Gooden Publishes New Research Methods Text
June 7, 2018
By Tiffany-Murray Robertson
"Research matters. Especially in the government and nonprofit sectors where an estimated 40 percent of the nation’s economic resources are devoted to the pursuit of quality of life gains.”
So opens the foreword of “Why Research Methods Matter: Essential Skills for Decision Making,” a refreshingly accessible new textbook that hits the sweet-spot between sound, scientific-driven inquiry and the political and economic considerations of real-world policymaking and evaluation.
The book, co-authored by Wilder School Interim Dean and Professor Susan T. Gooden, Ph.D., and RaJade M. Berry-James, Ph.D., a public administration scholar at NC State University, hits shelves later this month.
At 117 pages, the text is a concise resource manual for current and future public managers who may not perform data analysis routinely but rely on quantitative and qualitative approaches for programmatic and budgetary decision making. In building the research capacity of front-line administrators, the book aims to improve managerial performance and, most importantly, public service outcomes.
“Public administration professors connect theory to practice. In so doing, we prepare students to make good decisions based on analysis of data. However, connecting these two can be an arduous task. Gooden and Berry-James have done yeoman’s working in bringing to life a subject that is not intuitive for all students. The book offers an excellent and indispensable guide to research methods for first timers."
-Charles Menifield, Dean, School of Public Affairs at Rutgers University-Newark
Minding the Gap
“Why Research Methods Matters” is an outgrowth of the collective experiences of Gooden and Berry-James, which includes 30-plus years of public administration instruction.
“Throughout our careers, we observed that an astounding number of students felt no interest or connection to research methods. Those who weren’t intimidated would emphatically stress how they never intended to do anything with research methods,” Gooden said.
“Based on these experiences, we felt there was a critical gap in the field: Public administration has not done a good job of linking the tools of research methods to the importance of managerial decision-making. This book addresses that divide.”
Envisaged as a supplementary text for graduate courses and working practitioners, “Why Research Methods Matters” helps readers become savvy consumers and producers of research with the overarching goal of improving services.
Students of the text review the technical dimensions of social science research and rely on fact-based scenarios to learn what Gooden and Berry refer to as the ‘art of research.’ Understanding the ‘art of research’ is the ultimate goal of the book which teaches public administrators and policy analysts how to capture and make sense of data when real-world considerations such as context, time, ethics, cultural competency and other ‘behind-the-scenes’ variables, collide with the research process.
One guiding principle of the text is that the decisions of competent front-line administrators are grounded in professional judgment. Ideally, Gooden and Berry suggest, sound judgement represents the synthesis of scientifically and artistically informed knowledge.
“We wanted to create an illuminating guide that would teach the basics of research methods within the context of actual public policymaking and evaluation,” Gooden said.
Charles Menifield, dean of the School of Public Affairs at Rutgers University-Newark, gave the text high praise.
“Public administration professors connect theory to practice. In so doing, we prepare students to make good decisions based on analysis of data. However, connecting these two can be an arduous task. Gooden and Berry-James have done yeoman’s working in bringing to life a subject that is not intuitive for all students. The book offers an excellent and indispensable guide to research methods for first timers. I highly recommend it.”
“Why Research Methods Matter” is Gooden’s third book, following “Race and Social Equity: A Nervous Area of Government” and “Cultural Competency for Public Administrators,” a co-edited volume.
A prolific scholar, Gooden has served as principal investigator for 21 grants totaling more than $1.7 million and has published numerous chapters, refereed journal articles and peer-reviewed publications. She is a former president of the American Society for Public Administration and an elected member of the National Academy of Public Administration.