Research Design in Counseling: 2nd Edition
reviewed by Suzanne E. Mazzeo - 2001
Title: Research Design in Counseling: 2nd Edition
Author(s): P. Paul Heppner, Dennnis M. Kivlighan, Jr., and Bruce E. Wampold
Publisher: Brooks/Cole Publishing, Pacific Grove
ISBN: 0534345174, Pages: 600, Year: 1998
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In the first edition of Research Design in Counseling, published in 1992, Heppner, Kivlighan, and Wampold provided a clear, yet comprehensive introduction to methodological issues particularly relevant to counseling psychology research. The strengths of the first edition included its broad coverage of research design issues and its efforts to assuage beginning students' anxieties about the research process. The second edition retains the strengths of the first edition, adds important information in a variety of content areas, and expands discussion of several issues initially presented in the first edition. These elements combine to make this second edition a wonderful text for research design courses in counseling graduate programs. In addition, the book will continue to serve as a valuable resource for students preparing for comprehensive examinations or thesis/dissertation research. Moreover, this book could serve as an excellent primer for any counseling researcher, including those at the post-doctoral level.
In the preface to this edition, the authors state that the primary purpose of this text is, "to provide an introduction to the basics of research design that are of particular relevance to counseling (p. xviii)." The second edition clearly achieves this goal. In particular, this edition retains the authors' comprehensive, yet accessible, review of diverse research approaches. They identify the strengths and weaknesses of various research designs, factors to be considered in selecting a research design, and discuss the various types of threats to validity. The authors provide a balanced assessment of the full spectrum of research designs and note that some particularly useful approaches have been underutilized in counseling research (e.g., within-subjects designs), while other approaches have been occasionally over-utilized (e.g., survey research). The authors' review of the threats to validity is particularly strong. This section covers some relatively difficult material (particularly for someone just beginning to learn about research), in a thorough, yet straightforward manner.
Another major strength of the text is that the authors make extensive efforts to normalize students' anxieties about the research requirements of graduate school. They note that the average counseling student often has more experience with the practitioner aspect of the "scientist-practitioner" model, and consequently, feels more comfortable in the counselor role. However, the authors note that many students, particularly those trained in a supportive (yet challenging) environment, often find that research can be quite interesting and rewarding. Heppner et al. also provide several suggestions for faculty members to help them increase the effectiveness of graduate students' scientific training. In addition, they offer several practical suggestions that students can use to manage their own anxiety about the research process.
The second edition also includes three new chapters that further enhance the text's utility for the counseling researcher. These chapters address qualitative designs, outcome research, and program evaluation. In the chapter on qualitative designs, the authors distinguish the philosophical foundations of quantitative and qualitative research. They also distinguish quantitative and qualitative research on 17 different factors. This chapter is highly readable and highlights the authors' overall stance that there is no single "correct" way in which to conduct research. The chapter on outcome research is informative for investigators who are planning a treatment study, as it highlights the differences among the various approaches to outcome research and the methodological issues that need to be considered in the design of such a study. In addition, methods for assessing change are reviewed. Finally, the chapter on program evaluation offers both technical and practical advice for counseling professionals.
In addition to these new chapters, several of the chapters retained from the previous edition were expanded to include current information that enhances their relevance to the counseling researcher. For example, a section on piecemeal publication has been added to the chapter on ethical issues in research. This addition is helpful, as this issue has received increased attention from APA since the publication of the previous edition. Furthermore, the chapter on process research has been significantly expanded to include a more detailed discussion of methodological issues particularly relevant to this type of investigation.
In sum, the second edition of Research Design in Counseling not only retains the strengths of the first edition, it also provides a timely and comprehensive update of current research trends relevant to counseling psychologists. In addition, it provides the reader with an excellent introduction to methodological issues that should be considered in the development of a research project. It also offers a comprehensive list of references for those needing further information on specific topics. The book is written in a style that makes it accessible to both the beginning graduate student, and to individuals who have already completed their graduate work, and I highly recommend it as a reference to researchers at any level of experience.
Suzanne E. Mazzeo is a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.