Reviewed by Louisa Buckingham, University of Nizwa
This monograph is directed at graduate students in the humanities who are considering undertaking empirical research or those who, while possessing some experience, wish to develop their use of empirical research methods. While some coverage of qualitative research is provided, the main focus is on quantitative studies. Throughout the book, the authors argue for a more rigorous approach to research on cultural phenomena in the humanities through the collection and examination of empirical data.
The book comprises twelve chapters. The first chapter provides a general introduction to the place of empirical research in the humanities, demonstrating how data collection can be relevant to our reception and understanding of literary texts. This chapter closes with an afterword in which the authors present and critically discuss common beliefs held in the humanities regarding the intrinsic difference between research in the sciences and humanities. This section serves to interact with the reader by questioning assumptions and entrenched positions on the nature of research in the humanities.
Ch. 2 offers an overview of basic scientific concepts, followed by an introduction to the conceptualization of a research project and compilation of background literature. Ch. 4 looks at data collection from a qualitative research perspective, while the subsequent two chapters focus on designing and implementing questionnaires and experiments for the purpose of quantitative data collection. Chs. 7–11 focus on the analysis of data using SPSS software, beginning with entering data and proceeding to analyzing data using descriptive and inferential statistics.
To assist the reader with the abstract nature of quantitative research methods, most chapters close with a reference to exercises available on the publisher’s website. The final chapter provides the reader with instruction for preparing a paper for a conference presentation and journal submission. The text ends with an epilogue in which the authors counter lingering scepticism regarding the suitability of empirical research in the humanities; the reader may wonder whether a glossary of key terms employed throughout the text might be more useful at this point.
This is an outstanding book and one that will likely prompt many scholars from the humanities to consider how an empirical approach to research may contribute new insights to their particular fields. It takes the reader from a basic introductory level to a level of understanding the fundamentals of using scientific software for data analysis. Although there are many texts on the market offering an introduction to research, few are directed specifically towards students from the humanities or are written in an easily comprehensible, though still scholarly, style.
This book is very accessible to an international readership on account of the absence of unnecessarily idiomatic language and cultural references that assume in-depth understanding of sociocultural phenomena common in Western Anglophone countries. This book is highly recommended as a reference text or course text for both graduate students and teachers of research methodology.