Research Methodology Selecting and Framing a Topic in Scholarly Research – II

The first article of this series discussed about basics of selecting and framing a research topic. It included the introduction of scholarly research and essentials of a research topic. It included the components of a topic and also mentioned the steps of research topic selection process. This part of the article tries to further the knowledge into selecting and framing a research topic. Practically the selection of a meaningful, relevant and lucid research topic would go through the following phases:

Stating a broad area of research and then funneling it into a specific area/issue: selecting a broad area is quite an easy task and generally it is the starting point in selecting a topic. The real task here is to conceive, short list and move onto a particular issue or problem that is important and relevant in any research area. However, acquaintance with the important and relevant issues doesn’t happen at this stage since scholar in this phase would not know the previous researches, research problems and their proposed solutions related to the specific issue. To get this knowledge scholar first need to do a preliminary review of literature and then study about the environment and associated stakeholders with the issue or problem that is still being unsolved or partially solved.

Preliminary review of literature: the second important stage of selecting a research topic is an initial review of literature. To get a basic understanding of the important issues relevant in the currents circumstances a scholar need to review at least 10-15 quality researches in the selected research area linked to the particular conceived issue. This gives researcher a glimpse of what is happening in the research area and what is the relevant issue or problem that is still being unsolved or partially solved or it may be a solved problem that could possibly be addressed from a different perspective. 

Study of environment and stakeholders of the issue or problem: to get a real feel of the selected issue or the research problem a scholar needs to thoroughly explore its environment and all the stakeholders or components connected to it. For example if a scholar has shortlisted a problem of ‘selection of an investment portfolio among the salaried classes’ then the scholar need to study the financial and economic environment in which the investors exist. The environment here may consist of components like financial system, banks, RBI, NBFCs, etc. and different investment instruments. Additionally the scholar should interact with various stakeholders like salaried class investors, the financial consultants and agents who sell the financial instruments, companies who offer the instruments and financial experts who design the financial instruments. At this point it is also important to get the inputs from the supervisor or guide in case of a doctoral research. This exercise will give important insights into the selected research problem.

Refining and final statement of the topic: once the researcher is armed with freshly gathered knowledge about the research area and the associated problem, further refining may be done in the topic. In fact finalizing the research topic is not set of linear stages, it is an iterative process and researcher need to get back to the topic again and again at every instance when any new fact or a different perspective or any unanticipated aspect is being discovered. In our above example it is possible that after discussion with different stakeholders it comes to light that the problem of selecting an investment portfolio among salaried class is more relevant when it is compared with the with investment portfolio of business classes. So the above topic may be refined as ‘selection of an investment portfolio among the salaried classes and its comparison with the business class investment portfolio.’ After much alteration the topic would be refined and a final one is selected.

The above mentioned process would no doubt yield an important and relevant research topic or problem. It is now job of the scholar to state the topic in a lucid and a logical way bringing out all the aspects and boundaries of the research.

The next article in this series would discuss ‘Do and Don’ts of Selecting and Sating a Research Topic.’