‘Research Methods in Early Childhood: An Introductory Guide’ by Penny Mukherji and Deborah Albon

Monday, March 1st, 2010 Book Review by Maureen O'Hagan

This book is exactly what the title describes; it clearly sets out the different types of research and the different research methodologies that can be used in the Early Childhood field. In order to help the reader follow points through there are icons within each chapter which show the following: Chapter Objectives, Case Study, Reflection Point, Research Focus, Glossary, Key Points from the chapter and Further Reading.

The book is well written, well thought out and offers all the essential areas that anyone undertaking a research project needs to know. It is particularly mindful of ethical issues and other areas which are specific to researching young children and their families.

The book tackles some research methodologies which can be difficult to understand. However, the authors have given very clear definitions on aspects such as positivist research, interpretivism, post-structuralism etc. as well as the difference between scientific methodology and other types of positivism such as quantitative and qualitative methods. There is also a chapter on interpretivism and post-structuralism.

Chapter three is of importance as it looks at the ethics of undertaking research with young children and families, both of these groups being particularly vulnerable. The importance of ‘informed content’ is looked at in some detail as it is important that participants and/or parents of children understand the issues relating to the research and how their children will be involved. The university’s own ethics policy also has to be adhered to.

Part two of the book looks at the different approaches to research and how best it can be tackled through areas such as surveys, ethnography, case studies and action research. Under each of these headings there are not only details of what they actually mean and how they can be employed but also the usefulness of certain strategies in relation to what the researcher is trying to find out. In other words, the students, having decided on which area of early childhood they wish to research, need to look at all the methods put forward and decide which is the most appropriate for getting the best results.

The third part of the book discusses the different methods of research such as observation, interview, questionnaire etc.  This section is particularly interesting as it looks at how researchers can examine themselves as a legitimate part of the research or, as it terms it, ‘The self as a legitimate subject for study’. Within this area there is discussion relating to the researcher keeping a private journal as a ‘vehicle for reflection’ and as a research tool, aide-memoir, initial focus for the research or a tool for data gathering. Most importantly there is a very clear section on the ‘possibilities and limitations of using journaling as a research tool.’

The final section of the book relates to carrying out a research project and involves design of the research,  the importance of the literature review, analysing and presenting data and, finally, writing up the results.

I wish that there had been a book like this available when I undertook my research; it would certainly have made life easier!!

Mukherji P. and Albon D. (2010) Research Methods in Early Childhood: An Introductory Guide

Sage, London

ISBN: 9-781-847875242

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