Pearce, Lisa D. and Melinda Lundquist Denton. 2011. A Faith of Their Own: Stability and Change in the Religiosity of America’s Adolescents. New York: Oxford University Press.

Drawing on the massive National Study of Youth and Religion’s telephone surveys and in-depth interviews with more than 120 youth at two points in time, Lisa Pearce and Melinda Lundquist Denton chart the spiritual trajectory of American adolescents and young adults over a period of three years. Turning conventional wisdom on its head, the authors find that religion is an important force in the lives of most–though their involvement with religion changes over time, just as teenagers themselves do. Pearce and Denton weave in fascinating portraits of actual youth to give depth to mere numerical rankings of religiosity, which tend to prevail in large studies. One teenager might rarely attend a service, yet count herself profoundly religious; another might be deeply involved in a church’s social world, yet claim to be “not, like, deep into the faith.” They provide a new set of qualitative categories–Abiders, Assenters, Adapters, Avoiders, and Atheists–quoting from interviews to illuminate the shading between them. And, with their three-year study, they offer a rich understanding of the dynamic nature of faith in young people’s lives during a period of rapid change in biology, personality, and social interaction. Not only do degrees of religiosity change, but so does its nature, whether expressed in institutional practices or personal belief.


Axinn, William G. and Lisa D. Pearce. 2006. Mixed Method Data Collection Strategies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Social scientists have long relied on a wide range of tools to collect information about the social world, but as individual fields have become more specialized, researchers are trained to use a narrow range of the possible data collection methods. This book draws on a broad range of available social data collection methods to formulate a new set of data collection approaches. The new approaches described here are ideal for social science researchers who plan to collect new data about people, organizations, or social processes. Axinn and Pearce present methods designed to create a comprehensive empirical description of the subject being studied, with an emphasis on accumulating the information needed to understand what causes what with a minimum of error. In addition to providing methodological motivation and underlying principles, the book is filled with detailed instructions and concrete examples for those who wish to apply the methods to their research.