The Sage Handbook of Innovation in Social Research Methods is now available (Sage Publications, 2011). Edited by Malcolm Williams and Paul Vogt, it contains 27 chapters exploring innovatory methodological approaches from conceptualizing research problems through data analysis. Further details are available at www.sagepublications.com.
My chapter* is on "Innovations in Program Evaluation: Comparative Case Studies as an Alternative to RCTs." We argue that randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are seldom feasible when evaluating large-scale social and educational interventions. Further, "gold-standard thinking," which assumes there is one best method for all research problems, is a mistake because it discourages thought and restricts methodological innovation. Building on our research evaluating educational programs, we show how a comparative case study approach can be an effective alternative to RCTs. We illustrate by applying Charles Ragin's Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) to the evaluation of projects in a large educational program.
*Written with colleagues Dianne Gardener, Lynne Haeffele, and Paul Baker.