Reviews

Doing and writing qualitative research

This book is a very useful addition to the literature on qualitative methods, and, although it makes few direct references to nursing, midwifery or other health professions, I would have no difficulty in recommending it to postgraduate students interested in this approach or, indeed, to PhD candidates who were not familiar with the qualitative approach. I am sure they would find the author’s clarity of style and skillfully chosen illustrations helpful as they sought to get to grips with the practicalities of qualitative methods.

Holliday is careful not to begin with a daunting list of theoretical perspectives or complex philosophical notions. Instead, he invites the reader to ground their understanding of qualitative research in their experience of everyday life. Only then does he link this experience to varieties of assumptions about the ways in which the social world works. This approach serves to ease the reader into the text until, almost before they know it, they have been introduced to notions of subjectivity and interpretation.

The book contains eight chapters. It can be read sequentially as a guide to the process of undertaking qualitative research, beginning with such matters as determining the area of research, finding a research question and determining the setting in which the research will be conducted. There is an account of the nature of qualitative research, and a discussion of what counts as data. In my experience, students who are

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Holliday is careful not to begin with a daunting list of theoretical perspectives or complex philosophical notions. Instead, he invites the reader to ground their understanding of qualitative research in their experience of everyday life. Only then does he link this experience to varieties of assumptions about the ways in which the social world works. This approach serves to ease the reader into the text until, almost before they know it, they have been introduced to notions of subjectivity and interpretation.

The book contains eight chapters. It can be read sequentially as a guide to the process of undertaking qualitative research, beginning with such matters as determining the area of research, finding a research question and determining the setting in which the research will be conducted. There is an account of the nature of qualitative research, and a discussion of what counts as data. In my experience, students who are new to the qualitative approach sometimes find it difficult to judge where the boundary lies between describing and interpreting the data, and Holliday directly addresses this and other matters concerning the role of the researcher in the chapters on writing about data, and the writer’s voice. One of the most interesting chapters discusses the legitimacy of the claims made by qualitative researchers.

At the end of the book there are a series of questions related to the content of the preceding chapters, and these give useful pointers either to the teacher wishing to use this text in the classroom, or to the researcher undertaking their own project.

In summary, I have found this to be a refreshing and accessible book that makes a good basis for teaching qualitative methods. It is also suitable for novice qualitative researchers wishing to undertake their own study.

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