Book Review: Qualitative Psychology. A Practical Guide to Research Methods.

The featured book is ‘Qualitative Psychology. A Practical Guide to Research Methods’ and edited by Jonathan Smith. The book is divided into a number of chapters by experts in their field on topics within qualitative psychology. Peter Ashworth writes an interesting introduction to the subject which covers some of the history of the field including the challenging of positivism, idiographic psychology, constructivism and post-modernism. What I found quite striking throughout the book was the direct importance that different schools of philosophy played and the need to tackle philosophy in order to gain a firmer understanding of the field. Interpretative phenomenological analysis is covered in a lengthy chapter and the reader is also directed to further material. There is a similar lengthy chapter on Grounded Theory while Michael Murray covers narrative psychology, a subject area which has many potential implications for the psychiatric history for instance. However it is the conversational analysis, covered by Paul Drew that the author describes as particularly relevant to research in areas in mental health. This topic is particularly complex given the transcription symbols that are employed and which mean that even a few minutes of dialogue can take up to an hour for transcription. Discourse analysis is also particularly interesting including Foucauldian Discourse Analysis which again emphasises the interplay between qualititative psychology and philosophy. There are some briefer chapters on cooperative inquiry and focus groups before Jonathan Smith finishes with a chapter on the validity of qualititative psychology. There are many diverse approaches which encourage a reflective and interactive dialogue in research which is necessary to investigate the mind. An incidental point of interest for me was that there were many references through the book to Lucy Yardley now a Professor of Psychology but who I remember listening to as a medical student. This book is a useful introduction to the subject of qualitative psychology particularly for those undertaking research in this area.


Jonathan Smith (Editor). Qualitative Psychology. A Practical Guide to Research Methods. Sage Publications. 2004.


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The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.


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