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Quantitative Ethnography Reviews

“David Williamson Shaffer is … ringing the bell to announce the revolution is coming to education and the social sciences…. Shaffer integrates big data, data-mining, discourse analysis, social interactionism, cognition, learning science, statistics, and ethnography into a brand-new integrated human science…. Here we get numbers and meaning both, and they don’t fight each other, rather they give birth to truly new ideas and innovative ways out of our old ruts. Those interested in teaching, learning, meaning-making, culture, social interaction, and human development will find here the first shot in a real revolution. It’s a wild ride and a great read to boot.”

JAMES PAUL GEE Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies – Arizona State University

“What happens when we dissolve the boundaries between quantitative and qualitative research? In this groundbreaking and incredibly engaging book, David Williamson Shaffer gives researchers the tools they need to focus on human sensemaking in the age of big data. Quantitative Ethnography uses humorous examples, cultural references, and vivid metaphors to explain cutting-edge research methods for the 21st Century. A must read for anyone interested in social science and humanities research.”

LESLIE HERRENKOHL Professor of Learning Sciences and Human Development – University of Washington

“This extraordinary book manages to achieve the impossible: integrating ethnographic and statistical methodologies without compromising the integrity of either. Shaffer presents sophisticated and complex ideas in an accessible and even entertaining manner, and guides the reader through the messy and imperfect process of interrogating big data with sensitivity, rigor and honesty. He introduces key concepts and methods for conducting quantitative ethnography, including data collection, organization, segmentation, coding, statistical analysis, interpretation and meta-methodological reflection. But the book is much more than a how-to guide. Its most important contributions are its philosophical integration of ethnographic and quantitative perspectives into a coherent theoretical framework, its demonstration of how to think critically about the research process, and its persuasive argument about the utility – even necessity – of quantitative ethnography in investigations of big data. Both qualitative purists and big data crunchers are likely to balk at the idea of putting “Ethnography and “Quantitative” together, which is exactly why they need this book.”

ADAM LEFSTEIN Associate Professor of Education Ben Gurion – University of the Negev

“Quantitative Ethnography… may be the next revolution in scientific inquiry.”

ALLAN COLLINS Professor Emeritus of Learning Sciences – Northwestern University

“Quantitative Ethnography is an exceptionally readable book: remarkably thoughtful, useful, literate, and humane. Shaffer is an excellent storyteller; he shows how to use sophisticated statistical tools but keeps the focus on humans and real human behavior. The book should be required reading for anyone interested in analytics for education.”

MATTHEW BERLAND Associate Professor of Curriculum & Instruction – University of Wisconsin–Madison

“David Williamson Shaffer has written a compelling account of the need for Quantitative Ethnography in the era of Big Data. He takes the reader on an engaging and practical journey through the worlds of statistics and ethnography, creating a critical understanding of each one and showing the power of joining them together. Quantitative Ethnography is wonderfully instructive for learning analytics researchers. A great book for both undergraduate and graduate students in the field.”

JAMES FOLKESTAD Professor and Director, Center for the Analytics of Learning and Teaching – Colorado State University

“David Williamson Shaffer has written a must-read book about research methodology in the age of Big Data. Quantitative Ethnography is a masterful weaving of qualitative and quantitative research techniques, showing why just having more data is useless unless we also understand what the data really means. Shaffer presents the beauty and subtlety and synergistic power of quantitative ethnography as way to turn Big Data into Big Understanding. Read this book–and learn from one of the best!”

AROUTIS FOSTER Associate Professor of Learning Technologies – Drexel University

“This book beautifully exemplifies Alan Kay’s idea that a change in perspective is worth 80 IQ points–in this case, the power of combining ethnography and statistical analysis. Quantitative Ethnography is must reading for anyone who wants to understand the whether, what, and why of Big Data.”

CHRIS DEDE Timothy E. Wirth Professor of Learning Technologies, Innovation, and Education – Harvard University

“This is not your standard research methods book! Shaffer offers a fresh look at the relationship between numbers and meaning, between qualitative and quantitative approaches to analysing human interaction. A fascinating exploration of topics at the nexus of learning research, pragmatics, and data science.”

PETER REIMANN Professor of Education – University of Sydney

“Introductions to research methods rarely invite page turning or bring smiles to the reader, but David Williamson Shaffer manages to achieve both! Quantitative Ethnography shows researchers how to make sense of the data deluge: how to go from Big Data to Big Understanding. Shaffer guides the reader through the science of quantitative ethnography, using stories and real examples. The book explains both practical applications of analytic methods and their theoretical underpinnings, and each section ends with further reading and key questions to consider.”

SIMON KNIGHT Lecturer, Connected Intelligence Centre – University of Technology Sydney

“Quantitative Ethnography sounds like an oxymoron, but so is Jumbo Shrimp, and they are delicious. This book is too. Shaffer writes: “The mountains of data that we see around us are more like a chain of islands in the middle of the cultural ocean of meaning. Ethnography is a way to chart that ocean, and Quantitative Ethnography is a way to use statistical tools to make better charts by finding landmarks amidst the mountains of data.” He goes on to demonstrate — in the most engaging way — how statistical techniques can strengthen the study of people and cultures. Shaffer takes the reader on a tour of the goals, biases, and practices of both ethnography and statistics, showing how researchers can rid themselves of the outdated dichotomy between qualitative and quantitative approaches to studying how people make sense of the world.”

DR. KRISTINE LUND Senior Research Engineer in Cognitive Science, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique Chief Science Officer, Cognik, The personalization and recommendation engine for multimedia content

“Statisticians and ethnographers have been working apart for too long! Shaffer presents an exciting and important vision: a compelling argument for how these two approaches can be brought together to draw deeper meaning from the big data that saturates modern life.”

RYAN S. BAKER Professor and Director – University of Pennsylvania Center for Learning Analytics Founding President, International Educational Data Mining Society

“In captivating prose, Shaffer conveys in Quantitative Ethnography simple messages such as the difference between correlation and causation—a difference that is so often forgotten by researchers and readers reviewing a result that they believe to be true. More than that, in language that is accessible to those who are not experts in the subject, Shaffer conveys much more complex messages about how big data can be used in ways that are safe, retain the integrity of the scientific method, and yet retain the richness we expect of qualitative methods.”

MATTHEW W. OHLAND Professor of Engineering Education – Purdue University

“Quantitative Ethnography is the book to read for anyone who wants to bridge the gulf between qualitative and quantitative research. Shaffer shows how to bridge that gap with mountains of insightful analyses of Big Data about conversations, emotions, and physical interactions with the world.”

ART GRAESSER Professor, Department of Psychology and Institute for Intelligent Systems – University of Memphis

“This book makes a compelling case for quantitative ethnography in the social sciences. Shaffer’s argument unfolds in a most engaging writing style, without compromising on scholarship.”

CHARLES CROOK Professor of Information and Communication Technologies and Education – University of Nottingham

“Dare to quantify the qualitative! High accolades and generous applause don’t do justice to this amazing methodological discovery. David Williamson Shaffer uses psychological theory and data visualization to crack the code of understanding how people make meaning in the world by analyzing words and actions. Quantitative Ethnography is a must read for researchers and scientists–and anyone who wants to have a relationship, whether in-depth or fleeting, with complex data.”

CARLA M. PUGH Susan Behrens Professor of Surgical Education and Industrial and Systems Engineering – University of Wisconsin

“In his stellar new book, David Williamson Shaffer shows how oil and water can be mixed. Quantitative Ethnography goes beyond conventional approaches that combine qualitative and quantitative research methods. In an exciting textbook that reads like a novel, Quantitative Ethnography introduces approaches to collecting, processing and coding ethnographic data by following rigorous methods that minimize biases induced by researchers. A particularly fun part of the book is the guided tour through the analysis of coded ethnographic data with epistemic network analysis, a technique Shaffer and his collaborators developed for doing quantitative analyses of qualitative data. I wholeheartedly recommend Quantitative Ethnography to researchers, students, and anyone who wants to learn about one of the most advanced approaches to mixed methods research.”

DRAGAN GAŠEVIĆ Professor and Chair in Learning Analytics and Informatics – University of Edinburgh

“Quantitative Ethnography is a joy to read. Shaffer explains abstract and complex issues with references to literature, history and popular culture. The book can be read as an engaging first introduction to research methods for students, an introduction to data science and learning analytics for qualitative researchers, or an introduction to the humanities for statisticians and data scientists. But it is also a compelling philosophical and intellectual journey for anyone looking for a way to understand learning, culture and behaviour in the age of Big Data.”

MORTEN MISFELDT Professor of Education, Learning and Philosophy – Aalborg University

“In Quantitative Ethnography, David Williamson Shaffer takes us on an enticing journey. Packed with anecdotes and stories, this book will draw in curious readers from undergraduates to professors. Shaffer accomplishes the extraordinary feat of introducing statistics and text analytics, ethnography and discourse analysis, building in complexity without losing the reader. While the Education, Learning Sciences and Learning Analytics communities will particularly appreciate Shaffer’s examples drawn from educational simulation, the bigger story here is how the realms of Big Data and Thick Data can be brought together to create a power tool for miners in any discipline working at the new coalface of data science, society and ethics.“

SIMON BUCKINGHAM SHUM Professor of Learning Informatics, Connected Intelligence Centre – University of Technology Sydney

“In a world where the epistemology of interpretation has largely been segregated from the methods of quantitative data analysis, Williamson Shaffer provides an inviting, entertaining, and colloquial introduction to theoretical constructs essential for all data analysts, and illustrates the possibility of rapprochement between seemingly disparate traditions. “