Muses and Measures: Empirical Research Methods for the Humanities (review)
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Muses and Measures: Empirical Research Methods for the Humanities, by Willie van Peer, Jemeljan Hakemulder, and Sonia Zyngier. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007, 390 pp. $79.99, cloth; $49.99, paperback.

Sometimes one book is enough to change the whole way of thinking or general attitude of students, and this is the case with Muses and Measures: Empirical Research Methods for the Humanities. Now that empirical research methods are getting their due recognition in the spheres of Literature, Arts, and other media, the volume is really welcome. It is a practice-oriented book to help students and tutors either to get acquainted with methodology that is still new to them and that will definitely enrich their research methods or deepen their knowledge and develop skills in the field. Today as more and more humanities departments overcome their bias against empirical research, the time is ripe for looking at “the processes and effects of comprehension, interpretation, and evaluation of literature, the arts, and the media” (xvi).

The authors of the book are three experts in the field who have themselves conducted and supervised many small- and large-scale empirical projects. Jointly they founded the international REDES (Research for the Development of Empirical Studies) Project in 2002, which has given them experience in organizing team work and intercultural empirical research in particular. All the material in the book has been tested with their students.

The book is clear and readerfriendly. It invites students to enjoy research, using a conversational tone. It contains an “Interlude,” written as a dialogue so that real life examples can remove the fear humanities students may have of statistics. The volume is truly absorbing: as you start reading, you cannot put the book aside as every next page is the intriguing continuation of the previous one, and every new page brings to you more understanding of how invaluable empirical methods in the humanities are, and how much more they add to what we already know about the world and ourselves in the world.

The structure of Muses and Measures: Empirical Research Methods for the Humanities is clear-cut and logical. The authors start with a theoretical framework of the philosophy of science. They dwell on the juxtaposition of the sciences and the humanities with the aim of showing that both are complementary rather than opposite and can easily and successfully cooperate: researchers from the humanities can and should use methodology from the sciences to add credibility and objectivity to their sometimes subjective conclusions.

Apart from giving theoretical background for empirical research in the humanities, the book is an excellent reference source as it carefully guides students through all stages of research, leaving them independent where their own efforts are needed [End Page 120] and offering some assistance where they do need support and guidance. Learners are gradually introduced to various research designs and types (explanatory, explorative, and descriptive) so that they can choose which one suits their research purpose better. Students are trained to carefully plan their research, build it logically, carry out thorough literature search, acknowledge sources, and get down to the research per se.

The major part of the volume is dedicated to data collection and processing, which might be a stumbling block for humanities students. In a simple and welcoming manner, the authors explain to readers how to build questionnaires and collect data, how to process the data with the help of the computer program for statistical analyses (SPSS for Windows), and how to draw conclusions from the data and interpret findings. Descriptive and inferential statistics procedures are made understandable even if the readers’ experience with figures is limited to high school math.

Numerous research examples and data from real life experiments conducted by the authors and their students add credibility to the volume; the readers feel confident that they can carry out similar research themselves. The results of the experiments are very well visualized with the help of graphs and charts, examples of SPSS outputs are quite handy, and the CD-ROM with extra materials and assignments to all chapters is added to facilitate the practice of conducting research, which is especially helpful to budding researchers.

The chapter on communicating...