Sunday, 1 December 2013

Presentations on Research Methodology: Introduction to Research Methodology, Literature Review and Plagiarism

Presentations on Research Methodology:
Introduction to Research Methodology, Literature Review and Plagiarism

Research Methodology in Humanities, especially, in English literary studies is important to the aspirants of M.Phil, Ph.D. or to the research scholars/teachers who wish to apply for minor or major research projects to UGC or similar funding agencies.


Some important points to be kept in mind while preparing research proposal for Ph.D. / M.Phil in language and literature are:
  • Method and Methodology: Guba, E.G. (1990) in 'The Paradigm Dialogue' has argued that there are three fundamental research questions that structure any research project:
    1. What is there that can be known – what is knowable?
    2. What is the relation of the knower to the known?
    3. How do we find things out? 
     Ann Gray in 'Research Practice for Cultural Studies' (2003 - Sage Publication) elaborates these questions:
    • What is there that can be known - what is knowable?
    This is an ontological question, it refers to the aspect of social reality to be studied, but it also deals with assumptions we are willing to make about the nature of reality. It requires you to take a position in relation to your project and to define your ‘knowable space’. How you construct your knowable space and how you go about exploring and investigating that knowable space will depend upon your theoretical approach to the social world and the actors
    or texts involved.
    • What is the relation of the knower to the known?                                                      This is an epistemological question and, put simply, asks how we know what we know. The assumptions that are made about this depend on how we perceive of the reality, and, although Guba does not suggest this, how we are located as subjects within our research. What we bring to our work, how our own knowledge and experience is brought to bear on the research itself will certainly shape it. This is not a question of being ‘subjective’, nor to suggest that we can only view aspects of the world from our own perspective. Rather,  it is to acknowledge what we ourselves bring to our research in terms of our lived experience, certainly, but also our politics and our intellectual frameworks. It is important to make these explicit. The point about who we are and how we relate to the project itself is a key issue for researchers and, again, has informed many debates about research practice and the politics of knowledge generation.
    • How do we find things out?
      This is methodological questions. What kind of methods must I employ in order to know, or to put me in a position of being able to interpret and analyse this aspect of the social world? This, then, is where you can begin to think about the kinds of data you need and how to gather it in order to begin to explore your research questions
  • Theoretical framework: A researcher stands on the shoulders of previous researchers. The scholars who have worked and given general theories in the area of research should be taken as frame within which new work is explored. The aim of this new work should be to support, refute or go for new theories. This should be clearly defined in the research proposal.
  • Review of related literature: This makes for the foundation - the stepping stones - for new research. One should have birds-eye-view of the work done in the area of research which is to be explored. After understanding the work done, the research scholar should think of taking a step further in new direction in the research under consideration. The roadmap of this new direction should be chalked out in research proposal. (While doing an online open course (MOOC) on Coursera - offered by University of London, i came across these articles on Literature Review. All three of them are worth reading: 
  • Hypothesis: This makes for the research questions > the problem which is to be solved. If there is no problem, there is no need to solve it and hence no need to do research. So, first of all identify problem. Ask questions, doubt and apply deconstructionist approach to raise questions. The hypothesis will emerge from this exercise. Write hypothesis in clear statements.
  • Objectivity Most of us tend to select topic of research not because there is a problem which requires urgent solution but because we are personally, emotionally attached to it. The very first and foremost thing to keep in mind is 'depersonalization'. It is advised to read T.S. Eliot's Tradition and Individual Talent - Part II on poetic process > "It is not an expression of emotion and feelings but an escape from it."One should practice 'detachment' to be a good researcher. Like an umpire in the cricket match, totally engrossed and right at the centre of the match, yet aloof, detached - completely away from the emotions and feelings that drive players and audience.So, the researcher is engrossed, submerged in the research, yet can detach him/herself to critical evaluate his/her own position. It is observed that most of the research scholars fail to achieve this position and so are not able to raise proper questions > they remain emotionally attached and are, thus, blinded to empirical evidences necessary to make statements in thesis/dissertaion.
  • Plan of research (Chapterization): Normally, there are five chapters in thesis/dissertation:
    • Chapter 1: Introduction: It should include, theoretical framework, concept clarification, aims, objectives, hypotheses, research questions and introduction to writers, key terms etc.
    • Chapter 2: Review of Related Literature: All that can be reviewed i.e. theories to be applied, conceptual notes, similar research theses/dissertations, journal articles, books etc should be mentioned with annotated bibliographic record in this chapter. Remember, this is the foundation / stepping stones on which you have to stand or walk your path towards the climax in your thesis/dissertation. The more sound work is done here, you will find the it easy to write chapter 3 and 4.
    • Chapter 3 and 4: These are core chapters in thesis/dissertation. The research questions, hypothesis, analysis of literary texts, analysis of elt experiments etc are thoroughly discussed in these two chapters.
    • Chapter 5: Conclusion: In the entire thesis/dissertation, if there is any space where research scholar is free to write his/her views, it is this chapter. Do not cite any thing. Do not use in-text citation. This space is all yours. You are free to give your interpretations and make the most of it. What ever you have reviewed in chapter 2, whatever you have analyses in chapter 3 and 4, now its time to connect dots - join the arguments - and bring your story to a beautiful end.   



This presentation gives an outline of model syllabus for such courses. It also presents some views of Richard Altick and John Fenstermaker from 'The Art of Literary Research'.



Literature Review or Review of Related Literature is one of the most vital stages in any research. This presentation attempts to throw some light on the process and important aspects of literature review.



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