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By J Peter Rothe. (Pp 224, paperback; C$29.95). Edmonton, Canada: University of Alberta Press, 2000. ISBN 0-88864-367-5.
This book is an important contribution to the field of accident and injury research. It is a book for newcomers to qualitative research and as such would be an excellent key text for teaching. The book outlines a range of qualitative research methods and builds this into an appreciation of the theoretical underpinnings that favour one method more than another. Beyond pure methods and theory, the book conveys the realities of planning, undertaking, and finishing a research project.
The initial chapter “injury and the disclosure of the truth” is particularly compelling as it guides us into the minds of those who engage in qualitative research; those seeking “the insider perspective on injury” (p xviii). For qualitative researchers there is “no ultimate truth” (p xix) but a series of constructed relationships grounded in cultural and social phenomenon.
Impressively, it addresses the issue of analyzing and writing up the research—an area often ignored in methodological texts. We are given the opportunity to look over a raw transcript and to do so again with the coding categories present. This is invaluable to first timers unsure of how to deal with huge bodies of interview transcripts and how to present these data after analysis.
Where the book could be stronger is in the decision to cover many methods briefly, as opposed to a few methods in greater detail. This trade off can be forgiven as it is an introductory book and contains suggestions for further reading about each method.
The inclusion of certain methods, or what Rothe calls “data collection plans”, seems rather idiosyncratic—new to me were such things as “walk and talk” and the use of public meetings. This section could be better ordered to promote the actual methods rather than differences in the field location and grouping of participants. Additionally, I would contest his belief that content analysis can be qualitative as I cannot see how counting can be anything other than quantitative—regardless of what you are counting.
The insights into fieldwork experience are invaluable (chapter 7). Often methods books offer a systematic overview without furnishing us with insights into the actual hands-on process of conducting research. Similarly the chapter on ethics, brief as it is, is an important inclusion as it is a key consideration of any research project—but particularly so with the degree of personal contact with respondents one often gets when conducting qualitative research.
Minor quibbles with the book are that it has no index; an omission diminished by the excellent glossary and appendices. Frustratingly, the bibliography is a selection of books rather than all of those referred to in the text.
As a newcomer to the field, I was surprised at the dearth of qualitative research conveyed in papers at the 5th World Conference on Injury Prevention and Control (Delhi, 2000). This book hopefully marks a new era in our field, one that Jerry Moller has long called for, which will incorporate the “beliefs and behaviours of individuals and the social and cultural structure” (Moller quoted in Rothe, pxviii, and originally, Moller1) into accident prevention. Without it our understanding is that of the outsider; we fail to appreciate the intricate interplay of causes of unintentional accidents and injuries and in so doing, fail to make real headway to creating effective prevention strategies.