode of Administering Your Survey?
What Design Should You Use to Study Change over Time?
What Question Formats Can You Use in a Survey Design?
Conclusion on Survey Designs: So Many Questions, So Little Time
2. When to Use Interview Designs
Comparing Interviews with Surveys
Conclusion on Interview Designs in General
Specific Interview Types, Approaches, and Procedures
3. When to Use Experimental Designs
What’s Wrong with Gold-Standard Thinking?
When Is an RCT a Good Option?
When Is an Experimental Design a Good Option for Your Research?
When Should You Use the Basic Types of Experimental Design?
General Conclusion on When to Use Experimental Designs
4. When to Use Naturalistic and Participant Observational Designs
Overview of Observational Designs
When Is Observation a Good Design Choice?
Further Distinguishing between Naturalistic and Participant Observational Designs
When Should You Use a Naturalistic Observational Design?
When Should You Use Participant Observational Designs?
Conclusion: Characteristics of All Observational Designs
5. When to Use Archival Designs: Literature Reviews and Secondary Analyses
What Kinds of Archival Data Are Available for Researchers?
When Should You Collect and Use Preexisting Data Rather Than Produce Your Own?
Types of Archival Research
Database Archives
Organizational Records
Textual Studies of Documents
New Media, Including Internet Sources
6. When to Use Combined Research Designs
Simple versus Multipart Research Questions
When to Combine Research Designs
Types and Qualities of Combined Designs
Logistical Considerations in Combined Research Designs
Conclusion and Summary
II. Sampling, Selection, and Recruitment
7. Sampling for Surveys
Probability Samples
Nonprobability Samples
When Should You Try to Improve Response Rates?
How Big Should Your Sample Be?
8. Identifying and Recruiting People for Interviews
How Interview Strategies Are Shaped by Research Questions
Making Basic Decisions about Interview Sampling
Conclusions on Selecting People to Interview
9. Sampling, Recruiting, and Assigning Participants in Experiments
Randomized Controlled Trials
Alternatives to RCTs
Controlling for Covariates
Conclusion: Sampling, Recruiting, and Assigning Cases in Experiments
10. Searching and Sampling for Observations
Overview of Searching and Sampling Concerns in Observational Research
Appropriateness and Relevance of the Sample
Accessing Observation Sites
Decisions Influenced by Resources and Other Practical Considerations
Four Basic Sampling Decisions
Sampling and the Five Types of Research Questions
Conclusion and Summary
11. Sampling from Archival Sources
When Do You Search and When Do You Sample?
Sampling Research Literature to Build Upon and Synthesize It
Database Archives
Organizational Records
Textual Studies of Documents
New Media, Including Various Internet Sources
12. Sampling and Recruiting for Combined Research Designs
When Should You Use Probability Samples in Your Combined Design Study?
When Should You Use Purposive Samples in Your Combined Design Study?
When Should You Use Both Probability and Purposive Samples in Your Study?
Conclusion and Summary
III. Research Ethics: The Responsible Conduct of Research
Responsibilities toward the Persons Being Studied
Responsibilities toward Other Researchers
Responsibilities toward the Broader Society/Community
13. Ethics in Survey Research
Consent: Informed Participants Willingly Joining the Research Project
Harm: Preventing Injury to Respondents
Privacy: Ensuring Respondents’ Anonymity and/or Confidentiality
14. Ethics in Interview Research
Consent: Informed Participants Willingly Agreeing to Be Interviewed
Harm: Preventing Injury to Interviewees during the Interview
Privacy: Ensuring Interviewees’ Confidentiality
15. Ethics in Experimental Research
Consent: Informed Participants Willingly Joining the Research Project
Harm: Preventing Injury to Experimental Participants
Privacy: Ensuring Participants’ Anonymity and/or Confidentiality
16. Ethics in Observational Research
Seeking and Acquiring Informed Consent to Observe
Avoiding and Minimizing Harm to Participants While Conducting the Study
Ensuring Participant Privacy
17. Ethical Issues in Archival Research
Ethical Practice in Reviews of the Research Literature
Ethical Practices in Employing Database Archives
Ethical Obligations When Using Institutional Records
Ethical Issues When Using Documents, Including Public Documents
Ethical Issues When Using Blogs and Other Sources Published On-line
When Might the Honest, Correct Reporting of Archival Research Cause Harm?
18. Ethical Considerations in Combined Research Designs
Conclusion: Culmination of Design, Sampling, and Ethics in Valid Data Coding
When to Use Qualities or Quantities, Names or Numbers, Categories or Continua?
What Methods to Use to Code Concepts with Reliability and Validity
What Methods to Use to Improve Reliability
What Methods to Use to Enhance Validity
What to Use to Code Concepts Validly
Coding Decisions Shape Analytic Options

About the Authors

W. Paul Vogt, PhD, until his death in 2016, was Emeritus Professor of Research Methods and Evaluation at Illinois State University, where he received both teaching and research awards. Dr. Vogt’s areas of specialization included research design and data analysis, with particular emphasis on combining qualitative, quantitative, and graphic approaches. His books include Selecting the Right Analyses for Your Data and When to Use What Research Design.
Dianne C. Gardner, PhD, is Associate Professor of Educational Administration at Illinois State University. Dr. Gardner’s research interests include assessment, organizational development, program evaluation, P20 systems, and qualitative research methodology.
Lynne M. Haeffele, PhD, is Senior Research Associate in the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University. Dr. Haeffele’s research interests include combining research designs, applying research findings to policy and practice, program evaluation, and the topical areas of college readiness, organizational performance, and school–university partnerships.

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