How to conduct effective research

Anthropologists Inside Organisations — South Asian Case Studies
Ed. Devi Sridhar.
Sage Publications.
Pages 170. Rs 495. 

RESEARCH is the key word when it comes to building and establishing theories. Thus, the fieldwork, including interviews, filling in questionnaires`A0and other methodology, comes under scrutiny. Rightly so, for the authenticity of the work depends upon the unbiased view of researchers as well as the methods adopted in the process. This edited work provides examples as to how research has been conducted inside as well as with the organisations. It also highlights the problems that the researchers come across as they go along their interactions with various respondents.

The contributors have picked up two vital areas — health and education — and have researched extensively in these two fields. They wade through various formalities and succeeded in collecting valuable data. The hindrances have been many, for example, Aravinda Meera Guntupalli initially felt insecure while interviewing the sex workers afflicted with HIV/AIDS in Mumbai. The environment was such that she felt, initially, that she needed security herself. Besides such problems, for some researchers, the language becomes a barrier; while for others, getting people to speak their problems, feelings becomes a challenge. The infected sex workers have to keep living in the same place warding off poverty while they have no means to earn and subsequently treat themselves. It becomes emotionally draining for the researcher to handle such tragic lives and then research upon them. The respondents are wary, for many a times it is the media that is snooping around to expose heart-rending stories just to ‘ensnare’ viewers. The researchers have to convince them, interview them yet not give false impression that they can help them directly.

The faith-based organisations (FBO) are cautious about being interviewed as "the 2004 Tehelka report sent undercover journalists to entrap FBOs and prove that their services were being used to convert people to Christianity". The article presented Christian charities as "Bush-sponsored, proselytising agents". Such reports make the going tough for the researchers. Thus, the contributors have highlighted those obstacles that further make their work tough.

The book is useful because these researchers have given valuable tips how to mitigate these obstacles and put forth a research work that would be valued for its depth. They suggest that the choice as well as the number of respondents should be picked with care. One must know the interviewee, accumulate knowledge about the problem in the local context and the constructive role about the organisation in question. The researcher should respect the customs, faith of the respondents and build a rapport with them.

For example, in the Muslim schools established in the UK, research becomes difficult because ethical issues and dilemmas are coupled with the common mindset of the majority against these schools. The teachers and administrative staff were supportive, but parents were reluctant to share their dilemmas, thus making the work difficult for the researcher. At other times it helped Sadaf Rizvi (the researcher in question) to be a Muslim because access to the school was open, for she was treated as an "insider". So, various permutations have to be experimented with to make`A0one’s research a milestone in the area chosen. This work is informative as it offers suggestions by researchers themselves who have actively been involved in research.