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Fieldwork For Policy: Insights With Qualitative Research

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Session Report
Ritika Sen

Introduction

The Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI) hosted the Public Policy Qualitative Participatory Action Research Fieldwork Fellowship Cohort 2.0, a comprehensive 4-month program that provided a distinctive combination of informative seminars, engaging workshops, opportunities to network, and hands-on fieldwork experiences led by esteemed experts. Throughout the course, participants got a thorough understanding of public policy and its impact on a wide range of social challenges, and they had the opportunity to learn from internationally and nationally recognized theme experts and practitioners.

On day 5, Professor Gummadi Sridevi, Professor, School of Economics, University of Hyderabad, and Visiting Professor, IMPRI. Prof. Gummadi conducted the fifth session of the program, which included an interactive discussion afterwards. The curriculum aimed to provide participants with a thorough understanding of public policy frameworks, as well as theoretical and practical research abilities.

Prof. Gummadi then began discussion about field research reflections, highlighting the significance and complexity of social science research, particularly with regard to primary data. She emphasized the limitations and constraints of such study, including the need to look beyond numbers to understand a specific occurrence.

Multidisciplinary Research and Ethical Considerations

Prof. Gummadi started off by emphasizing the significance of transdisciplinary or interdisciplinary approaches to addressing complicated challenges. She underlined the importance of a theoretical framework for researching a specific topic, citing labor market discrimination as an example. The professor also emphasized the need to understand study constraints and the critical role of ethical issues in field research. She further continued by emphasizing the relevance of empirical evidence in study and the necessity for caution when extrapolating conclusions from a certain sample size or geographic location to the entire universe.

An Intensive Discussion on Qualitative Research Methods

Prof. Gummadi explained the distinctions between quantitative and qualitative research methodologies, emphasizing the relevance of primary data in the qualitative approach. She added that qualitative research aims to uncover the “why” behind an issue by employing methodologies such as interviews, focus groups, and field observations to get insights into attitudes, behaviors, and cultural contexts. It is frequently used to inform decisions, policy communication, formation, and policy development.

Prof. Gummadi also underlined the importance of field research in the qualitative approach, stating that researchers must be conscious of their role in the discussion process and the sensitivity required when collecting data. She discussed how to validate qualitative research, stating aspects such as feasibility, depth, duration, and representativeness.

Field Research and Policy Challenges

Prof. Gummadi described the difficulties experienced during field study citing a scenario of a master’s student in Tamil Nadu. She described how the master’s student attempted to collect data on consumer and employer expenditure in AMMA canteens in Tamil Nadu but was denied permission by the government because to worries about possibly competing factors like as caste and religion.

The prof. stressed the necessity of protecting informants’ and participants’ rights, ensuring their anonymity, and maintaining the confidentiality of acquired data. She also emphasized the importance of thinking about potential risks and disputes when developing research questions, as well as how to mitigate these risks by using appropriate language and avoiding ideological prejudices.

Learning through Examples and Case Analysis

Prof. Gummadi discussed several case studies to understand the nuances of qualitative research better for the participants and held an interactive session as well. She first addressed the subject of hunger and food insecurity, particularly during the pandemic. She stated that, despite official statements, there is proof that people died of hunger during this time.

The professor also stressed the link between food poverty and children’s cognitive capacities, implying that poor nutrition may lead to inferior academic performance and social troubles. Prof. Gummadi then went on to discuss the difficulties associated with tailored support programs, such as exclusions and the need for smartphones for access. She continued by discussing ongoing research that focuses on food and nutrition security in connection to state support programs.

The second example of the day was around urban canteens and their programs for various age groups. Prof. Gummadi stressed the significance of these institutions in guaranteeing food and nutrition security for children from underserved communities, many of whom are migratory workers. However, she pointed out that the performance of these institutions varies, with some outperforming others due to a lack of infrastructure and sanitation services. She also emphasized the importance of urban canteens in providing subsidized meals but cautioned that quality and accessibility varied widely depending on location.

Finally, as an example, Prof. Gummadi analyzed a case surrounding the common resources.  She addressed a study centered on the appropriation of common resources, including land and water in rural areas. She brough forth the perspective of how marginalized populations frequently suffer the burden of delivering water and its uneven distribution across other social groupings.

The gathering also discussed dominant organizations’ appropriation of local ponds for real estate development. She brought up the ethical implications of designating villages in their research, and how the Commons’ focus was on shared resources, appropriation, and gender issues.

Conclusion

Overall, the session successfully highlighted the reflections of Prof. Gummadi on field research, and primary data research work giving participants a solid understanding of public policy frameworks, as well as theoretical and practical research abilities.

Acknowledgement: This article was posted by Ritika Sen, a research intern at IMPRI.

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