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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Research Practices in English Department

(The following notes are based on the Lecture of Mr. Pinto to MA English Students of Christ University, Bangalore on 23rd June, 2009)

Department of English and Research
• English Departments have not taught research methods anywhere in the world until 2000. The best of its practice was confined to asking a candidate of PhD to defend the sources or bibliography. Any discussion on research in English Department puts off people. Even where English Departments conducted classes on research methods, they are the least seriously conducted one. The professors who take these classes tend to be apologetic saying it is a vast subject.
• The students who did research often had the wrong idea that the research skills came through practice and not through training or learning.
• Training given on Research Methodology in some institutes give high school stuff like Adler....’s guide which is used for middle school students in America.
• The wrong argument of learning by doing has affected the learning research process. The reason for this approach is because the supervisors themselves have undergone the same procedure. They do not generally update and re-skill themselves with the best practices in the field. Even the teachers who spent in buying books of the trade are few in English Department whereas in other fields the re-skilling is done more regularly. The IT sector has to continuously re-skill.
• The culture of re-skilling and reinventing oneself is not a norm but sparsely done under individual initiatives. So the ordinary teachers do not take seriously the research activity.
• The misconceptions about research also resulted in Individualism in English Departments. Eng. Depts do not bring out papers as a group which is a regular procedure in some other disciplines. E.g. Science Dpt. has collective researches regularly. However this dim scenario in research is changing. It has become a serious part in all higher education centres, mainly after 1996 when research activities in India were highly rewarded by the government. The allowance has created researchers as well as knowledge production in the subject. From 1996, grants ranging from 40000 to 12 lakhs were provided for those who wanted to do research projects, according to the requirements of the project.
• The government proposal pattern for the grant itself was instrumental in developing a certain research methodology among the candidates. The Government stipulated for example a pattern as follows.
1. The name
2. The investigators
3. The resources
These incentives from the Government have created research space and culture in English.
Qualitative and Quantitative Researches
Humanities largely abhorred qualitative researches. MSW, Psychology and Economics are interested only in quantitative methods.
When the Government set up different Committees to study the research practices they asked the questions like “what kind of research methods they needed.” As a result, two styles emerged.
a) Response method. These are based on individual needs
Most of the activities that came in English Department were based on response method.
b) Pro-active method. It does not cater to the pronounced responses of the target group.
Research Skills
1. Library skills
2. Computer skills
3. Bibliography
4. Reading short hand reading skill
5. Interview skills
These skills were not considered in research earlier. Another wrong assumption in the field of research is that the research method that one used for Ph.D is the only method that s/he will use or may be useful for the future. Methods vary from discipline to discipline.
Innovation in any field and particularly in Education must have research backing. People will not accept such changes unless you cite research results.
The Department structure itself could be a problem, some times, to engage in serious research activities.

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