Saturday, January 1, 2011

SSRMF Bloc 1- Brief Report by Pramod

Social Science Research Method Festival at AUD

Bhopal, 29 Dec 2010

Pramod Maithil

I had received a mail from one of my senior colleagues about the Social Science Research Method Festival at Dr. B. R. Ambedekar University, Delhi (AUD). Although I am involved in collective research project since long and also did an independent Action research too but I did realize lack of theoretical backing for Research. So this information sounded like a great opportunity to learn more about the research. At the end of the bloc 1 I realize that the festival did more than what I expected. I am very much thankful to Eklavya to allow me to attend The Festival.

The festival is organized by AUD in partnership with Indian Council of Social Science Research and SAGE India. This festival was for all the young scholars entering or at initial stage in the field of Social science Research to give a thick exposure of various aspects of Social Science Research and develop a skill of the research method.

The Bloc 1 Participants

The entire Social Science Research Method Festival was divided in following blocs

BLOC I: Doing Social Science Research

BLOC II Module 1: Participatory Research Methods

BLOC II Module 2: Ethnography

BLOC II Module 3: CAQDAS (Atlas.ti)

BLOC II Module 4: Statistics for Social Scientists

BLOC III: Scientific and Research Writing

I could attend only bloc 1. We had a group of 11 people registered for bloc 1. 8 out of 11 were regular. We all were from extremely different academic back ground for example if I count the subjects, we were from, Psychology, Anthropology, History, Economics, Geography, Political science, Sociology, Mathematics, and Education. Very soon we all became friends and develop a good rapport and I found this all helped us in academics. Questions and examples from different perspectives made our class interaction richer.

The Method and Content

It was largely discussion and lecture based. 2-3 three times were divided into groups and given some activity to work on. We had various films in between to help understand the research endeavor. Also the plenary sessions made us see the research from different angles.

Reading discussion and the assignment, all these part were very closely interlinked. Although there were less assignments but after each module we had an assignment. Enough readings were given, some time before the session and some time after. Link between assignments and discussions was loosen as we had no discussion on assignments but we did prepare the assingments based on discussion and readings.

Faculties, who discussed with us in the sessions, were not merely informed about the research method but they all lived the research method and that is why we had far enriching experience of the Festival. Largely, the methods of the sessions were discussion and lecture but the faculties had organized this fantastically that we got engrossed in it. The overall environment in the sessions was very supportive and content of the discussion covered wide range of questions.

Initially we had a session by Prof. Shyam Menon which he made us drawn a sketch upon our understanding and few readings. This made us rethink that what a social science research consist of and also about various terminologies like Theory etc.

Then we had very interesting and provoking sessions with Prof. R Govinda. Although it was less participatory class compare to what I expected but we never gets uncomfortable with this method there were readings in between. He made us rethink on basic idea of social science research. We realize that enormous amount of thinking required before going into endeavor of social science research. It cannot have one establish way of doing social Science research. As there will be n number of factors like researcher own value, his/her vision, his/her attitude, the participants agency, the very context, audience, free will etc.

It also begins with the idea that we incline to use the methods of scientific determination in SS research too. But we cannot, as we are now not at all dealing with materials, we are now dealing with human. In natural science we don’t expect the materials to behave in certain manner but in social science we have a dream/ idea/ vision about the society and this shall come in to our action when we intervene as researcher. Whatever outcome we get in natural science research shall be same to everyone but results of social science research will be different from & for person to person.

The discussion had literary shaken up me completely. Our all understanding of SS research was fundamentally challenged and question start floating around.

Then Prof. Haney Obaroy along with Prof. Shyam Menon made us think about the processes of SS research by sharing her research experience. And both the Prof. lead us to look closely about the qualitative study and how we get involve in to it.

Then Prof. Pranav Jani took an interesting session on politics of knowledge. We were given readings in advanced we all find these were rather difficult due to the terminologies used and we shared it with Prof. Jani then he changed the structure of the session which he has in mind and bring it down to the heterogeneous groups of beginners in SS Research. He also made us clear about various term and its perspective behind. The discussion sensitizes me to consciously redesign the research idea.

After professor Govinda’s session these two sessions did a little healing but still we were not yet confident to think of doing research, things were still in the air. Then a cheerful personality Prof. N Jayaram came in, to guide us. He restarted from the beginning and miraculously things start falling exactly on place. At the end I find myself positive to take up a SS research. And top of that his clarity of the content and dealing with us was excellent as I never had such marvelous experience before.

The turning point of his session was that the Social scientists (Weber??) have raised several issues on having positivism (A methodology of conducting SS research based on natural science research method) as a methodology for doing social science researches. As Human is meaning making animal so s/he can observe & interpret as well as ask for explanation too. There is no order exist in social life be it human who bring order in it. In Natural Sciences, Scientist look for generalization and knowledge can be objective but in Social sciences One try and understand the reality and the knowledge is subjective. And finally the epistemological account of division on nature of knowledge suggests developing an alternative understanding of SS research. Based on these questions on the assumptions of positivism, social scientists develop a different with theatrical perspective of SS research. This is known as Hermeneutist methodology (interpretism).

Prof Jayaram has already begun the proposal writing exercise and discussed about the research question and proposal writing. Then at the last day Prof Saraswati lead us to move ahead in the proposal writing mock exercise. We all were divided in to three groups and came up with three different research ideas.

Outcome to me

A significant improvement which I can count on that earlier I used to find hard to make meaning of any social science literature. Now when I have good amount of information about different perspective and terminology, the same literature turned out to be a readable document I can relate those and make meaning. This Festival facilitates us to learn to organize the thoughts. Also it provokes us to see and check that how various subjectivities (self, participant and the reader) have a role in it, where exactly your research fit in the existing knowledge. Precise use of language is also a learning of the workshop. In fact I felt that most of these learning are very useful in general day to day life and work too.

My concern – I feel that SS research should be a byproduct of an action in the field. It should not be seen knowledge activity. And look for people as source of data they all should get benefited back by some means.

Living at AUD campus

Present AUD campus sufficiently large and is no doubt beautiful clean and secured. Rooms are spacious in the hostel. This is winter and Delhi is really cold at the moment as in central India we never faced such cold environment before, I enjoyed staying. There were proper arrangements for this; even heaters were provided in the rooms. Three times foods were arranged (I am counting the breakfast also as food). There is a canteen too in the campus. There are no shops just outside of the campus except a tea corner. One has to walk a little to reach to a sector 10 market which was comparatively costly. We had some evening breaks-out in the market. The computer lab and library were made open for us 8 to 8.

We had good time in the campus but along with this I would also put light on some discomfort we felt. At times we felt the rules are too rigid and I also felt like I am confined. I also apologies that few of us made use of the dining room as common room to have informal chat and this helped us even in the academics and now we all are friends.

Suggestions and Further plan

The organizing team had been very supportive and encourages us in everywhere. I would appreciate that things were not rigidly planned in sessions. The organizing team made some useful decision, on the spot in order to make our stay worthwhile.

We have a request to the organizing team to continue doing such activities we would like to learn about the SS research more. If it is possible to have session through which we along with this sort of discussion we improve our research interest in to research proposal or at least research design or research properly to further tack it up. Something like “learning in general and working at specific” mode. It means just after each discussion we look back or research interest and improve it.

Prof. Menon in the beginning told about the term used Festival that we all end up with a network of SS researcher. It was decided among bloc 1 that we will develop a joint blog and keep in touch with each other also we will invite people a from other bloc too. I am assign to develop this blog on behalf of the group.


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