This book on Quantitative Social Research Methods, as stated by the author in the preface, is a modest attempt by a development practitioner to examine the application of social research methods in the development sector. In keeping with this objective, the book essentially focuses on the applicability of quantitative research methods and the contents of the book are largely drawn from the notes and experiences of the author as a development practitioner. This is also evident in the organization of the book, which has been divided into two sections. The first section provides a brief introduction to quantitative social research methods, as a prelude to a more detailed account of statistical analysis deploying software packages such as SPSS and STATA and the second section dwells on the applicability of these research techniques and tools in varied spheres in the development sector.
In chapter one on Development Research Techniques the author attempts to conceptualize social research in the development sector as an amalgamation of various research techniques sourced from disciplines as varied as economics and management. Chapters two to four discuss various concepts, methods and techniques concerning the research process, with special emphasis on scaling techniques and sampling and sample size estimation. These chapters provide a simplified schema of the research process in terms of what techniques and tools are suitable for development research. Chapters five and six focus on methods of data analysis, with a brief description of types of data and various statistical tests. Chapter 7 discusses data analysis using software like STATA and SPSS. It provides a basic introduction in addition to a detailed discussion on how to enter, export, manage and analyse data using these two software packages.
The author makes an earnest effort to introduce quantitative research techniques in chapters one to six in section I and provides a review of research on various issues in the development sector in section II. Appendices A to C provides a brief summation of theories such as mathematics theory, number theory, probability theory and Z and T distribution. Given the author’s ample experience in the development sector, it would have been more apt to have designed the book either as a ready reckoner for researchers in the development sector or at least as a conventional quantitative social research methods book with elaborate examples from the development sector. In its present avatar, however, it fails to cater to the needs of both students attempting to gain a window into social research and practitioners in the development sector. Further, a detailed discussion on the difficulties encountered by development practitioners in applying various social research methods, essentially developed by academic researchers, would have definitely added to the usefulness of the book.
Though the book falls short of these expectations, it redeems itself partially through some pertinent insights into data analysis and review of research in varied spheres such as population, health and nutrition, education, water and sanitation, poverty, inequality and rural development and environment and natural resource management. The book essentially suffers from an oversimplified organization, handbook like treatment, and absence of examples from testing and validation of various methods developed in earlier (read social) research.
- Srinivas is Assistant Professor at the Centre for the Study of Social Systems, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.