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Applied Research Methods in Public and Nonprofit Organizations

Mitchell Brown, Kathleen Hale

ISBN: 978-1-118-90443-5 August 2014 Jossey-Bass 360 Pages


A complete guide to applied research, featuring original data and detailed case studies

Applied Research Methods in Public and Nonprofit Organizations takes an integrative approach to applied research, emphasizing design, data collection, and analysis. Common case studies across chapters illustrate the everyday nature of research, and practical exercises reinforce concepts across all sections of the text. The book includes forms and formats for data collection and analysis, plus writing excerpts that demonstrate results reporting and presentation. The accompanying instructor's guide features assignments, discussion questions, and exercises referenced in the book, and the authors' own data sets are available for use online.

Conducting research, analyzing results, and synthesizing the findings for key stakeholders is fundamental to the study and practice of public and nonprofit management. Aligned with management curriculum for both sectors, the book focuses on the common ground these organizations share when it comes to planning, conducting, and using research in day-to-day professional activities. The original research examples presented are in the context of this shared commonality, including resource acquisition, evaluative processes, and future planning through the lens of common social policy issues facing leaders today. Topics include:

  • The research process and applied research designs
  • Applied research questions and literature
  • Data collection in the field and survey research
  • Data analysis, writing, and presentation

The examples highlight intergovernmental institutions in which public service occurs, and provide expanded reach to nonprofit organizations and the networked collaborations that make up a significant portion of today's public service. For students and practitioners of public administration, public policy, and nonprofit management, Applied Research Methods in Public and Nonprofit Organizations provides a comprehensive reference to this critical skillset.

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List of Figures and Tables xiii

Acknowledgments xvii

The Authors xix

Introduction 1

Integrating Case Studies into Learning About Applied Research Methods 2

The Cases 3

Community Garden Initiative: Exploring Community Interest in Local Food Projects 4

Statewide Needs Assessment: Understanding the Status of Aging Women 6

Election Administration and Technology: Understanding the Implementation and Implications of Election Policy Decisions 8

National Program Evaluation: Domestic Violence Prevention and Faith-Based and Community Organizations 11

Criminal Justice Policy Reform: Exploring Innovation Across Sectors 13

Structure of the Book and Message to Instructors 15

Part One: Research Basics: What Do We Want to Know and Why? 19

Chapter One Overview and Context of the Research Process 21

The Research Process 21

The Applied Research Context 25

Public Administration, Nonprofit Studies, and Other Subfields 27

Information Literacy 28

Information Quality and Types of Sources 29

Finding High-Quality Information 37

Values, Beliefs, and Certainty in Applied Disciplines 38

Grand Theory and Theories of the Middle Range 40

Case Comparisons 41

Ethics and Institutional Review Boards 43

Specific Concerns for Public Administration and Nonprofit Studies 45

Decision Trees 47

Applied Research Project Planning 47

Typical IRB Review Considerations 48

Conclusion 49

Overview of the Book 50

Chapter Support Materials 51

Chapter Two Applied Research Questions, Literature, and Theory 55

Asking Good Research Questions 56

Case Illustrations of Research Questions 57

Research Questions and Sponsored Research 60

Case Illustrations of Research Questions in Sponsored Research 60

Using Literature and Building Theory 62

The Literature Review 62

Literature Sources 63

Literature Searches 65

A Note About Citations 69

Theory Building 71

Developing Research Expectations and Hypotheses 75

Theories of Change and Logic Models 79

Theories of Change 79

Logic Models 82

Steps for Development of Theories of Change 86

Decision Tree 90

Decisions About Applied Research and Using a Theory of Change 90

Conclusion 91

Chapter Support Materials 92

Chapter Three Applied Research Designs 99

General Parameters of Design 99

Major Design Types 100

Experimental Design 100

Quasi-Experimental Design 105

Nonexperimental Design 108

Case Illustrations of Research Design Approaches 113

Sampling 117

Random or Probability Sampling 118

Nonrandom or Nonprobability Sampling 121

Sample Size 123

Case Illustrations of Sampling Approaches 123

Decision Trees 127

Selecting a Research Design Type 127

Choosing a Sampling Strategy 129

Conclusion 130

Chapter Support Materials 131

Part two: Data Collection: Where and How Can We Gather Information? 135

Chapter Four Qualitative Data Collection in the Field 137

Validity, Reliability, and Error in Qualitative Research 138

The Process of Conducting Field Research 142

Interviews 146

Writing Interview Questions 148

Putting Respondents at Ease 149

Focus Groups 151

Direct Observation 152

Content Analysis 154

Case Studies 159

Case Illustrations of Data Collection 161

Statewide Needs Assessment 161

Election Administration and Technology 162

National Program Evaluation 163

Decision Tree 163

Data Collection Strategy 164

Conclusion 165

Chapter Support Materials 165

Chapter Five Survey Research 171

The Survey Research Process 172

Survey Design 175

Crafting Quality Questions 176

Response Categories 181

Demographic Questions 188

Problems and Controversies in Survey Research 189

Case Illustrations of Survey Use 191

Statewide Needs Assessment 191

Criminal Justice Policy Reform 192

National Program Evaluation 192

Decision Tree 193

Decisions About Methods of Survey Distribution 193

Conclusion 194

Chapter Support Materials 195

Part Three: Analyzing Data and Communicating About Them: What Do They Mean? How Can They Be Used? 199

Chapter Six Data Analysis 201

Context and Descriptive Analysis 202

Qualitative Analysis 203

Quantitative Analysis 207

Coding 208

Levels of Measurement 209

Descriptive Statistics 210

Statistical Significance 216

Bivariate Statistics 219

Multivariate Statistics 225

Codebooks 232

Case Applications of Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis 233

Decision Tree 240

Conclusion 242

Chapter Support Materials 242

Chapter Seven Writing and Presentations 249

General Tips for Writing 250

A Productive Writing Process 250

Feedback and (Constructive) Criticism 251

Readability and Appeal 252

A Note About Style 254

Types of Writing 256

Needs Assessments and Asset Mapping 256

Grant Applications 258

Funder Reports 264

Stakeholder Documents 266

Journal Articles 268

Applied Dissertations 270

Presentations 271

Presenting Material to Stakeholders 274

Academic Presentations 275

Case Illustrations of Writing and Presentation 277

Decision Tree 277

Decisions About Making Presentations 277

Conclusion 280

Chapter Support Materials 282

Glossary 287

Bibliography and Works Cited 303

Index 309