01 Apr 2018

Research as a Tool in Academics

The first thing that comes to mind is that those excellent books on Research Methodology would provide a jump start towards achieving a clear and conclusive ending point to the research question on hand. Most books provide an excellent linear progression to the process from the beginning to the end. But it is not always as easy as this sounds.

My idea of preparing myself to involve in a research venture was to lay out a well-planned approach from the start. I would lay the groundwork for my research proposal, I would develop keen research questions that would address the core of the research topic, and I would list my academic, methodological, conceptual, theoretical and content requisites along the way to the end. That would be the way forward-in my own head.

Like all plans which are carefully laid out, the execution though might not necessarily be as anticipated. I have encountered many a times when my perspectives on the area of research has changed with every landmark reached. So, a research plan may not exactly follow the road-map you have plotted in your mind but rather plots its own way as the research findings progresses.

Embarking on a research, one should be aware that it is an expansive task and the key approach to any research area is to delimit the extensive area of research and identify primary focal boundaries to work within.

The field of study is full of variety, full of fascinating details that you would want to document, in a way that’s both interesting and useful. One can be in contentment, thinking how well you have laid the parameters and direction of your research. How well you have assembled your data and conducted your analysis. And in that moment of self-satisfaction, things could change abruptly and leave you with a brand new perspective on your progress so far, something that you may not have thought of before or overlooked. This would obviously take you on a tangent and may necessitate a repetition of many issues that you assumed to have been covered and done with. So one among the many virtues that a researcher should cultivate is to learn to be patient and also not hesitate to repeat any task for any number of times.

So every new step may bring with it a slight change in focus. Most often this might consist of a refinement of perspective or approach, but sometimes it may amount to quite a significant rearrangement of the road map that has been prior planned. That can be a frightening feeling.

Undergoing a research project itself can be said to be a process of deconstruction and reconstruction, of the methodology itself and the contents and that is the challenge as well as the beauty of the process. Even the seemingly endless academic paperwork, the experience of assembling the data, of putting it together and beginning to see the content take shape, each milestone reached or ticked off the list creates a buzz of satisfaction, that is so rewarding to a researcher.

The role of the supervisor is a very crucial one throughout the process. Constant interaction and counsel from the supervisor is a necessity in driving the research on to logical and decisive conclusion. The supervisor would likely counsel if you are getting ahead of yourself and keep the aims and objective realistic and achievable.

To wind up, let me list some common strategies that have been useful to me around the parameters of a research and they might also assist you in a similar situation:

  • A research project should be flexible enough to incorporate relevant yet unanticipated changes in approach. Constantly, contemplate on your research questions and let them realign your thinking.
  • Regularly share your findings with your supervisors or peer group to get their take on what you are experiencing. Often working through a new angle on your research topic verbally, can bring new perspectives and clarity. The key is to do this is before another person, one capable of asking questions and suggesting new approaches.
  • Trust your intuition and your prior academic experience.
  • Remain realistic about the scope of your project. Don’t be afraid if you see shifts in focus during your research project. More often than not these are good and useful experiences within the process that can be managed to produce a better conclusion in the end. That’s the beauty of research. It is also the ongoing challenge and opportunity for the researcher.

Dr. Rajeev Chhetri
Academic Head