Book by John W. Creswell
Review by Peggy M. Delmas
Director of Student Advising
College of Education
University of South Alabama

Those exploring the vast arena of qualitative research for the first time often find that terminology and choice of methods can be confusing and intimidating. Creswell does an excellent job categorizing the various qualitative methods into five approaches: narrative research, phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography, and case study. In keeping with his premise that the type of approach used by a researcher shapes the study’s design and procedures, Creswell provides a comparative analysis of the five approaches so that the researcher can make an informed decision as to which approach is the most appropriate for his or her study. This book is useful for advisors who direct student research in social or human sciences as well as for advisors interested in conducting their own research on advising or other student-centered topics.

The author has expanded on and updated the information he presented in the first edition of the book (Creswell, 1998), including discussion of the various schools of thought that have developed among qualitative researchers since the mid 1990’s. Acknowledging the “increasing fragmentation and diversity that now exists in qualitative research” (p. 4), the author discusses alternative types of procedures that exist for each of the five approaches. In addition, attention is paid to qualitative researchers who have published groundbreaking or seminal studies using one of the five approaches discussed in the book.

The most useful feature of this book is the appendices where studies serve as an example of each type of qualitative approach. Readers are enlightened by how researchers have used the five approaches to shape their studies. These examples help readers move beyond mere discussion of qualitative research to understanding what components make up a well-designed narrative study or phenomenological study. Of particular benefit is a chapter devoted to philosophical, paradigm, and interpretive frameworks; those sets of beliefs which further help shape a study. Creswell’s clear explanation of these concepts and their importance in a research design helps the researcher know how to situate him- or herself within the context of the study.       

With the increased interest in and acceptance of qualitative research, particularly in the social, behavioral, and health sciences, researchers need a solid understanding of the various approaches available under the umbrella of qualitative research. This text exposes the reader to the five qualitative research approaches and provides discussion on the strengths of each in relation to the type of research being conducted, without overwhelming the reader. Qualitative Inquiry & Research Design: Choosing among five approaches is a highly informative book; researchers will likely return again and again to the book as they expand their comfort zone within qualitative research.    

Creswell, J.W. (1998). Qualitative Inquiry & Research Design: Choosing among five approaches (first edition). Thousands Oaks, CA: Sage.

Qualitative Inquiry & Research Design: Choosing among five approaches. (2007) Book by John W. Creswell. Review by Peggy M. Delmas.Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE. Publications. 416 pp., $59.95, (paperback), ISBN # 9781412916073
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