As a senior in college who is conducting interviews with high school and college students, I would recommend this book. It provides an excellent jumping off point for both novice student interviewers as well as seasoned teachers. Patton, himself an experienced interviewer, and also an award-winning teacher and storyteller, outlines all the necessary steps involved in the interview process in a very entertaining way. The book reads much like a textbook, complete with original cartoons, historical examples, and vast personal experience. Moreover, inspirational and often amusing quotes kickoff each section. Appearing throughout the book is the fictional sage-like character Halcolm, a philosophical alter ego of Patton, who, "like his name (pronounced slowly)," forces the reader to ask "how come?" (p. A2).
Patton has divided Qualitative Research and Evaluation into three main parts: Conceptual Issues in Qualitative Inquiry, Qualitative Designs and Data Collection, and finally Analysis, Interpretation, and Reporting. Under each section are many subsections, all clearly laid out in a very detailed table of contents. For example, Conceptual Issues is divided into four subcategories: The Nature of Qualitative Inquiry, Strategic Themes in Qualitative Inquiry, Variety in Qualitative Inquiry: Theoretical Orientations, and finally Particularly Appropriate Qualitative Applications. Furthermore, these four subcategories are then broken down in additional detail in the table of contents. The titles of these sections (and chapters) are somewhat typical for the text as a whole in that they rely on sociological terminology that may be unfamiliar to beginners. At first glance, the table of contents appears to be little more than a patchwork of intellectual vocabulary, but the book reads in much simpler terms.
The index to the book is also very useful for finding numerous narrowed down focuses. I found this the most helpful. For example, when I wanted to find out about transcribing interviews, I was able to find all of the relevant chapters and information at once.
Unfortunately, however, Patton's broad scope is also his main weakness. It is very easy to become bogged down by the mass amount of details and by his many examples. Also, for scholars primarily interested in the interview process, only the final section is useful, especially in the field of analysis.
Patton attempts to cover all of the basics of interviewing, and provides an excellent outline, but nothing can compare to actual experience. Nevertheless, it is highly recommended that first-time interviewers consult Patton's book for an introductory guide, and even veteran interviewers can learn something from Patton's vast experience.
Researchers will also find Patton's 36 pages of single-spaced references very helpful, and graduate students will find it invaluable for dissertations.