Originally posted: Wed, 13 Oct 2004 07:24:56
I recalled this book from the library because I had seen it mentioned so frequently in the qualitative research texts I've been reading. And the title, of course, marked it as a good introductory book for the graduate course I'm planning to teach. When I picked it up from the library last week, I was surprised by how thin and how friendly it looked. And as I read the first chapter on the way back to the office (a bad habit, I know), I thought: I have found a real winner here.
Due to other obligations, I put it away a while and finally read the rest of it today on the plane to Memphis. Unfortunately, the book didn't manage to sustain my initial enthusiasm, in large part due to its contrast to Creswell's book (which I finished on the same flight). Where Creswell's book gave us a broad scope of different methods, Glesne focuses on variations of ethnography. Where Creswell's book was tightly organized, Glesne's meanders. Where Creswell's book used focused, plain language, Glesne's often seems to be a forum for creative use of language. In fact, in Glesne's second to last chapter, "Improvising a Song of the World: Language and Representation," she makes much of the fact that she takes creative writing classes and encourages her students to render their research in alternative forms of expression such as poems, plays, etc. I am not particularly interested in this sort of reporting. If you are, you really should buy this book immediately.
I do appreciate how Glesne differentiates among traditional, critical, and feminist ethnographies and how she discusses action research. The discussion of postmodernism in research is more than worthwhile. Unlike Creswell, Glesne also includes a helpful discussion of research proposals and institutional review boards. And her discussion of computer-assisted data management and analysis, though shorter than Creswell's, is broader. In her best passages, she is engaging and exciting. (Of course, in her worst passages, she is self-focused, self-indulgent, and vague about specifics.) She dedicates a considerable number of pages to writing up the report, including advice from Strunk and White (use active voice; eliminate constructions such as "it is" and "there is").
Is the book worthwhile? It doesn't represent a big time investment. But I didn't find the payoff to be as high as some of the other books I've reviewed on the list. I wouldn't suggest using it as a class "introduction," though, because I don't think its meandering style will appeal to busy students. >
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