- Research Methods and Applications for Student Affairs by J. Patrick Biddix
J. Patrick Biddix
San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2018, 352 pages, $48 (hardcover)
With Research Methods and Applications for Student Affairs, J. Patrick Biddix successfully blurs the line between "research" and "practice," contending the abilities to understand, read, evaluate, and apply research are skills fundamental to student affairs practice. His work answers complaints about the failings of research in terms of practical application. Biddix provides a text that not only argues for the relevance of research to practice but one that simultaneously illustrates its application through extensive use of examples. He disrupts the idea that research cannot be practical by making the content accessible and relevant to student affairs professionals.
The book is organized in three layers: (a) frames, (b) foundations, and (c) methods. All chapters begin with learning outcomes that follow the same format, outlining what readers should be able to understand, differentiate, read, evaluate, and apply. The chapters also include pull-out boxes explaining key terminology and proffering perspectives from researchers and scholar-practitioners. Each chapter concludes with strategies for building one's research skillset. The author makes ample use of tables, bullet points, and graphics to illustrate and highlight crucial information. In fact, one of the book's greatest strengths stems from its structure and consistency from one chapter to the next.
The research frames layer is comprised of the first four chapters of the book and covers studying, reading, and framing research as well as the consideration of ethics. In chapter 1, Biddix situates research as an integral part of student affairs work, noting that, early in the field's history, the Student Personnel Point of View (American Council on Education, 1937) built the case for using empirical evidence in practice. Biddix defines research as "a systematic approach to learning that involves asking and answering questions" (p. 4) with two primary purposes: contributing to knowledge and improving practice. The book distinguishes research from assessment while acknowledging that research focused on improving practice is conceptually similar to assessment. Chapter 2 highlights research literacy as a primary student affairs skill. The chapter provides detailed information generally not written elsewhere, including the elements of research literacy; sources of, and how to locate, published research; common publication formats; and the value of peer review. The third chapter specifically addresses four core components of methodology: perspective, type, design, and method. Biddix explains how perspectives (constructivism, postpositivism, pragmatism) guide the overarching approach to research and illustrates how the methods used in a study flow directly from decisions made about the type (qualitative, quantitative, or mixed) and the design (e.g., grounded theory, quasi experimental, sequential exploratory). Chapter 4 examines ethics in research, including human subjects and institutional review boards as well as potential ethical dilemmas in quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods studies.
Three nonsequential chapters comprise the research foundations layer. Chapter 5, Learning Qualitative Research, opens the section of the book that explores qualitative methods. [End Page 505] Biddix attempts to convey the fundamental information student affairs practitioners and researchers need to be able to understand, critique, and use qualitative methods. He uses the components of methodology—perspective, type, design, and methods—outlined in chapter 3 to introduce readers to qualitative strategies for data collection, sampling, and analysis.
Chapter 9, Learning Quantitative Research, follows the same structure and seeks to provide similar foundational information, only for quantitative research. The author acknowledges the anxiety about quantitative research that perplexes many student affairs practitioners and provides an in-depth and clear introduction to quantitative methods. This chapter, in particular, answers one of the key complaints heard about standard statistics courses in graduate programs; that is, how does one practically use statistics? With this introduction, Biddix clearly lays out how to apply quantitative research to student affairs practice. Finally, chapter 14, Exploring Mixed Methods, examines the pragmatic approach to research questions and the mixing of qualitative and quantitative methods to conduct research to address practical problems.
The third element, research methods, devotes a chapter to each of the methods noted in the foundational overviews. Chapters 6 through 8 address qualitative methods and cover...