Monday, August 23, 2004

Where to begin..... - Part 2


At every corners and turn, I kept on being chased by my research students seeking approval for their research proposals.

Most of the time, many of them will come to me with two or three solution about what they wanted to do for their studies, but not on what they want to research on. Why is it not considered a proposal but instead a solution is because they came to me already prepared with some indication of how to answer it. Often they are usually already very confident that they can complete it during the stipulated study duration. Unfortunately, with an answer already at hand, there is not much research work left to do. What they are about to do next in the following semesters is to begin designing the answer. Where then is the actual research component?

My immediate reaction to this type of student's enquiry will be to probe deeper for more explanations about what the actual problem is. More often than not, they are not really clear as to what the actual problem is in the first place. For some of those who do, very often it is just based their personal hunch or a very subjective opinion, and not at all supported or substantiated by real facts. When questioned further, the whole argument will slowly crumple to pieces. This is a very dangerous thing to do because there is a very high risk of the argument collapsing prematurely. The danger of jumping to such a conclusion so early is that, it may be that the so-called problem is only so as perceived by the individual, but in reality it is really not such a big issue. This could be attributed to the researcher's own limited reading and knowledge about the subject. For all you know somebody has already written/published the answer in some journals somewhere. By then all your research effort spent will be wasted because of your own ignorance and lack or reading.

The reason for insisting that all novice researchers do their literature review is to give them a thorough understanding and revelation about the most current and the state-of-art information in the field. It forces them to be familiar with others out there whom, somewhere has done something similar. Most often, a novice researcher may be surprised by how much has been written about the issue/topic by some other writers, internationally. It may sometime even convince the researcher that his research proposal is no longer truly new or original, and may even be to the extent indicate that it is no longer relevant or valid to pursue that line of study.

However, just because the literature review had revealed that many other writers have written about it, there is no need for you to despair. Quote them in your research proposal because this will show to your reader that you are no the only one who think about it, others too agreed that it is a problem that is worth researching. You get to know who's who in the field.

You next responsibility is not to repeat what has already been done, but to establish a gap that may still exists in that knowledge domain that is still unanswered or unresolved. You may want to repeat exactly the same procedure done by earlier researcher in order to countercheck on the whether the earlier finding is still valid and relevant to the present time. You might also want to compare, challenge, evaluate or dispute earlier researcher’s findings. You may choose to to do an exploratory study seeking for an explanation to a new uncharted domain/ phenomena or just choosed to verify the relevancy of an existing fact in the light of some new changes in the variables.

Warning. Do not aim your research too high, there is definitely not enough time for you to solve the whole world's problem. Focus on a more manageable aspect of the bigger problem that can be researched within the available funding, logistic opportunities, and time that is available to you. There is no point in being too ambitious if at the end of the day you cannot complete it on time. Be realistic with yourself.

The Literature review findings will help you decide on an appropriate path of enquiry, that will put you on a more solid footing in you research venture. It is ok to change or amend your research topic because by now it is really established on some firm grounded theory.

To give your research proposal an impact, establish how significant the problem to be researched will be? Is it done merely just to satisfy the researcher’s ignorance or will it really helps improve society or mankind? Identify who will benefit from the findings? On the other hand, if not done, how detrimental will the consequences be to the society at large? Of course a research done to establish the effectiveness of the kindergarten next door to your home will be less significant compared to a comprehensive study of all kindergartens in rural areas of Mukim Sekinchan.

This is the early preparations needed before you embark on your long and lonely research journey. Many more preparations is needed along the way. I will be discuss it further in next episode........


At August 24, 2004 at 9:50 PM, Blogger miecintosh said...


What a refreshing reminder! Thanks a lot doc. This can be a turning point for me and my colleagues on where and how should we start our research proposals. Can't wait for the next episode.



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