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Mario Luis Small and Jessica McCrory Calarco

Qualitative Literacy

A Guide to Evaluating Ethnographic and Interview Research

 *Outstanding Publication Award, Methodology Section

American Sociological Association

Suppose you were given two qualitative studies: one is a piece of empirically sound social science and the other, though interesting and beautifully written, is not. How would you tell the difference? Qualitative Literacy presents criteria to assess qualitative research methods such as in-depth interviewing and participant observation. Qualitative research is indispensable to the study of inequality, poverty, education, public health, immigration, the family, and criminal justice. Each of the hundreds of ethnographic and interview studies published yearly on these issues is scientifically either sound or unsound. This guide provides social scientists, researchers, students, evaluators, policy makers, and journalists with the tools needed to identify and evaluate quality in field research.

Editorial Reviews:


"This masterful book offers conceptually rich and pragmatic insight on an age-old question: How do we recognize high-quality, rigorous qualitative research? This text provides a clear and actionable set of criteria for evaluating qualitative research and punctuates the descriptions with illustrative examples. It is a must-read for research methods courses in the social sciences, as well as for scholars and reviewers of qualitative research."—Na'ilah Suad Nasir, President, Spencer Foundation 

"The book is fantastic! I read it cover to cover in one sitting, on the Acela from NYC to DC. For a funder of research and a consumer of qualitative research, a guide like this has been sorely needed, and I predict it will become an indispensable new tool."—Adam Gamoran, President, William T. Grant Foundation


"Instead of judging qualitative research by the standards of other methods, Mario Luis Small and Jessica McCrory Calarco consider the purpose and aspirations of in-depth interviewing and ethnography and then offer criteria with which to evaluate if a piece of research hits the mark (or not). At once practical and sophisticated, Qualitative Literacy reflects the wisdom of two of the most talented qualitative researchers in the field today. It is an invaluable resource for methods teachers, funders, policy makers, and students."—Mary Pattillo, author of Black Picket Fences: Privilege and Peril among the Black Middle Class


"In this masterful synthesis of the challenges and opportunities facing qualitative researchers, Mario Luis Small and Jessica McCrory Calarco have accomplished the seemingly impossible. While acknowledging that there is no 'one right way' to conduct qualitative work, they provide state-of-the-art standards for assessing the value of its varied contributions. Regardless of your choice of method, this insightful, nuanced, and generous book will change the way you think about doing and learning from qualitative studies."—Kathleen Gerson, coauthor of The Science and Art of Interviewing


"This excellent, accessible book is written by authors with an impeccable reputation in the field. It brings focus to what we know and agree on as practitioners of qualitative research and how we should be thinking about the craft versus how it is typically taught."—D'Lane R. Compton, Full Professor of Sociology, University of New Orleans


"This is a stellar book. The authors have crafted a clearly written manuscript that will be useful both for teaching and as a handbook for practitioners. I have not seen anything quite like it, and this book helps me think reflexively about my own work and that of my students."—Tanya Golash-Boza, Professor of Sociology, University of California, Merced

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