How to Review Literature
Dr Adnan Farooqui
The third day of the research methodology workshop started with the lecture on “How to Review Literature” by Dr Adnan Farooqui, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Jamia Millia Islamia. He spoke at length about the conceptual understanding of the review of literature, and demarcated it from mixing of facts.
Delineating the process of reviewing the literature, Dr Farooqui asserted that review of literature lays down a larger theoretical framework for research in any field, and helps the researcher to identify knowledge gap.
Further, enumerating the steps to be taken during literature review, he also noted that this process helps in authenticating the research arguments as well as the overall research process, in addition to identifying and acknowledging the academic contribution in respective field. Literature should connect various nodes of the research topic.
Besides, he observed that literature should be stated in chronological manner as it’s designed in a structural format to reflect an explanatory approach rather than a narrative. It shouldn’t revolve around the periphery of research objectives rather it should elaborate the methods in which academic literature have addressed the existing research topic.
While summarising that literature review helps to attain conceptual clarity about various research methods to be adopted, Dr Farooqui concluded that literature is cardinal in creating to edifice the research theme on the basis of which further analysis can be conducted.
Empiricism and Research
Prof. Biswajit Das
In the last session on the third day of the workshop, Prof. Biswajit Das delivered the lecture on ‘Empiricism and Research’ with specific emphasis on communication. He began with the concern that of late research, particularly in communication and media studies are not explanatory in nature. It is guided by the aspects of measurement in the name of scientific verifiability.
With these words, he mapped the theoretical trajectory of communication research and methodological issues involved. He said that earlier theoretical tradition was guided by the metaphor of ‘society as an organism’. In the heydays of positivism, the body-society metaphor was dominant paradigm. The positivistic approach focuses on nature of verification and falsification in the scientific process. Communication was compared with blood circulation system of the body.
There were shortcomings of this body-society metaphor because of which gradually it lost its dominance in research. Prof. Das highlighted how the contribution of Chicago School helps in developing communication as a science. For the first time, there were scholarly engagements with the question of communication beyond body-society metaphor. Charles Horton Cooley, Robert Ezra Park and John Dewey were the trio who immensely contributed in the development of communication as a science. They initiated interdisciplinary nature of communication and media studies. They were from diverse backgrounds. For instance, Park was a journalist. These Chicago School theorists were primarily operated within the four wall of effect tradition while arguing that modern means of communication are powerful agencies of socialization and democratization of society (American). Given the cosmopolitan nature of American society, it was argued that communication generates a sense of community in the society.
In opposition to this effect tradition of Chicago School, Columbia University’s Bureau of Applied Social Research was marking a methodological break while embarking on empiricism. The genesis of empiricism in communication studies can be traced to the work of Paul Lazarsfeld in the Bureau. As against the effect tradition of Chicago School, the Bureau was emphasizing on the limited effect of media. They initiated various empirical studies to measure the limited impact. This theoretical tradition is termed as ‘Administrative Research’ as it was primarily guided by the corporations and foundations such as Rockfeller Foundation. It completely ignored the questions of ownership and control. It was in opposition to the tradition of critical theory initiated by Frankfurt School. It was a theoretical polarization between administrative and critical research traditions. However, the cultural studies paradigm was ignored by the Frankfurt School’s critical theory also. The cultural turn in social science led to abandon empiricism while marking a methodological shift.
Prof. Das said that in India we are still dominated by effect tradition and media centricism. He highlighted the needs to move away from media centricism to explanatory research. At the same time, interdisciplinary has to be encouraged by bringing diverse methodological concerns.
Epistemological Issues in Research
Prof. Avijit Pathak
Prof. Avijit Pathak from Centre for the Study of Social Systems (CSSS), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in the post lunch session on the third day began by offering condolences and dedicated his lecture to Prof. Rodrigues, his colleague and friend at CSSS, JNU. He spoke on ‘Epistemological Issues in Research’.
He commenced his lecture by observing that it is important to see the world around even when we do epistemology and methodology. Human beings ask basic questions like, how do I know, what do I know, what is the source and purpose of knowledge. He engaged with these questions by drawing answers from two sources – first Gautama’s philosophy and second, Karl Popper’s Conjectures and refutations. Explaining Gautama’s three concepts- perception, implication and analogy as source of knowledge, Prof. Pathak brought out the essence of ways of acquiring knowledge.
Referring to Karl popper on the other hand, he reflected on his critique of classical empiricism and rationalism as two certainties of acquiring knowledge and threw light on his critical rationalism. He emphasized on popper’s notion of refutability. The task of science or scientific method is not conformity but refutability. Scientific conjecture is possibility of refutation and not conformity to factual truth, without second kind of thinking and no surprise. Refutability in science leads to intersubjectivity of debate.
Prof. Pathak essentially arrived at the question of method and epistemology with the above discussion. He made two points in this context. First, he said, unlearning is important part of learning. Mind is conditioned with centrality of method that limits us, takes us to one dimension and restricts us to look at others. Mind gets structured and reduces criticality. He expresses his concern by saying, “if you begin to fall in love with one method then possibly it becomes orthodox dogma and limits us from understanding the world in meaningful ways. It is important to overcome certainty.” Secondly, he argued about the dangers of developing a fixation for the concepts, categories and vocabulary in social sciences and humanities, since it restricts the reality. In the process of writing and textualization, the centrality of concepts makes it dead, frozen and lacking liveliness and dynamism of reality. This is a point of caution, he argues, that one has to learn but also unlearn.
He then raises two central points by returning to the question, “what is the purpose of knowledge?” He discusses three issues in this context, beginning with interplay of knowledge and power. He throws light on Francis Bacon and Michel Foucault. He begins with Bacon’s assertions of knowledge is power where nature is seen as natural history. Knowledge is to objectify things and equip the intellect beyond ordinary logic. Michel Foucault on the other hand would argue how it is difficult to distinguish power from knowledge. Power and knowledge is essentially engaged in biopower or the draconian disciplinary power with a biopolitics and documentation over population.
Another quest for knowledge according to him is the understanding of self. He throws light on the Indian tradition of knowledge in the understanding of self and spiritual knowledge by narrating an episode from Brahmaranya Upanishad from King Janak’s court where Rishi Yagnavalkya and scholar Gargi, engaged in a dialogue to explain ‘self’ –the Brahma, as light and as the eternal void. Then he brings modern psychology of Freud by discussing contradictions of civilized modern self and internal self.
His third focus was on knowledge for critical consciousness and meaningful Marxist knowledge. The question a researcher should first ask – ‘what this research will lead to? Will it bring critical sense, change or status quo’. To elaborate, he referred to Habermas’s knowledge and human science to evolve a critique of positivist science and theory of knowledge. Extending Habermas further, Prof. Pathak explains that interest of domination and control give birth to techno-empirical science. Pursuit of knowledge through hermeneutic, emancipation interest or Marxism will be liberating the individual from the burden of unconscious. Knowledge of what we are doing and why we are doing is essential. Therefore it is crucial to look at Habermas’s framework of interpretative, multidisciplinary critical social theory.
In the concluding part, he remarks by saying that one learns methods and techniques when inductive and deductive methods are taught but when one has to observe the world then one cannot have a rigid book view of fieldwork. The beauty of Srinivas’s book on fieldwork is when it is not bookish, fixed and rigid but based on objective observation. He discusses Rene Descartes ontological dualism of mind and body and Francis Bacon’ s inductive method for the production of active knowledge and relief of human beings. He stresses that for critical observation there should be room for doubts that eventually shapes certainty.
Prof. Pathak further suggests that another thing which is important for observation is empathy. Empathy plays vital role in deriving meanings attached to the world. Along with empathy he also pointed out the crucial role played by intuitive faculty and feeling of love and care in knowing. He reminds us that metaphorically to know meaning is not through Cartesian understanding but with everyday care. He refers to Hilary Ann Rose and says that feminist ethics of care countered the aggressiveness of knowledge. By giving example of Chipko movement in Uttarakhand, he brings out the role played by eco-feminism. Similarly he suggests that the narratives like those of partition require intuitive skills.
In the end he reminds us that two mistakes should be completely avoided in the exercise of knowing. These are scientism and reductionist approach. One must avoid falling into the trap of extreme scientism. The dangers of reductionist, essentialising methods are prohibitive and hence should be avoided. He explains Baudillard’s precession of Simulacara which is representation determines reality and precedes it. He explained this by way of citing Baudillard’s research question- did gulf war actually happened? He narrates further that explosion of all boundaries take place and a stage of hyper reality exists. He said that the question is can there be meaningful understanding of political economy and geo-politics of gulf war? It is here that a lot of positive insights can be derived from postmodernism but one has to stay away from its pitfalls.