Under a microscope

Students of physics are taught early on that in a quantum mechanical world, the act of observation itself affects the observed object. And since our world is quantum mechanical, how then does one ever observe anything without affecting it?

Issues like this are very appropriate even in more immediate contexts. Say, when studying animal behaviour, especially human behaviour. How does the researcher's presence affect the objects of their study? And how might one ensure that the disturbance is minimal? A new book from Sage attempts to provide some guidance in this matter. Researching Families and Children: Culturally Appropriate Methods "highlights methodological issues that arise while conducting research on human development in India. This compilation deals with the dynamics of transacting research in the field, instead of providing formalized instructions on how to conduct research. This set of essays thus scores over most other books on research methodology in this regard. Dwelling on authentic encounters in the field, the authors articulate the various processes of interaction, while providing transparency in procedure and practicality in approach.

A significant aspect of the collection is the inclusion of the perspectives of the participants in research studies. The people studied are seen as partners in the creation of knowledge, without whose active involvement the studies would be inadequate. With a view to demystifying research methods and engaging the reader, the narrative uses the trope from the world of Indian theatre of the traditional Sutradhaar (Master of Ceremonies) and Vidushak (Jester). This strategy infuses a lighter note and serves to round-off each essay succinctly."

The book is edited by S Anandalakshmy along with Nandita Chaudhary and Neerja Sharma, both at the University of Delhi. Dr. Anandalakshmy who trained in the area of human development at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where she got her Ph D, retired as Director of the Lady Irwin College, New Delhi where she has developed courses and curricula for the masters program in Child Development and served as the Head of Department from its inception in 1970 to 1983.

In our Psychology Section, Rs 350, Paperback, 252 pages. ISBN 9788178298726.