In the November SoTL Series blog post, I explained that SoTL research uses the methodology used by the discipline of the researcher. I will admit that this transfer of methodology from disciplinary work to SoTL work is often a smoother transition when the researcher comes from a social science background. Therefore, I would like to recommend a few social science methodology books for those interested in learning more about social science research. The suggestions below are not SoTL specific, but rather focus on research design, independent of topic.
(A quick Amazon search for “social science research methods” yields over 15,000 results, so my list is far from exhaustive. Rather it includes some of my personal favorites. If you have other suggestions, please leave them in the comments for other readers!)
For a general introduction to the three main methodological buckets, Creswell’s (2014) Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches provides a reader friendly overview of each of the approaches. Creswell includes examples of research projects to illustrate each of the concepts, allowing novice researchers to see the concept in action.
If you are looking for a more comprehensive resource, consider Krathwohl’s (2009) Methods of Educational and Social Science Research: The Logic of Methods. This book is frequently required reading in education PhD programs during dissertation work. For our purposes, Krathwohl includes a chapter devoted to evaluation studies and action research. Action research is similar to SoTL for primary and secondary education.
Creswell’s (2012) Qualitative Inquiry & Research Design is a novice friendly introduction to qualitative methods. I keep this book handy and flagged for the table on various sampling approaches alone. Readers are introduced to the following qualitative designs: narrative, phenomenological, grounded theory, ethnological, and case study.
One of the challenges in qualitative research is deciding on a coding scheme. Saldaña’s (2015) The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers provides readers with a glossary of quick definitions of terminology that may be unfamiliar. He also walks readers through each step of analyzing qualitative data and explaining the coding approaches at each step.
If you are a qualitative researcher with no background in statistics, I would recommend taking a course (or more) in education or social science or collaborate on your project with someone trained in statistics. However, if you would like an introduction to some of the terminology, I really like Salkind’s (2016) Statistics for People Who (Think They) Hate Statistics. He has a really wonderful way of breaking down concepts and providing every day examples.
If your statistical skills are simply rusty, but are confident in your conceptual knowledge of when to use each inferential or descriptive test, I recommend a SPSS how-to guide. I have always used the latest edition of Green and Salkind’s (2013) Using SPSS for Windows and Macintosh. There are many instances in SoTL work that call for nonparametric statistics and guidelines like this are great references for those tests we do not use often.
To refresh or expand your research skill set, consider auditing a methods course from a colleague, taking a course in another department, or attending the upcoming SoTL Brownbag: Getting Started in SoTL on Tuesday, January 16. If you are unable to attend the brownbag session or would rather discuss your project in an individual consultation, contact the CITL for an appointment.