What to do before you begin research
B. S. WARRIER
Assessing one's aptitude and cultivating a persevering attitude are key requirements.
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Photo: Mohammed Yousuf
TOUGH GRIND: A researcher has to put in long hours of work.
All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.
- Galileo Galilei
The list of research institutions featured last week in these columns is only indicative and not exhaustive. You may get in touch with the institutions you have in mind and confirm that they currently promote research in the area of your choice, and that there are competent supervisors for your topic.
Once this is done, you should prepare a proposal containing an outline of the study envisaged, along with the requirement and extent of funding. This will have to be submitted to the institution for scrutiny and approval. You may have to indicate your expectation regarding guidance and help from the supervisor.
The institution will weigh all aspects pertaining to your study including your competence and potential, and give a green signal if the proposal is approved. It may be noted that many of our public sector laboratories frequently invite those who have proved their eligibility in the NET, to undertake research in specific areas.
Often, candidates who are qualified in the NET but whose concept of potential areas of research is limited seek the help of professors/scientists through letter, phone or e-mail, indicating their preferences. That would be the starting point of their enterprising journey.
Types of research
Research is often classified as primary and secondary. Primary research implies original observation, survey, investigation, study, experiments, analysis, and findings. Secondary research is usually an extension of what another researcher has done, or further study based on information, ideas or opinions available in books, journals, or other publications. A great part of academic research would be secondary in nature.
Your area of study should not be too broad or general. You should not say that the topic is ``Population Studies.'' It lacks definition. You have to narrow down the area. It may perhaps be the ``Impact of family planning on the demographic trends in the State of Bihar during the period from 1985 to 2005.''
Before you plunge headlong into research, you should check and re-check your attributes so as to confirm that you are prepared to continue this endeavour at least for a few years. The life of a research scholar is totally different from that of a usual salaried employee who may have to attend an office or shop floor for a specific number of hours each day and then go home and relax.
You may have to work with concentration for 10 - 14 hours at a stretch to meet a deadline. A research scholar will have a problem that may have to be carried in his mind for a few years, and worked on continuously.
Naturally, you should be endowed with ample persistence and tenacity; your striving for a goal has to continue until the problem at hand is happily resolved or new light has been shed on the lines you hoped for. There would be frequent setbacks and unexpected turn of events including development in your area of work produced by scholars elsewhere. If you have the necessary will power to stand all such trials, you can certainly go ahead with your project.
The focus should never drift from your core task. Often research scholars may be given a teaching assignment. This has necessarily to be done well, but not at the expense of your research work.
Power of language
There are certain other elementary aspects that you cannot afford to ignore. Check honestly your English language skills for effective comprehension, expression, and communication - both written and spoken. There is no harm in brushing up your school English to ensure that you do not do any injustice to language.
For example, you may otherwise state that ``the data is missing'', whereas ``the data are missing'' is the right form, since data is the plural of datum. You may have to interact with other scholars and experts over the telephone and through e-mail. It is not very easy to express your ideas with clarity, unless you are aware of the nuances of the language. So also, following accurately what a foreigner whose mother tongue is English speaks over the phone requires familiarity with his accent and vocabulary. Anyone may feel that his English is fine; but the belief may not be justified. So if necessary, you may update your language skills to meet the demand of your work.
Developing presentation skills is also important. It may be remembered that anyone who assesses your performance through a presentation is likely to be carried away not only by the quality of the content, but by the appeal of your presentation.
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