Research must look beyond a PhD

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It is generally accepted fact that the quality of research in Indian universities has drastically fallen over the years. When we probe into the possible factors behind this pathetic state, we come across many reasons namely— incompatibility between the researcher and the guide, poor administrative guidelines, lack of financial support and more.

I would argue that the dominant factor for this poor state of research doesn’t lie outside the research scholar, but within himself. It is the lack of awareness of the seriousness involved in the engaged research work. Since research is undertaken due to motivation to attain a PhD degree as it is a mandatory qualification for the promotion of teachers at tertiary and postgraduate levels. As a result, once the degree is awarded, the ‘research’ ends there.

If so, what does ‘research’ mean in its true sense, then? This is an important question, one that a researcher should introspect on to start with. Research has emerged in human history as a part of western culture. It is a form of enquiry, which originates in the human mind, and is the epicentre of knowledge of this world. So, there is no research outside the human mind. Interestingly, research is not an integral part of all civilizations, as many cultures have survived without any kind of research.

So, it has come to our land from western civilization as a fact-finding exercise. In this context, an Indian researcher has to master ‘research’ through hard work, as it is not inherently part of our culture. Research is a way of life, it is a quest for knowledge, done with ceaseless care. Historically, there have been a number of inventions outside the premises of
a university set up, but have nevertheless, benefitted the society tremendously. This suggests that university research protocols are unnecessary for true research.

The qualities of a researcher are insatiable curiosity, cognition, concentration, hard work, restraint and care for the work. The three major skills essential for good research are in-depth reading,
accurate thinking and academic writing. First of all, in-depth reading in the field of one’s research is the foundation step in academic research. This leads to a thorough reflection on the subject. A self-reflection of the ideas internalized through reading prompts him or her to find answers to some haunting questions.

The third one is logical writing. Though a researcher gets his PhD degree for the thesis he submits, academic writing skill is never taught at any stage of Indian higher education. All the three skills are interconnected; as reading prompts a man to think, the thinking leads him to interpret it logically and comprehensively through writing. In fact, writing is an act of
clarifying one’s thoughts. A PhD thesis is a narration of a new knowledge. Good research takes up one of the most important questions that a researcher comes across in his exploration of new knowledge.

It comes after review of literature in the field and after realising the gaps in the study. The researcher explores how others have responded to similar questions and, most importantly, what is the need for the current research? So, research is seeking new knowledge.

A researcher must know, what he or she is seeking. He should have the ambition to contribute something new to the field. Good research can change a society’s perception and provide a new understanding. This is possible only if the researcher cares for his work. In today’s materialistic world, man, like all his other affairs, is psychologically alienated from his research work.

So, research has become a mere pursuit for a doctorate degree, focussing solely on financial benefits and career advances. So, we don’t have an idea of the depth and seriousness of research work. Finally, a PhD thesis should be worthy enough to be published for the public to read it.

But this is not the case in India as most of the PhD theses lie without use in respective university libraries. This reflects the lack of ambition among researchers to
contribute to something new and share it with the world.

 

(The writer is an Assistant Professor at the Department of English, University College of Science,Tumkur)

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