Academic journal article Indian Journal of Industrial Relations

Instruments of Social Research

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Industrial Relations

Instruments of Social Research

Article excerpt

INSTRUMENTS OF SOCIAL RESEARCH by Jaspal Singh, Rawat Publications, 2011, pp 312

Investigation into unknown can be daunting for young researchers. From topic selection to writing for publication, from conceptualizing the nature of unknown to unraveling an aspect of it through methods of science--there are enough pitfalls in the way to trap the inexperienced. The intellectual craft of stepping into unknown is best learnt through conducting research under expert supervision. Unfortunately experienced researchers are few and far between in India due to longstanding systemic apathy towards research. This book can be of timely help for young researchers. It is an attempt to initiate them into the life and craft of research in general and social research in particular.

It begins by discussing creativity as a key element of research. A researcher has to creatively conceptualize the research project, select methodology, apply methods, interpret findings and discuss their theoretical and practical implications. Concentration and patience are critical for maturation of creative ideas. The role of interpretation in social research is elucidated through reinterpretation of the 1857 'first war of freedom'. This serves as an apt background to discuss Max Weber's interpretative sociology.

The chapters on the meaning and characteristics of social research and scientific methods are a bit simplistic in their treatment. Readers are not adequately exposed to the paradigmatic and philosophical issues in social research. This doesn't allow an appropriate understanding of science to emerge. It is assumed that science arrives at truth and its methods produce 'sure-shot' results (:73). While it may be consistent with positivist approaches to science, it is not consistent with several alternative approaches such as interpretivism (Burrell & Morgan 1979). Popper (2002), the famous philosopher of science, insisted that scientific theories must be falsifiable. Methods of science produce tentative results that forever remain open to be proven false. Social construction of knowledge is a dominant discourse in modern social science.

Researchers encounter considerable problems in articulating their philosophical stand. A researcher's philosophical stand regarding reality and knowledge informs theoretical and methodological choices. Some discussions on these aspects could have greatly enhanced the value of this book. It takes a stand that "sociology is possible only as the practice of empirical social research" (:76); however, it often confuses empirical research with empiricism. Empiricism refers to a doctrine that knowledge derives from experience. It can only support inductive research where facts are generalized to build theory. On the other hand, empirical research can be deductive as well where a theory is tested against experience.

Chapters on inductive research are a delight to read. They are very well elaborated and insightfully discussed. Practical suggestions on using participant observation, interviews and questionnaires may benefit young and experienced researchers alike. Initial discussion on creativity is usefully leveraged. Students may read them carefully and then continue to refer during the course of their research. Inclusion of modern methods such as grounded theory research would have added considerable value.

Other useful chapters are on sampling and to an extent measurement and scaling. Processes of probability and nonprobability sampling are discussed in a lucid manner. Simplicity and witty nature of language makes comprehension much easier. …

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