Journal of Christian Ministry | 2024: Social Research Methods: For Students and Scholars of Religious Studies – Book Review

2024: Social Research Methods: For Students and Scholars of Religious Studies – Book Review

2024: Social Research Methods: For Students and Scholars of Religious Studies – Book Review

Social Research Methods:
For Students and Scholars of Religious Studies
Joshua Iyadurai
Chennai, India: Marina Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, 2023. 300 pages, $33.00
Reviewed by Mark Olmos
Grand Canyon University College of Theology

When aspiring to make a meaningful contribution to the world through academic influence, one often has to enter the world of methodological research. To the novice doctoral candidate, it can appear as a complicated multi-leveled labyrinth with a language of its own. Terms like bivariate analysis, coding, convergent design, different forms of data gathering, numerous forms of analysis, and various research paradigms are a small sampling of the dialect of a researcher who intends to produce a significant thesis or dissertation.

In Social Research Methods, Joshua Iyadurai aims at demystifying the process for students endeavoring on research focused on theology and religious experience and providing a step-by-step guide that will enable students and their advisors to enjoy the process by simplifying it while maintaining the rigor it requires.

The author brings to bear over a decade of teaching research methods and purposes the book to equip students in the design and execution of a scholarly research project. It also provides a guidebook for professors that would advise them throughout the entire process.

Iyadurai discusses the need for applying scientific rigor that is used by the social sciences to religious and theological research. He promotes the validity of research that focuses on the lived religion, lived experience, and lived theology of people. He contrasts this with theological research that is more reflective, philosophical, and contextual and suggests that it would benefit by adding sound scientific data that focuses on actual lived reality. In his model this would mean an interdisciplinary approach combining theological reflection with social science and the accompanying sound scientific method.

From the beginning of Iyadurai’s book he provides an accessible and easy-to-navigate guide into the perceived complex world of research methods. The book has a clear approach in its summary, simplicity, and sophistication.

The author’s summary provides an at-a-glance brief table of contents that enables the reader, researcher, or advisor to get a quick look at the road ahead from the first steps to the completion of a project in a logical sequence. He then provides a detailed table of contents that provides the detailed steps and options available at each stage in the process leading to completion. The summary serves to make the complexity of the process navigable and hence potentially achievable.

The book’s simplicity shows the effort to demystify the methodological research process. Here, the author’s background in the classroom and goal to provide clarity and accessibility to students is evident. Each chapter provides clear definitions, examples, guiding questions, a chapter summary, and review questions. When there are options to consider Iyadurai provides clear explanations and practical examples for each one. The book finishes with a glossary that provides the reader with a translation tool to help comprehend the language of scientific research.

The sophistication of the research process is not lost in his attempt to simply. The author states a commitment to rigor from the beginning and maintains that focus throughout. He does this with an uncompromising approach to the language and science of methodological research. In his stated purpose, he does not attempt to provide a detailed or exhaustive volume on every aspect of doctoral research, but rather a guide to it. Each chapter ends with a list of resources that enable the researcher to further their knowledge of a particular approach, paradigm, or subject. In addition, with few exceptions, the resources listed in the book represent current scholarship giving the reader an up-to-date guide to sound scientific social research.

This book has value as an overview of the process of doctoral work. Anyone embarking on theological or religious research would benefit from the author’s passion to create an accessible and easy-to-follow guide for both students and advisors. While most of the work would be done in other texts (some recommended by this book), this would serve as the step-by-step recipe for both student and advisor as they move to completion.

In addition, because of the author’s multicultural experience in higher education and his international perspective, this book is postured to serve growing scholarship in the global Christian community in Africa, South America, Asia, and the Middle East as well as the West.

As this is aimed at students entering the domain of rigorous theological/religious and social scientific study the introductory argument for the interdisciplinary approach would benefit with more practical examples that allow the reader to grasp the clear difference between different approaches. Otherwise, the book accomplishes its stated purpose.

This volume would serve well as the introductory text for a doctoral research class as well as a shared resource for students and their assigned advisors as a checklist-style guide towards a completed project.