The workshop began with welcoming the eminent guests – Secretary General of Association of Indian Universities, Prof. Furqan Qamar; the Pro-Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, Prof.Shahid Ashraf; Deputy Director (Research) of AIU, Dr. Amrendra Pani and the Director of Centre for Culture, Media and Governance, Prof. Biswajit Das. A memento and a bouquet were presented to them as a token of welcome and gratitude.
Prof. Biswajit Das, the Director of CCMG, in his welcome remarks highlighted the fact of increasing demand and significance of such workshops on Research Methodology. He summarised the process and difficulty in the selection of sixty participants from all over the country out of more than two thousand applications received. He emphasized that CCMG promotes interdisciplinary dialogues and engagements, and therefore a diverse group of participants are selected for the workshop.
A vote of thanks was offered by Dr. Manoj Kumar Diwakar, Statistician and Workshop Coordinator.
In his introductory remarks, Dr. Amrendra Pani provided a background of the workshop. He informed the participants that such workshops are part of the capacity building programme of AIU to improve the quality of higher education.
Prof. Shahid Ashraf in his inaugural speech cautioned the participants, most of whom are in the initial stage of their Ph.D., that there should not be an over-emphasis on quantitative methods. He enunciated the significance of the identification of problem in any research work as the central guiding principle that will affect the overall quality of research work to be carried out.
The Chief Guest, Prof. Furqan Qamar outlined various activities carried out by AIU with vice-chancellors, teachers and students of universities and its publications. He mentioned online portals like Shodhganga, Delnet etc. that made it easy for the scholars to conduct any research. Along with the online portals the growing numbers of journals have provided enormous opportunities for research. He drew special attention to the issue of plagiarism and quality of research. And it is in continuity of such concerns that the workshops on research methodology provide a platform to sensitize scholars.
Session 1: Dr. Amrendra Pani
Higher education research ecosystem
Dr. Amrendra Pani spoke on ‘Higher Education Research Eco System’. In his presentation he highlighted the significance of knowledge that should be harnessed for the betterment of society and universities are the pivotal spaces for creation and diffusion of scientific knowledge. He proposed establishing and strengthening ‘Research Eco System’ as a tool to facilitate interaction between the various stakeholders of higher education system nationally and internationally. He raised concerns regarding the challenges faced by higher education system in India that include lack of comprehensive research policies, inadequate funding, shortage of quality faculty, inadequate training, over-burden faculties etc. He concluded that universities should not support any production process, but accelerate knowledge. So there is a need to evolve a flexible, reachable and effective system.
Session 2: Prof. Vinay Kumar Srivastava
Introducing research & sensitizing the needs for social sciences
Prof. Vinay Kumar Srivastava mesmerised the participants with an academically charged and thought provoking lecture. Keeping in mind that majority of the participants are still formulating their research topics, he shared his own experience of writing thesis. He said three principles are essential for a quality research – principle of economy of time, principle of economy of words, principle of economy of references. For him the key for a quality work is ‘join writing to research’ meaning by the researcher should not treat writing as a mopping up activity. It is a general tendency to focus on reading than writing in the process of carrying out our research.
Using Harry Wolcott’s work Writing Up Qualitative Research he outlined steps to be followed during a research work. He said that scholars generally struggle with the issue of topic for the research. To grapple with this problem, he suggested the participants to always make a reading list of salient work in the broad area of their interest. Literature review is one of the prominent sources of formulation of research question. The method of ‘doubt’ should be followed in surveying the literature as suspicion is the beginning of a scientific temper. Linking Karl Popper’s method of ‘falsification’ with Thomas Kuhn’s notion of ‘scientific paradigm’, he opined that ‘disapproving of hypothesis’ is essential as society is made up of contesting perspectives on reality. In such scenario one has to first eliminate all presumptions and preconceived ideas about social phenomena which is called ‘tabula rasa’ approach in Durkheimian sociology. It means that the researcher must take it as a principle that s/he knows nothing of the social phenomena.
Citing from Harward Becker’s essay ‘Epistemology of Qualitative Research’, he said that once we adopt this principle of ‘knowing nothing’ then there are two ways of knowing a phenomena – etic (the outsiders perspective) and emic (the insiders perspective). Etic or outsiders perspective rely on observation method whereas etic or insiders perspective is an actor’s perspective. He emphasized that one must adopt an emic perspective as it is important to document the meanings that people give to their actions. He explained in detail the interpretive perspective and its criticism of the positivist school of thought. He beautifully unravelled the debate of objectivity and subjectivity in social sciences. There are two meanings of objectivity. The first meaning which is dominant in natural sciences is that two people can reach to same conclusion after studying a situation. The second meaning of objectivity which is prominently used in social sciences is ‘value neutrality’ – a concept propounded by Max Weber. Further eliciting Weber’s ideas, he said Researcher is a complex of ‘social baggages’ that may hamper a ‘value neutral’ study of any social phenomena. Therefore one must ‘suspend knowledge’ or ‘defamiliarise’ or operate through ‘cultural blindness’ especially studying their own society/culture.
At the end he summarised the critical approaches that have emerged as a critique to interpretive approach. He made a special mention of feminist, environmental conservatism and Marxist approach from critical school and their epistemological contributions.
Text : Dr. Kusum Lata