The dilemma of poor research quality

By: Dr. Syed A. Waheed

It has been observed that novice researchers face many problems in conducting their research theses at the bachelor, master and doctoral level. On the other hand, supervisors have frequently complained about students’ incapability and inadequacy to produce valuable and innovative research products or present an average and promising research that can qualify them to get the academic degree. Also, most of the academic research they produce does not contribute to the selected field of knowledge. 

In the early grades of schooling, the students should be introduced to the significance of research in practical life and should be tempted to learn and conduct research.

The writers produced much stuff in the newspapers and research papers that portray or identify the issues and challenges and depict this pathetic and deplorable research condition in the country. The Punjab Public Service Commission has formally intimated to the concerned departments and educational institutions regarding the sub-standard and low-quality theses and students’ poor understanding of their research work. In some cases, the students cannot even defend the title of their research thesis appropriately despite having obtained excellent marks in the thesis and overall in their degree program.

I have learned that students should be given the proper research orientation and training in their primary, middle and secondary education from more than fifteen years of teaching and research experience in university. Initially, they should be motivated to think critically about the real-world problems in their immediate surrounding and learn to ask questions in the classroom.  It has been noticed that students do not ask questions even after entering the university, which is due to the hesitation or fear they caught during their school education. Secondly,  they poorly demonstrate their ideas in written communication. Many years ago, specialist teachers known as English Teachers were recruited to address students’ inefficiency in English. Unfortunately, it was not fruitful, and early career researchers in the university are incapable of writing even a couple of sentences in grammatically correct English.

In the early grades of schooling, the students should be introduced to the significance of research in practical life and should be tempted to learn and conduct research. This should be continued gradually to grade 7. The inclusion of orientation to research in the curriculum should be done parallel to other religious, social, political, ethical, scientific, and cultural topics given in the curriculum. Many private sector schools give projects to the students that helps them to solve problems in the real world. Unfortunately, this method is not frequently and commonly used in public-sector schools of Pakistan.

At the 8th grade of schooling, the students should formally be taught some basic research concepts in their social studies textbooks such as variables, hypotheses, research questions and at least one method of collecting data to test the hypotheses or answer the research questions. In the 9th grade, an exclusive subject of the research should be introduced and be taught to the students. The students should be assessed with 50 marks. The research curriculum at this grade may comprise some popular data collection methods in social and physical sciences. Similarly, in the 10th grade, the students should be given the training to collect data or do experiments and present this data as an assignment.

It is imperative to teach the subject of Fundamentals of Research at the intermediate level both for science arts students because under the current system of enrollment in colleges and universities, the students get admission either in four-year bachelor program (4-year BS) or they go to professional fields such engineering, medical and other such disciplines. In each case, they must conduct the research in their final semester where the students face problems and supervisors complain about the poor quality of the research product.

At the FA and FSc level, the students should formally be taught a subject of research, and it should be of 50 marks each at 11th and 12th grade. The curriculum of Fundamentals of Research should be designed separately for Science and Arts students at the intermediate level to get training in specific research methods and conduct quality research in their bachelor, master, and later on at MPhil/PhD level.

The writer is Incharge/Head of the Department of Educational Studies at the Faculty of Education, University of Okara. He can be reached at: [email protected]