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Ranjit Kumar

Melbourne, Addison Wesley Longman, 1996, xvi, 276 pp., $39.95 (paperback).

Anyone teaching a research subject to students enrolled in a professional degree knows how resistant they are to the content. They are taking the research subject because they have to, not because they want to, and many consider it largely irrelevant to their career plan. Often they are overwhelmed, especially by quantitative methods. At the same time, collaborative research groups are being organised between health professionals and academics. The need for evidence-based practice becomes apparent to many professionals only after they enter the workplace. In both situations, there is a place for a text such as this one.

The first step when recruiting students is to enable them to see the relevance of the subject to their chosen profession. Kumar begins by providing a range of contextualised examples, showing why understanding the research process is necessary for a range of professions. An opportunity for further application to practice is created here for teachers who use this text. Throughout the book Kumar makes links between research, the development of theory and its relevance to practice.

Kumar provides an excellent guide to research methodology, an essential foundation to teaching methods. The structure of the book takes the reader step-by-step through an eight-stage research process from formulating a research problem to design, sampling, writing a research proposal, collecting and processing data, through to writing up an report. Aside from the subject matter covered in the body of the text, the author provides a useful appendix of exercises to stimulate the process of developing a research project. Teachers will find this a useful starting point in the development of tutorial work in subjects covering methodology, and students will find the process of completing the exercises useful in gaining experience with developing a research project.

Like all good teachers, Kumar's work is based on sound pedagogical principles. Through listening to his students over many years he has adapted his teaching to meet the needs of novices. The material moves from simple to complex concepts and assumes no prior knowledge. Clearly, one of the strengths of the book is in the graphical representation of concepts associated with the research methodology described. Flow charts are used constructively to allow for a clear path through complex arguments. Creative visualisations of particular study design approaches (see Chapter 8) are useful in providing graphical understanding of the variations in investigation. Tables are also used to good effect to summarise key concepts.

Unfortunately, there is little in the way of a critical approach to the visual representations of data covered in Chapter 16. In some respects this is reflective of the author's lack of engagement with the specifics of either quantitative or qualitative methodology, as the choice is a focus on the underpinning of research methodology. However presenting graphs such as pie charts (Figure 16.9) and three dimensional charts for two dimensional data (Figure 16.3) may lead students to a rather uncritical application of the

graphing of data.

As acknowledged by Kumar, the emphasis in this book is on quantitative approaches to data collection and analysis. Qualitative approaches are mentioned fleetingly, and then only in relation to concepts such as coding and variables. Kumar stresses in his introduction that most problems require both approaches and that one method should not be regarded more highly than the other, yet the content does give the novice reader the impression that research is quantitative in nature. While students do find the quantitative component of a methods course the most daunting (this is particularly the case for feminised professions such as Nursing and Social Work), there is a need to present a balanced picture of the contribution offered by both inductive and deductive approaches. This is not evident in Kumar's book. A useful complement for Kumar's text would be Corinne Glesne and Alan Peshkin's Becoming Qualitative Researchers: An Introduction (New York, Longman, 1992). The two books share a similar structure and many of the same characteristics, differentiated largely by their emphasis on methods.

Students and health professionals who have previewed this book have responded favourably to its structure and content. We anticipate that this book will appeal to many students across a number of disciplines. As well, professionals who are becoming involved in research groups will find this a useful refresher on the research process.

Felicity Croker and Paul Reser

School of Psychology and Sociology James Cook University
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Author:Croker, Felicity; Reser, Paul
Publication:Journal of Sociology
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1999
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