Tuesday, April 5, 2011

New Book on Innovation in Research Methods

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.


  1. I'm suspicious of the whole project. What is a methodological innovation anyway? How do you presume to be able to identify them? Are you trying to create another set of restrictive canonical guidelines? If you can describe an innovation in a summary chapter, is it really an innovation any longer?

  2. Vogt did not reveal any criteria for deciding what is and is not an innovation in research methods. He only told us that he talked to some people and informally polled others. Consensus among friends and vote counting do not add up to principles of decision making on this important issue. I agree that Williams and Vogt discovered what seem to be some important innovations, but I disagree that they have a reliable method other researchers could use in the future to discover more.

  3. The qualitative research analysis are very important for the data coding, analysis, and interpretation. This provide range of techniques to us.