Creating new knowledge: What’s research, what’s not?
Before moving on to the segment of What’s not research?, we first need to find the answer to ‘What is research?’. Well, the textual concept of research is to create a new knowledge or generate new thoughts on an old concept. But, here I’ll only try to focus some important features of research in humanities disciplines.

What's research?

Research, in the fields of humanities, is a structured enquiry with objectives. The goal of a research is to reach a conclusion or a desired decision. It may sound textual, yet we cannot deny the etymological urge of the word ‘research’. The word consists of two words, ‘re’ (again) and ‘search’ (to find something).
In humanities, there are lots of writings, articles, essays full of information. When the author prepares manuscript/s, s/he does it by collecting data. Also, it is necessary to conduct a thorough research on the chosen topic or topics. From that perspective, it might be better to make a demarcation line between research writing and informative writing.

What's not research?

Let’s raise an inescapable question here: What’s not research or what is? In reply, I can say that both research and non-research paper/writings, contain similar elements.

We’ll find objectives, reliable consistency, and credibility in both types. Both of them deal with accurate, systematic controller factors. And, these factors rely upon experience or observation of a researcher or writer. But a question arises. What makes them different from each other?

Data collection in research

In general, a researcher collects data in person or from other people’s research work. But the key issue is that the collected data always needs to go through a review process. Also, the data needs approval of a strong review board if the paper is up for publication in a journal as a research paper.

The review board is there because it tends to check the accuracy and empirical consistency of that research work. Without the approval of reviewers, one’s research paper is only an informative writing with lots of data and opinions.

Less than a century ago, especially in the humanities area, the concept of research involved only textbooks. Back then, the researchers utilized the same concepts over and over again on specific texts. Yet, the cultural artefact of text started evolving with the change of critical theory from the 20th century.

The postmodern deconstruction now turned everything into a text in our everyday life. Imagine wall paintings to t-shirt pictures, interviews to a phone conversation. Even movies, songs, advertisement to virtual games. Today everything is a text. Everything is a reservoir of data, and everything is worth researching if one knows where his/her interest lies.

Research in the postmoder era

In the postmodern world, the researchable areas are no longer confined into a few areas. Research expanded into many interdisciplinary sects. Suppose, a researcher from the business studies discipline is studying psychology. This interdisciplinary education is what is expanding the world and dynamism of research.
On the basis of this notion, you can consider Sunil Gangopadhyay. He is a researcher who had to read strenuously and collected data to prepare his famous novel titled First Light. Living in this post-modern world, I see his work as research. Even when it didn’t go under the scrutiny of a review board, you may call it secondary research. Still, it is research with goals, objectives.
During university years, the chairs of our library were always filled with people from undergraduate to PhD students. The dissertation shelves drew researchers almost 100 times a day. What’s the reason behind that?
The actions show the importance of the dissertation in academic life, and present how one notices changes in the language of those papers. In fact, if you analyze, you will see the changes in researchable contents and the styles as well. Beside the researchable contents, the establishment of a new dissertation style becomes clear. Yes, I’m talking about the auto-ethnographic approach.
To know more about this style, we need to know Deborah E. Reed Danahay’s work. She introduced the term ‘autoethnography’. Autoethnography is a notion which synthesizes the postmodern ethnography and the postmodern autobiography. In her book, she states —

The term has a double sense— referring either to the ethnography of one’s group or autobiographical writing that has an ethnographic interest.

— Deborah E. Reed (1997), Auto/Ethnography: Rewriting the Self and the Social.

I’ll write more about ‘autoethnography’ in my next writing. For today, I am sticking with my topic and summing up by raising a question to intrigue you.
In the postmodern world, everything is connected, not isolated. Then what is not researchable? What’s not ‘research’ around us? It’s definitely a question of authenticity and approval of experts.

To wind up things, the important factor is straightforward. We’re creating new knowledge. We aren’t drawing conclusions out of thin air, and we’re connecting dots from diverse fields. Yes, the arguement’ll continue. The purpose comes first not the arguements on what’s not research.

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Bipasha Niharika Barua

Author Since: 23 August 2020

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