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Comparison to Other Manuals Goal, emphases, approach

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Comparison to other manuals

The goal – helping people get insight into their own ministry situations

The Breakthrough manual is specifically designed to help people in ministry or service get better at what they do. As they learn and practice entry level field research skills, they get into a better position to discern God's will for what they should do differently or do next. Better questions lead to deeper insights which lead to better practices/methods which lead to better results.

The workbook approach – many small steps (worksheets)

The Breakthrough manual breaks the research process down into very small steps in many worksheets. These work like training wheels, providing the specific guidance that beginning researchers may not be able to extract from more substantial research manuals. Generally speaking, the more practically minded students will find the worksheet approach liberating while the more theoretically minded ones will find it constraining.

The key skill – writing great questions

The one key skill in the whole Breakthrough process is "Preparing Great Questions" (Ch. 5). The difference between a question that produces no insight and a question that opens up an entire situation is often very slight. Understanding that difference is as much an art as a science but there are ways to teach it. Breakthrough emphasizes the six "TEACUP" criteria for great questions—tolerable, essential, answerable, clear, unbiased and penetrating.

The key ingredient missing in other research manuals – integration of research and prayer

The Breakthrough manual does more than merely show people how they can apply secular research methods to Christian ministry problems. It attempts to teach research methods that are aimed at a Christian goal (knowing the will of God), based on a Christian approach (interlaced with prayer) and done in a Christian style (humble, servant-hearted). This is a deliberate, decisive break with the Enlightenment model which regarded this type of goal and process as academically illegitimate.

The academic substance – links to other texts

The book most similar to Breakthrough but working at a somewhat higher level is Edgar Elliston, Introduction to Missiological Research Design, which is recommended as a supplementary text. The Breakthrough manual includes at the end of each chapter a list of recommended readings in Robson, Real World Research, 2nd ed.  Robson's field is psychological research. He writes because his field has been so dominated by clinical trials, and he believes much valuable research can be done on a small scale by ordinary practitioners in their own working settings. He has abundant references to research literature in many other fields. The Breakthrough text also has a few links to selected items in Wikipedia

The weak spots – research jargon and library/Internet research

The Breakthrough manual avoids research jargon and gives only tiny attention to library and Internet research. These have to be made up from other texts, such as Robson. (Breakthrough was developed so it could be used globally by people who have very limited access and/or skill in library and Internet use. Those who do have access and skill should capitalize on what they have.)