Friday 20 May 2016

Aditi Bulletin Issue 5

Note from Managing Editor
The current issue focuses on Research Methodology. Several Think Tanks as a policy research organisation conduct different types of researches, some follow particular methodologies, some develop methodologies based on the research topic, some use random approaches.  While there is no defined research methodology/ies to use for a topic or theme, researchers adopt methods to suit their research. In order to arrive at the desired result/s researchers opt for research methodologies to ensure that the research is gainful and meaningful. As always, we received several contributions from a varied list of people and organisation. I would like to thank all the members of the Editorial Board to provide their continued support.

Managing Editor, Aditi


Will Paxton
Director of Kivu International 

Guy Lodge
Director of Kivu International

A Think Tank’s reputation will rise and fall depending on the quality of its research. Producing a shoddy piece of work that unravels in the face of external scrutiny can take a Think Tank a long time to regain its credibility.

If research is to be strong enough to withstand the full force of interrogation from policy-makers, the media and others, then self-evidently it is important to use appropriate and robust research methodologies.

But one needs to be clear what we mean by ‘appropriate’ and ‘robust’ and relate these  to the environment in which Think Tanks operate. This means being clear about the two most significant ways in which Think Tank research differs from that undertaken by academic institutions.

Firstly, to be influential Think Tanks have to work within timelines set by policy-makers and politicians. These can be incredibly tight and constrain the type of research methods a Think Tank can adapt. While an academic research project might last 5 years, the typical length of a Think Tank project is often between 6-12 months. Randomised control trials, to pick a voguish academic methodology, are just not an option when you have so little time to play with. (RCTs are also very expensive – and Think Tanks, in our experience, seldom have the resources to pay for them).

Time pressures force Think Tanks to adopt mixed methodologies – very often combining secondary analysis of existing research, with selective primary research (such as a poll or some original quantitative work). A good Think Tank will add considerable value by synthesising and clarifying academic research, and using it to help inform policy advocacy. Balancing a mix of secondary and primary research methods means a Think Tank has to be versatile.

Second, Think Tanks are primarily in the business of influencing policy. This has important implications for research methodologies. Practically it means you have to give more weight to methods that help you solve problems, not analyse them. This means being able to cost the policy options you are proposing – and saying how they will be paid for when resources are scarce. It also means being able to conduct distributional analysis, showing who the “winners” and “losers” will be from the policy change you are pushing. Comparative research is also important, as it can help identify and adapt policies that have been shown to address the problem your own country faces.

Of course Think Tanks vary significantly in terms of their size, resources and staff skills – they’re not all locked into trying to influence short-term policy debates. A good Think Tank will often be juggling a mix of projects using a broad range of methodologies: some responding to the here and now, and others engaged in more long-term thinking that is trying to anticipate the future.

Finally, Think Tank research methods must be judged against standards that reflect the reality of the environment in which they operate. The test should not be methodological purity for the sake of it. Instead, Think Tanks should ask whether their research is policy-relevant? Have the research methods been designed to help you understand – and get over - the barriers to change on an issue? Is it politically savvy - that is, do the recommendations stand a chance of being implemented?

Research Methods to study on Think Tanks
by Enrique Mendizabal, Founder of On Think Tanks

Research Methods Vs Methodologies
by Shrimoyee Bhattacharya, Senior Research Scientist, CSTEP, Sandhya Sundararagavan, Research Scientist, CSTEP and Debapriya Das, Senior Research Economist, CSTEP

Methodological choices to inform policy 
by Andrea OrdonezAssociate of Politics & Ideas

Lessons from Teaching Research Methodology at IPS
by Nisha Arunatilake, Fellow at Institute Of Policy Studies Of Sri Lanka

Sharing the Whole Research Map
by Bruno Paschoal, Director of OndaPolitica


Sabyasachi Kar - Associate Professor Institute of Economic Growth

Sebastian Maslow, Assistant Professor (Political Science) at Tohoku University

Thoughts from  ZHU Xufeng, Professor Ph.D., Tsinghua University, China

Case Study

by Lorena Alcazar Valdivia, Director of Research at GRADE and Miguel Jaramillo, Executive Director and Senior Researcher at GRADE

by Shrimoyee Bhattacharya, Senior Research Scientist, CSTEP

Sujatha Byravan Principal Research Scientist, CSTEP



Concept - Dr. Jai Asundi, Principal Research Scientist, CSTEP
Illustration - Sandeep Khasnavis, Graphic Designer, CSTEP

Cross Posting


Interesting Readings

Involving Children and Young People in Research
Summary: The papers demonstrate that there is now a considerable wealth of experience with participatory research in Australia. Together the papers identify the strengths, the challenges, the complexities —and the enjoyment — of participatory research. The Think Tank provided a unique opportunity for experts from many sectors and from all around Australia to discuss their collective experience and knowledge of participatory research. We hope the compendium is a first step toward developing a collective understanding of how best to involve children and young people in research for their benefit, the benefit of their communities, and for the benefit of research.

Webinar on Research Methodologies especially designed for Think Tanks and organised by Atlas Network
This webinar is part of a series by Atlas Leadership Academy, which provides a robust series of credit-based training opportunities that allow participants to sharpen their skills in management, communications, and fundraising while building their free-market organization. This episode deals with conducting policy research within think tanks by Jeff Miron, Director of Economic Studies at the Cato Institute. Jeff provided an introduction to key research methodologies, when to use them, and how to employ research to effect policy change.

Conference on Methodologies for Researching Think Tanks: Case Studies
This piece is cross posted from On Think Tanks

Compiled by: Dr. Annapoorna Ravichander, Head, Communication and Policy Engagement, CSTEP


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