Research: The goal of research is to improve the level of living in society. The word research carries an atmosphere of respect. As every object has got its own pros and cons, so does research. But the advantages of research have out numbered the disadvantages of research and it has a place of its own in the field of study.
In an academic environment, research activity is five fold i.e Master Dissertation; MPhil Dissertation; PhD Thesis; DLitt Thesis; and Assigned Research Project (Most universities in North America call a PhD a dissertation and the Masters a thesis, while most British universities call the PhD a thesis and the Masters a dissertation).
A Masters dissertation in general does not contribute to the original knowledge that is novel and unique, and takes a forward step in a particular branch of human knowledge. It is a research work that makes one experienced with a series of high level education, intellectual and ethical issues, whereby the person doing the work demonstrates his/her mastery of the skills of data collection, handling, analysis, synthesis, evaluation, argumentation to a specific topic to arrive at some conclusion, that is in turn recorded with the honesty of writing, which enlarges or modifies the earlier concept on the topic. The objectives of a dissertation includes providing a range of learning opportunities to go for original research work in future, by way of going through different age old tradition of research methodologies; to equip the learner with the knowledge of managing a project; etc.
In Master of Philosophy, stress is much given to the subject of research rather than on theoretical research methodologies and the researcher has the full freedom to choose his/her topic of interest. The individual capability of the students to choose their topic for research gives a Master of Philosophy research a distinct look in opposition to the Master Dissertation, where student is supposed to look forward to the topic relevant to their course contents only. Though at Master of Philosophy, the research demands authoritativeness, it is also not able to contribute to the original knowledge base.
The Master Dissertation and MPhill Dissertation does not belong to pure research work. Besides the above points, it can also be justified from another point of view. In both cases, the examiner of the research work gives a percentage or score during evaluation processes to the students based upon their level of doing pure research in future. It means for example if one student is able to score 80%, it is not a great success, it has other side also, in regards to the potentiality of doing an original research work i.e. he / she is incapable of doing the work by 20%. But in case of original research work, only two options are left in the hands of the examiners, either he / she have to accept or reject the work, there are no steps in between the two i.e the evaluation of the research work should lead to either 100% or null.
Doctor of Philosophy involves pure individual research where the researcher is assumed to be the world expert on his / her particular topic. So offering PhD assumes precondition that the researcher promotes the subject into a new dimension by promoting its greater understanding, producing significant new information or by way of formulating new theories.
Doctor of Literature is just like the Doctor of Philosophy but with more commitment to the areas of research with in depth study.
The research projects are different from that of academic research degree in regards to different scale of time, resources and extent, pioneering qualities and rigor. Research project actually involves a group work on a pre-assigned topic by the funding agency; it has wide scope in regards to the greater resource availability.
a) Definition: Research is composed of two words “re” and “search”, which means to search again or it is a careful investigation to understand or re-examine the facts or to search for new facts or to modify older ones in any branch of knowledge. The term research is also used to describe an entire collection of information about a particular subject, but it is in general used by the students of higher schools.
Research in common parlance refers to search for knowledge; one can also define research as a scientific and systematic search for pertinent information on as specific topic. Some people consider research as a movement, a movement from the unknown to known. It is actually a voyage of discovery. Thus research is an endeavor to discover, develop and verify knowledge.
P. M. Cook attributes the research taking the clue from each initial alphabets of the word “research”.
R= Rational way of thinking;
E= Expert and exhaustive treatment;
S= Search for solution;
R= Relationship of facts;
C= Critical observation, Careful recording; Constructive attributes, and Condensed generalization.
H= Honesty and hard working.
The Webster International Dictionary defines research as “a careful critical enquiry or examination in seeking facts for principles, diligent investigation in order to ascertain something”.
The Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English lays down the meaning of research as “a careful investigation or inquiry specially through search for new facts in any branch of knowledge”.
J. W. Best opined that research is not only specifically problem solving but is also closely associated with verification of truth underlying the observed data”.
Thus research is an intellectual act that begins with the asking of questions and progress through the critical examination of evidence that is both relevant and reliable to the reevaluation of the truth that is generalization and universal.
b) Need of Research: The need of research is felt due to the following-
i) To discover the truth, which is hidden and which has not been discovered as yet;
ii) To discover the solution of a problem;
iii) To expand the scope of theoretical knowledge;
iv) To discover the new application for old knowledge;
v) To understand, analyze and explore the phenomena;
vi) To know the cause effect relationship;
vii) To improve the level of living in society;
viii) For professional and intellectual development of the researcher by gaining knowledge;
ix) To obtain prestige and respect by a person or by the institution;
x) To obtain a research degree;
xi) As a means of livelihood by way of obtaining the source of finance.
c) Characteristic: Some of the characteristics of research are-
i) Research originates with a question or problem;
ii) Research requires a clear articulation of a goal;
iii) Research is guided by the specific research problem, question, or hypothesis or critical assumption;
iv) Research follows a specific plan of procedure;
v) Research requires the collection and interpretation of data in attempting to resolve the problem that initiated the research;
vi) Research is, by its nature, cyclical; or more exactly, helical.
Mere information gathering, transportation of facts from one location to another, looking through for information does not lead to research. It is not a catchword used to get attention.
d) Code of Conduct in Research: The following are some of the code of conduct in research-
i) Self Reflective: The researcher should use only the techniques, tools to which they are familiar.
ii) Taking Permission to Undertake Research: In most countries, the researchers have to take permission to conduct research or they will be expelled from the field of study or the country as a whole.
iii) Research Participants: Participation is the voluntary contribution by the people towards achieving the goal of the researcher and by this way a process of involvement in their own development, their lives and environment. In case of field study, the researcher should go with sufficient imagination, and care to prevent spoiling the field for himself / herself or for the future researcher. If the researcher makes some promise with the participants, then he/she must try to keep them. The research participants should also be given guarantees of confidentiality and anonymity, unless there are clear and overriding researches to do otherwise.
* Voluntary Participation: Participants should be voluntary in all types of research. No researcher should bring the participants under some compulsion. If required the researcher can also sign in consent form from the respondents.
* Confidentiality and Anonymity: There are a number of ways in which participants can be harmed; it may be physical, psychological, emotional, embarrassment and so on. So the research data should be aggregated in such a manner where individuals cannot be identified, if it is necessary to quote the respondents name, potential harm should be identified and measures should be taken to overcome such harm and necessary permission should be taken from the respondent to quote their name.
* Right of Review: The participants have every right to review the data before going for publication. So for a researcher it is good to communicate with them.
* Informed Consent: If a particular research may harm participants, the participants should be informed and consent should be taken in advance. In publicizing the result of research, personal data may lead to mutual protection, political sensitivity, and private issues (family affairs, tax avoidance, etc). So the researcher should take the consent before publicizing any data regarding research participants.
* Risk Assessment: “Science is certainty; research is uncertainty. Science is supposed to be cold, straight and detached; research is warm, involving and risky. Science puts and end to the vagaries of human disputes; research creates controversies”. So before publicizing data the researcher should assess the risk regarding psychological stress, legal liabilities, political, social etc. of the research participants.
iv) Acknowledging Others: The researcher should always acknowledge others who are associated with their research work. But, including the names of persons, who had little or nothing to do with the research is deception again.
v) Intellectual Ownership and Plagiarism: Representing some one's work as one's own is called as plagiarism and it may lead to expulsion from the institution. So, please deal with it properly. “Unless otherwise stated, what you write will be regarded as your own work; the ideas will be considered you own unless you say to the contrary” (Walliman, 2005, p. 336). So, one should be honest, fair and respect other's work and are expected to give same kind of treatment what he/she expects from the readers of their own publication(s) and it will be good to use other's text, diagram, table, data, picture with their permission only (generally for academic work, author as well as publisher feels free to grant permission to use their material in your work). Without permission, single text extract with citation should not cross the limit of 400 words. For a series of extract, with citation should not cross the limit of 800 words, provided no single extract exceed 300 words). The worst offence against this ethic is called “Plagiarism” and in order to avoid the stigma and shame of being labeled as one, acknowledging others work is always needed.
vii) Academic Frauds: Academic fraud involves the intentional misrepresentation of what has been done. Fabrication, falsification, omitting data and plagiarism constitutes misconduct and academic fraud in any research practice. So, the researcher should avoid it right from proposal to report of any research work. Making misleading or deceptive statement also constitutes academic fraud.
viii) Publicizing Results: Publicizing the same article in more than one journal distorts citation indexes and is therefore a bad practice. It is also a means to degrade your own contribution to the total human knowledge.
Some of well designed research codes can be found in American Sociological Association (http://www.asanet.org/members/ecoderev.html), American Psychological Association Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct (http://www.apa.org/ethics/code2002.html), American Political Science Association (http://www.apsanet.org/pubs/ethics.cfm), British Sociological Association Code of Ethics (1996) (http://www.britsoc.co.uk/index), British Educational Research Association (http://www.bera.ac.uk/guidelines.htms), National Committee for Ethics in Social Science Research in Health (India), Office of Research Integrity (ORI) (http://ori.dhhs.gov), Oxford Brookes University (2003) code; etc.
e) Finding out Unethical Research Work: The following are some of the ways through which unethical research works can be identified:-
i) Perfect Data: If a reader of some research work finds some work within the documentation of the research work that reflects the perfect correlation with other sets of data, with which he/she comes across in his/her past reading then he/she tries to recall them and goes for searching the possibility to find out who (present or past researcher) tries to hide what. Such type of human behavior leads to finding out the unethical research work. This type of unethical research identification frequently happens in case when someone goes with the research work of their peer groups research.
ii) Plagiarized Text: Some times in going through the text of a particular research work, the evaluator or the expert or other reader is able to recall in the way that “I have read it earlier, is it the same article I am reading it again?”. What he/she will do in the next step is he/she tries to find out where is the problem? Such types of intuition for validity also lead to identification of unethical research work.
iii) More Subjects than What Really Exists: In the process of falsification and fabrication of data, sometimes may lead to an increase number of subjects than what really exist. If such type of things happen then the readers who are alert with the field can easily identify the work as unethical research work. Suppose there are 350 colleges in a city, and one’s research study reveals it as 355 then the person who knows that only 350 colleges are there can easily identify the present work through which he/she has gone recently as an unethical work.
iv) Data not Supported by Methodologies: There may be occasions when a researcher used methodology and data reflects opposite direction. If such an occasion happens then the reader is easily able to guess the work as unethical.
v) Time: If some research finding comes out to the surface within a short amount of time than what it should consume, there may be occasion where the falsification in the data may be there.
vi) Researcher is Not Capable: The peers know their professional friends and colleagues and their potentialities very well. So, when one of their colleagues publish some research work, which according to his/her friend is not capable of working in that level, he/she immediately goes for evidence to justify his/her points or to identify from which he/she copied the data. Such types of peer to peer competition also lead to identification of unethical research work.
vii) Hide: When there are missing links in the data, the reader is easily able to guess that the researcher must hide something to consider for publication in some other journals, or for other purposes.
viii) Plagiarize Text Checking Tools: Over the web nowadays there are many plagiarize text checking tools are available that check for text copied from other sources. If a reader of some research work used such tools then within a minute he/she is able to find out which sentences in the present work is copied from which sources.
f) Course of Action against Unethical Research Work: Unethical research work includes loss of respect and recognition from the peers, and society at large. To have some classic examples of course of action against unethical research you can consult: Hart, Chris (2005). Doing your masters dissertation. New Delhi: Vistaar Publication. 286-296. The course of action against unethical research work includes the following.
The action taken by school / department / university where research work are undertaken includes dismissal from school / department / university, dismissal from carrying out further research work, dismissal from supervising other research work, making correctness to the research work, sending the scholar to ethical training, and just warning.
Action from the employer includes termination of employment / academic career, suspension with pay, warning, etc.
Action taken by research funding agencies includes repayment of grant / fund / award, debarred from future research grant, etc
g) Criticism against Research: Prior to discussing the importance of research, let's have a glance at the criticism raised against research-
i) Some people think that research is a waste of time, and effort;
ii) Some say that for degree sake, research is being undertaken;
iii) Most of the research deals with human being especially in social science research. But it is being criticized that human behavior is difficult to study;
iv) Methods used for conducting research is inadequate. This is more so in case of developing countries;
v) It is not always necessary that every research would lead to solution of problems rather it may complicate the problem further;
vi) It is generally been seen that the problem under investigation may not be an area of interest to the researcher, rather he / she may take the problem due to peer pressure or ego problem.
h) Let Us Sum Up: “Everywhere, our knowledge is incomplete and problems are waiting to be solved. We address the void in our knowledge and those unresolved problems by asking relevant questions and seeking answers to them. The role of research is to provide a method for obtaining those answers by inquiringly studying the evidence within the parameters of the scientific method.” It will be better to conclude by Patton (2002, 224) quotes “there is no rule of thumb that tells a researcher precisely how to focus a study. The extent to which a research question is broad or narrow depends on purpose, the resources available, the time available, and the interests of those involved. In brief, these are not choices between good and bad, but choices among alternatives, all of which have merit”.