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Research Methodology

PLANNING RESEARCH - IDENTIFYING YOUR PROBLEM AND PROCEEDING
INTRODUCTION
Identification of a suitable topic and selection of a suitable problem is in many ways the most
difficult and important task. A thorough knowledge of a particular subject is needed. If the
plan is good, the research goes on well. This is summed up by E. J. Huth (1982), Editor of the
'Annals of Internal Medicine' as, "The probability that a paper with a clear image will emerge
from research is determined more by how the research was conceived and planned than by
how well the paper is written. A clear question must be posed before the research is planned,
the design of the research plan must be adequate, and the data must be properly collected and
appropriately analysed."

Selection of a topic for research is different from assignments in an undergraduate class. Here
the student is assigned a particular topic to write about. He gets some &dance in the form of a
suggested reading list. Such an assignment does not require original research. It is usually
seen only by the student and the teacher and is not in a library for public scrutiny. The teacher
writes comments on the paper for the benefit of the student. It is relatively a personal
document. It is part of teaching.

A thesis normally represents the culmination of a substantial piece of original work over a
period of two or three years. Some research replicates previous research work with the object
of testing the relevance of the findings in a different environment or circumstance. Usually
research builds on existing studies in order to follow up new leads or to refine or to qualify
the results of earlier studies. In other words the thesis is expected to make an original
contribution to knowledge. Therefore the thesis once accepted is placed in the library of the
institution conferring the degree. Abstracts of theses are published and scholars throughout
the world may borrow or use it. Thus it becomes a public property. It may be noted that the
reputation of the institution, of the teachers and of the student are judged from the quality of
research.
Planning the research project or identifying a research problem is the most important aspect
of all. A student joining for research may be given a topic or be guided in the areas of special
interest of the teacher with whom he will work. A student may seek enrolment in a
Department/Institution keeping in mind the special interest of the teachers there. But a
student writing a thesis is much more responsible for the selection and delimitation of his
area of study.

The selection of a suitable topic for research is in many ways the most difficult task. A
thorough knowledge of a particular subject area is needed. The more one learns about a
particular field, the more able one is to detect gaps in it and to recognise problem areas that
require investigation.

SOURCE OF PROBLEMS FOR STUDY
One of the best sources of problems for research is to learn about the earlier research studies
in that area. The closest one can get in this direction is through direct contact with the
personnel at a research institution. The research scholars, teachers, scientists who are active
in research are usually a fund of research problems. A close substitute to direct contact with
researchers is contact with their writing and the most recent writing is contained in papers
published in journals. A study of current literature in journals pertaining to the subject of
interest will indicate the problems that are being investigated. Recent doctoral theses in the
field of interest are a source of information. The summaries and conclusions of the theses
include suggestions for future research.

At the start of a research project one will be spending a lot of time in the library. This is a
continuing process through out the duration of the thesis work. Since original research work
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Primary sources Articles or papers in Journals. In the current world INTERNET can be used to get an overview of the areas of interest. if any. Is the necessary equipment available? Many scientific and technological studies require sophisticated and expensive equipment. Some ideas are good but need scores of workers and several years to complete. The work done must be looked into and loopholes. The first thoughts are often vague tending to overestimate the resources available and to underestimate the time needed to complete the project. 3. a student has narrowed down his area of interest and has identified a number of problems one should consider the following questions. 1. Commentaries. Physics Abstracts etc. Secondary sources Summaries of information gathered from primary sources come under this' Abstracts (Engineering Abstracts. The sources can then be categorized in to three. Can the topic be completed in the required time? It must be considered before finalising a topic. Tertiary sources Books in the area of interest. 2 . Is there adequate supervision? A teacher may not be available with the expertise or interest in one's topic of interest. They must be available for experimental treatments and tests. But it may be noted that there is no substitute for consulting primary sources if they are available. unless the techniques used had been faulty or the results doubtful. theses. One has to start from the most recent issue available and continue backwards as far as one wish to go. 2. A new source of information or a new technique enables to throw new light on the problem. This gives an overview of the topic.). Once. It is clearly impossible to assess the contents of journals by looking each one individually. 3. 5. Guide books. Unless one is sure of the availability of the equipment the topic should not be decided. especially in social sciences. Current Contents etc. Primary sources of abstracts can then be obtained. Research Methodology is being carried out. Is the idea viable? Research should be "the art of the soluble" according to Scot (1981). reviews etc. There is a tendency to tackle problems of far too great a magnitude. Long term attitude studies require long periods. A previous study should not be exactly replicated. technical reports etc. The idea must be usually simple and the objectives of the research circumscribed and definite. a careful check must be made that the proposed study has not previously been carried out. 6. 1. It is essential to survey a field from the general to the specific. 'Has it been done before? It is necessary for a beginner to go to library and look up the literature on the topic concerned. Therefore one has to make use of the indexing and abstract journals. One has only to find the web site. 2. must be understood. Are subjects available? Research. A student may have to move to an institution where particular topics are dealt with. that it can be completed within the period of two to three years. Abstracts of papers appearing in important journals also appear in the INTERNET. CRITERIA FOR SELECTING A TOPIC Research often starts from an idea. a question or an extension of previous line of enquiry. requires the cooperation of subjects. 4.