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Uniquely qualified to write such a book, Potter has earned PhDs in both qualitative methods (with a concentration in linguistics and field studies) and in quantitative methods (with a concentration in social science theory and statistics). The book is not an ideological argument that glorifies one system of thinking while attempting to persuade the reader that other systems of thinking are bankrupt. Rather, the book presents a respectful, balanced analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the qualitative approach.
The book builds to a controversial final chapter entitled "Is Convergence a Possibility?" in which Potter synthesizes a conclusion from his analysis of a wide range of qualitative studies across three broad topic areas -- text focused research, audience focused research, and institution focused research -- and across seven major qualitative methodologies -- ethnography, ethnomethodology, reception study, ecological psychology, symbolic interactionism, cultural studies, and textual analysis. His conclusion is that not only is there a possibility of a convergence between qualitative and quantitative approaches, but that the convergence has already happened.
The book includes an appendix in which 95 books and articles using the qualitative approach are abstracted and analyzed to illustrate key points of methodology and methods. It also includes subject and author indexes.
Contents: Preface. Part I: Foundations. Whether to Enter? A Potpourri of Definitions. Issues of Belief. The Qualitative Methodologies. The Qualitative Phenomenon. Part II: Interpretive Analysis. Nature of Qualitative Evidence. Issues of Evidence Gathering. Issues of Data Analysis. Methods of Analysis. Writing Purpose. Issues of Writing. Standards. Part III: Illustrations of Decision Making. An Illustration of Decision Making in a Quantitative Analysis. An Illustration of Decision Making in a Qualitative Analysis. Part IV: Critical Insights. External Critique of Qualitative Theory Foundational Issues. Critique of Qualitative Research. Is Convergence a Possibility? Appendix: Abstracts of Writings Used in Interpretive Analysis.