Evaluating and Valuing in Social Research

Thomas A. Schwandt and Emily F. Gates

HardcoverPaperbacke-bookprint + e-book
October 12, 2021
ISBN 9781462547333
Price: $90.00
250 Pages
Size: 6⅛" x 9¼"
September 17, 2021
ISBN 9781462547326
Price: $40.00
250 Pages
Size: 6⅛" x 9¼"
August 4, 2021
ePub and PDF ?
Price: $40.00
250 Pages
print + e-book
Paperback + e-Book (ePub and PDF) ?
Price: $80.00 $44.00
250 Pages

Much applied research takes place as if complex social problems—and evaluations of interventions to address them—can be dealt with in a purely technical way. In contrast, this groundbreaking book offers an alternative approach that incorporates sustained, systematic reflection about researchers' values, what values research promotes, how decisions about what to value are made and by whom, and how judging the value of social interventions takes place. The authors offer practical and conceptual guidance to help researchers engage meaningfully with value conflicts and refine their capacity to engage in deliberative argumentation. Pedagogical features include a detailed evaluation case, “Bridge to Practice” exercises and annotated resources in most chapters, and an end-of-book glossary.

“It is not hyperbolic to call this book one of the most important contributions to the evaluation and social science research literature in the last decade. It offers the perfect antidote to the pervasive and fallacious ‘valuphobia’ that has gripped the field. Especially in this era of post-truth and alternative facts, social scientists have a paramount responsibility to deeply and thoughtfully engage with how they inevitably make value judgments, and how to do so well. Presenting an alternative framing of evaluation as an activity that deliberatively develops value rather than just determining it, this is an important guide for researchers who aspire to reflect the ethical and public responsibility of this work. It would be appropriate as one of a few core texts for advanced graduate courses on evaluation, policy analysis, and social science research methodology.”

—Thomas G. Archibald, PhD, Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education, Virginia Tech

“There is a great deal to love about this thought-provoking book. Schwandt is our most important contemporary philosopher of evaluation. He is precisely the right scholar to further advance thinking on values determination and valuing. It is wonderful to see him thread his ideas on evaluation as a moral practice with Gates’s arguments for using diverse systems frameworks to grapple with competing conceptions of social problems and solutions. The book will push the evaluation field to new ways of thinking about values, valuing, and practice. I am eager to have it on my bookshelf and use it with my students. The goals for evaluation practice laid out in the book are inspiring. I look forward to reading it again and again.”

—Robin Lin Miller, PhD, Department of Psychology, Michigan State University

“This book presents a compelling case for reconceptualizing the role of evaluation and evaluators in a world beset by 'wicked' problems. To what extent should evaluators function explicitly as moral agents and social critics? The perspective taken by the authors is provocative and powerful, and their analysis deserves to be widely read in the field.”

—Michael Morris, PhD, Department of Psychology (Emeritus), University of New Haven

“An extraordinary achievement. This book elegantly targets the barriers posed by outmoded beliefs about what constitutes reliable evidence for social interventions. Rich in insight, the book shows that the work of tomorrow’s social changemakers cannot be understood by dividing complex initiatives into isolated, value-free parts. Schwandt and Gates offer both a clear theoretical frame and real-world examples that will enable stakeholders to support more ambitious initiatives to significantly improve lives.”

—Lisbeth B. Schorr, Senior Fellow, Center for the Study of Social Policy

“The field has sorely needed this book. I am now reading it for the second time and have made it required reading for all of my students!”

—Chris L. S. Coryn, PhD, Director, Interdisciplinary PhD in Evaluation, Western Michigan University

Table of Contents

1. Expanding the Conversation on Research Ethics

2. From Value Neutrality to Morally Informed Research

3. The Conventional Frame for Evaluating Social Interventions

4. Expanding the Conventional Frame for Evaluating

5. An Emerging Alternative Frame for Evaluating

6. Evaluating as a Multifaceted Investigation of Value

7. Valuing, Evaluating and Professional Responsibility



About the Authors

Thomas A. Schwandt, PhD, is Emeritus Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign. He has written extensively about evaluation theory and practice. Dr. Schwandt is a recipient of the Paul F. Lazarsfeld Award from the American Evaluation Association for his contributions to evaluation theory. He is editor emeritus of the American Journal of Evaluation; serves on the editorial board of Evaluation: The International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice; and is a member of the Evaluation Advisory Panel of the Independent Evaluation Office of the United Nations Development Program.

Emily F. Gates, PhD, is Assistant Professor in the Department of Measurement, Evaluation, Statistics, and Assessment in the Lynch School of Education and Human Development at Boston College. Dr. Gates has extensive experience conducting mixed methods evaluations of programs, primarily in K–12 and higher education; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education; and public health. Her research examines the intersecting areas of systems thinking and approaches, values and valuing, and equity in evaluation theory and practice. She was an evaluation fellow in the Office on Smoking and Health at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Applied researchers who do evaluations; instructors and graduate students in education, psychology, sociology, social work, nursing, public health, and public policy.

Course Use

Will serve as a supplemental text in graduate-level courses in evaluation or social research methods.