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Consolidation of learning from DF-Unit 1
by Purvi Dass - Thursday, 14 August 2014, 4:57 PM

Dear Friends,

Thanks for  the thoughtful responses to the questions posed for Unit 1 :

What is research?

Whose Knowledge?  

Critiquing the dominant research paradigm

Given below is the synopsis of all the answers in the discussion forum - unit 1.

What is research?

Research is knowledge generation- generation of objective, factual and purposive knowledge. Yet findings differ and subjectivity creeps in.  The content of the knowledge produced through research is as important as the processes in which research is conceived, produced and justified as knowledge. Researchers, by actively engaging in research with theoretical and political commitments, influence not just the outcomes of the research but the process as well. Research can be qualitative and quantitative, descriptive and analytical, basic and applied, theoretical and empirical, ideographic and homothetic, deductive and inductive, probabilistic and casual.

Tuhin shares as means of seeking information/knowledge in a “systematic manner” about a specific issue/topic/area to be able to understand according to the situation/context. Research can look for a new knowledge or modify/refurbish existing understanding. Nazmul writes research is a search for knowledge. The word research literally means ‘to investigate thoroughly’. It refers to a systematic process of inquiry through scientific methods to discover, interpret, revise facts about a given subject or a problem and thereby generate a new body of knowledge. Masur thinks research is the systematic process of collecting and analyzing information to increase our understanding of any particular(s) phenomenon. It is re-thinking, re-testing and re-probing any issues by following a scientific way. Rahul expresses research investigates to discover the new facts and its establishment. It is to reach for new conclusions, revises the facts, theories and applications. Taniya says 'research' comprises of two syllables, which means a careful, systematic, study and investigation in some field of knowledge, to discover and establish new facts, reach new conclusions or revise facts, theories and applications. She picks up the definition of the advance learner’s dictionary of current English, Waltz & Bausell (1981),  Kerlinger, Kothari (2004) recited by Nyanjui (2013). She concludes and Khaleda mentions the definition as ``Research is a systematic investigative process employed to increase or revise current knowledge by discovering new facts.” Hejbullah    writes research is a systematic inquiry to describe, explain, predict and control the observed phenomenon. He picks up the definition of Martyn Shuttleworth and Creswell. Moinul finds the genesis as word research came from middle French recerche, from recercher to go about seeking, from Old French recerchier, from re- + cerchier, sercher to search. Abdul shares research is a planned, systematic, scientific and rigorous process of searching, investigating,  experiment new and or existing knowledge by gather information in any discipline of life and or any issue. It can be made benefit for all parties who supposed to be involved with research work.  Eliza defines as “a systematic and rigorus process of searching new knowledge or testing/verifying existing knowledge in any discipline of life”.  

Whose Knowledge?

In monopolistic knowledge creation the voice or the knowledge of the research subject is not truly represented.  In conventional research, prevailing power relations between the researcher and the research subjects are often taken for granted, and the impact they may have on the research goes unexamined.  Research serves the needs of those in power simply because they are better positioned economically, politically, and socially to determine what questions are asked as well as to utilize the findings of research. This, however, does not mean that conventional research paradigms have no value. Conventional research findings are helpful in gaining new or different perspective to look at problem and provide an approach to work on the concerned areas.

Nazmul and Masur mention that most social science research fulfils either of two purposes: First,to enable administrators and policy makers to frame policies for the marginalised and the ‘have-nots’. Second, to fulfill the researchers’ own economic professional and intellectual needs, academic research is conducted at and by academic institutions and universities. Tuhin clarifies who has the upper hand in creating and utilizing it. Rahul writes that the researchers, professional experts and consultant generally conduct policy research for the government, donor agencies, and policy institutions. Secondly Researcher that is, students, subject matter experts conduct academic research at and by academic institutions and universities. The requirements mainly for the award of a doctoral degree or to generate new theories or contributes systemisation of knowledge that packaging the findings in journal, books, seminar and conferences helps in access to research funding and also for career advancement. Taniya and Abdul feel that the knowledge of research is by the human being, for the human being and of the human being. Khaleda experiencesthat most of the social research conducted to generate new insights and theories remain in the domain of professionals, experts and their institutions, because the production of knowledge is perceived to be a specialized profession. She and Hejbullah mention three important social processes:  dismissal of popular knowledge and alternative systems of knowledge production; undermining of the capacities of ordinary people to engage in serious inquiry about their problems and issues of daily concern; and erosion of the traditional and popular forms of knowledge dissemination. He refers Borg and Gall (1996) about four type of knowledge: description; prediction; improvement and explanation. Moinul writes theknowledge development in our profession are a vast enterprise concerned with physical, mental and economic health; individual, family and community welfare; interests of diverse groups in society; thinking about problems, defining them and identifying effective means for ameliorating them. Abdul states research is for the people irrespective of age, gender, ethnicity, religions, cast and countries. Eliza mentions that as researcher it is extremely important to ensure that H/she captures knowledge from the right people (the direct beneficiaries as well as other stakeholders who might have knowledge about the same subjects) and all the possible available sources and analyse and present it without distorting the key message.

 Critiquing the dominant research paradigm

Critiques draw attention to the issues of power and politics of knowledge. The logical and rational analysis as the only way to generate knowledge from facts ignores two other natural human principles of producing knowledge – action and popular knowledge.  The value neutral premise of research is problematic. Actually no social reality has one absolute truth.  All truth is relative to the condition of that reality, but also relative to the researcher’s own frameworks and methods.  That is why the research findings differ. And  because the research premise is relative to the researcher’s own frameworks and methods, some element of subjectivity does creep in albeit vey subtly. The researcher has to be reflexive, constantly navigating relationships with the communities and other stakeholders; grappling with internal tensions and dilemmas during the course of research, about the choice of methodologies, outcome of research as contributing to citizen action.

 Tuhin writes as per his understanding on the critique of the current research paradigm is very much rational and logical. To him, by detaching oneself from the research participants a researcher may ensure some extent of objectivity but in the long run the lack of human communication will be mechanical and will create more distance in generating authentic knowledge. As the dominant and most common form of knowledge dissemination is the written form and the current intellectual property or copy righted context made it more challenging for common people to access and utilize it in its final version. Nazmul feels that in conventional social science research, knowledge-generation is the key purpose. This lack of utilization of generated knowledge leads to research that cannot be used to improve our social, economic, and political systems. Many social scientists assume that research is neutral. The respondents often experience survey research as alienating, dominating, or oppressive in character. The attempt to achieve objectivity by maintaining a strict separation between the researcher and the subjects is also problematic. He feels that Papers, books, journals, seminars and conferences as the only legitimate modes of dissemination of knowledge, systematically deprive the ordinary from participating in the process of knowledge production and distribution. Masur writes thatthe main critiques are -  the key purpose of dominant research is knowledge generation, not its utilization and that cannot be used to improve our social, economic, and political systems; professional researchers can easily control the entire research process; the overemphasis on thinking and conceptualization in the dominant research paradigm is intended to reduce subjectivity; dominant research paradigm is aimed at its elite control over the methods and outcomes of research; those who are researched have no control over the research and its outcome. Rahul, Taniya, Moinul, Hejbullah and Abdul in short explain absolute, purist, rationalist and elitist critiques. Eliza adds her own views on above critiques. Khaleda feels that conventional social research create wide gap between available knowledge and its utilisation. The attempt to achieve objectivity by maintaining a strict separation between the researcher and the subjects is problematic. Moinul feels that accurate statistics around poverty levels, or illiteracy rates, for example, is important information for people to gather knowledge about their own communities. Eliza agrees that dominant conventional social research paradigms per se are not a problem. In fact, they are usually useful as they summarise social information in a form which is convenient and is readily transferred and disseminated.

Feel free to comment on the consolidation of our collective learning.

Looking forward to your active participation and debate in Unit 2 forum too,

All the best,