Read this article to learn about the modern historical writing in the researcher’s area of research:
A Good Researcher:
A good researcher in the field of history is one who has love for hard work and labour, taste for the subject, the ability to enjoy and sustain hard work. It is a long and painful process involving time, energy and money.
There are certain people who take pleasure in doing the job; they spare no time and no efforts to produce work of “quality”.
The second requisite of scholar is the possession of certain qualifications of a moral rather than an intellectual order, i.e. their personal honesty and moral integrity.
It is the human nature either to be too optimistic or pessimistic; either too exaggerate or too under estimate; either to praise too high or condemn too low. But a history scholar must have a balanced view and consciousness by which he or she can reduce the element of subjectivity and able to express their balanced and accurate views.
The third requisite in a history scholar is sobriety and calmness. Hastiness and precipitancy would spoil every effort and would become a source of numerous errors. So patience is the cardinal virtue of a scholar. No one asks how long a historian took to write history but everyone judge how good and well he has written it.
Research has no schedule of time. It is the quality of work the question whether the requisite excellence has been reached or not. A true scholar is calm and cool. He wants his work to be solid, definite and imperishable who never perturbed even in the midst of turmoil.
The fourth requisite related to the intellectual caliber of the scholar. His work is the mirror of the sharpness of his mind, ability of expression, and power of his judgment. He should have a keen, critical and incisive perception which can read between the lines and see through the game.
His mind should be fertile in hypothesis, quick in imagination, prompt to discern the underlying principle, bold to advance his own theory and courageous enough to admit he is in wrong if such a situation arises. In brief, he should possess an abundance of commonsense, a sense of curiosity and spirit of inquiry.
At least but not last, a research scholar should not suffer from certain risks such as— loss of power to work, hypercriticism and dilettantism. Certain scholar loses their heart at the very first blow which cripples their intelligence. One should be bold enough to face the realities of life.
Certain scholars become nervous too soon when adverse criticism is hurled at them they become so horror stricken that they will not continue research any more. This loss of power to work is a serious risk.
The excess of criticism is the second risk. Just as the absence of criticism leads to error, so the excess of criticism spoils the whole work. Certain persons suffer from the psychology of suspecting danger even when there is none. Likewise some person scent enigmas where none exists. They subject the material to such a extreme of dilettante criticism, that they soon be left with no facts to write history.
“Dilettantic” is the third risk, where the correct perspective is lost. Dilettantic is an amateur experience where the scholar criticizes a document for the sake of criticism and not for establishing the truth. Therefore, uneven and indiscriminate criticism is applied and main aim is lost, i.e. to understand the problem. The result is a type of mental gymnastics, an intellectual is unfruitful of all fruit.
In this way, a person intending to do research in history has to ask himself or evaluate himself whether he possesses the requisite qualifications for the task or suffers from the disqualifications which would hinder his work.
Selection of Research Project:
Research in India is usually undertaken after post-graduation although in some of the Indian Universities, the student are given the option to write “thesis” or “project” for the master degree too.
A “thesis’ is generally considered to be a report of a research on a given problem or topic. The modern technique of writing a thesis has made it a scientific document. The author of thesis explains and defends his findings with the data, primary or secondary or both.
Invariably a thesis breaks a new ground and is regarded to be “a contribution to existing knowledge.” In fact, it is an enquiry directed to the discovery of truth and in particular to the trained scientific investigation on original and first-hand study of authorities or on experiment of the principles and facts of any subject, based.
Research may be undertaken for a number of motives. Firstly, it may be undertaken with a view to acquire some degree which can help in getting a job. Secondly, it may be taken for the sake the “Degree” which add to the prestige.
Thirdly, a large number of students undertake research because they fail to get job after post graduation and undertake research with a view to get the scholarship granted to the research scholars. Finally, research may be undertaken by a student because he is intellectually involved in some problem and want to dwell deep in to the issue. This type of scholars are capable of making significant contribution to the subject.
2. Selection of the Project Problem:
A thesis begins with a problem. The term” Problem” comes from the Greek word “Proballein”, which means anything thrown forward…………. a question enunciated for solution; a matter stated for examination or proof; a doubtful case or question. Problem is often used as synonymous with project. Problem is a situation for which there is no ready response.
The research scholar by selecting a problem for his thesis clears up confusion and straightens out ambiguity. The scholar may try to select the topic by seeking assistance from professor but he must try to select the problem by himself. It should not be selected for him. Furthermore, it is not advisable to entirely depend on the professor. The scholar should try to pick up the topic from the field which has aroused his interest during the course of post graduation study.
Secondly, suggestion while selecting a problem or project, the scholar must be sure of the availability of sufficient source material on the subject. Problem should be such which can be complete within reasonable time limit. The problem should be of manageable proportions. Selection of unwieldy topic is not likely to yield fruitful results.
Thirdly, scholar should not select such a project or problem for which the testimony is mainly available in a language which he/she does not know. Similarly if the material is available in an area unaccessible or difficult of access, fruitful result cannot be expected.
Fourthly, as far as possible project of comparative history should be avoided by the fresh scholars. A problem of comparative study involves a triple knowledge.
Fifthly, a scholar can also get assistance in the selection of his topic from a survey of the reviews of new books and bibliographical articles published in various historical periodicals. Usually in these reviews and articles, references is made to certain problems which needs further investigation and the scholar can make up his mind regarding the subject in the light of this interest and background.
3. Necessary Information & Material:
After the selection of the problem or topic, the next problem which scholar confronts is where from to get the necessary information and material for the problem or topic. As library is the ‘Research Laboratory’ for the researcher, he must be able to use it properly and fully. The best way to start the work is to consult the library catalogue which contains entries for subjects and book titles as well as for the authors.
He must consult the relevant biographies, encyclopaedias, the indexes of historical monographs, atlases, articles, documents and other works he/she is likely to need. In addition he/ she must also consult the bibliographical data and the indexes pertaining to the current periodicals.
A working or a tentative bibliography is the first pre-requisite of research. This list is termed as “tentative” because the list so compiled is not final and is subjected to frequent additions and distractions. The books on this list simply lead the researcher to other titles from their combination, he/she is able to build a complete and up-to-date bibliography of articles and monographs on the subject.
The bibliographical data may be collected either on cards or paper slips. Scholar should use the card system— copy each title on a separate card generally 3×5 inches (or slip of uniform size must be used). While preparing the bibliography the surname must come first, followed by the exact title of the book, total volumes of the work, place of publication and year of publication. The title of the book should be under scored which implies that it would be italicized when printed e.g. “The Idea of History” by R.G. Colling-wood. In bibliography it would be recorded as— Cooling-wood, R.G., “The Idea of History”, London, 1970ed.
Keep these entries or cards in alphabetical order and add useful titles as you find them. The final bibliography, to be used at the end of the thesis will most often include only the works that help in the actual writing- usually those cited, in the footnotes not only contains references to some new books but also contains in periodicals, newspaper matter, citations of government documents, etc.
But the preparation of a good bibliography is very important because historical sources are wide spread and their nature differs in accordance with the nature of subject. The scholar will have to make a very careful study in the initial stages of all the secondary sources on the subjects which would help him to locate the sources.
The scholars who have already worked in similar fields will have seen many of the sources they may need. Similarly the indexes of Magazines, Newspapers, etc., can also prove useful to the students regarding the material published in the magazines and newspapers.
It may be observed here that the completion of the bibliography is a continuous process and continues throughout the period of research.
Preparations of Project/Research-proposal:
Third main job after the selection of the subject and the preparation of a bibliography is the preparation of an outline, a framework, a project or a research proposal or a synopsis which would give him a rough idea of the whole research project.
The synopsis of project fixes the outlines of the research field and provides outline base of work. However no outline should be regarded as complete until the research work has been finished. As you collect materials you will probably revise your original outline frequently, adding or changing sub-headings to major-heading or perhaps dropping some headings altogether.
It should be kept in mind that an outline is a working plane. It could be changed and improved as and when necessity arises. It is a scholar’s means not an end. He should make the project or synopsis his aid and not became its slave. The research project or synopsis consists the following main divisions:
Title of the research project or synopsis plays an important role. So indicate the title in precise terms. This is a very important step, for those who are unexposed to the research scene. Although it is a difficult proposition but it is best to choose a field which one finds interesting, has some utility, the facilities of which are easily available and for which some works which can provide as excess to the problem is already available on the topic. It will be best to discuss this with some faculty of department of university and relevant experts of the field.
At this stage e.g., in the introduction the broad areas of research, the elements which have led to the selection of the problem, the main idea of the research problem or project and its importance is described. In other words, to introduce the reader to what you are intending to do.
While writing the introduction one should indicate why the topic has been chosen for research is important. What is its utility? This will increase the importance of the research project or proposal e.g., if you are choosing a topic related to the “Urban Development during Delhi Sultanate” the introduction must indicate why your research is important in say bringing about the increased acceptability of renewed development and problem of the Urban areas.
It should not be superfluous or should not include the unnecessary sufficient but precise survey.
(C) Review of References:
In this step, the paper, books and manuscripts which are related to your research project or problem and which are most illustrative of the necessity of the research field and topic chosen are given.
A brief description of the research in related fields and suggestions made by the authors is to be given. It is required, to keep in mind while describing the survey of the earlier references—that the name of the author references, i.e. title of the research project, along with year of publication or manuscript the important views of their research and suggestions and the limitations of the study which are likely to be filled by your proposed study in a precise and brief way.
(D) Research Project/Problem:
The actual research problems or project its objectives and hypothesis should be established based on references review carried out for this purpose. Keeping the purpose of his research in view—exposition, arguments, narration, description, report and thesis; scholar should write down as many ideas as they occurto him. In a systematic way the concepts and ideas should be stated.
The importance of a careful definition of the research problem, which cannot be exaggerated. It determines the philosophical background of the research (entire) because the ultimate objective will emerges from it. It accelerates and directs all the research procedures. It makes more certain to achieve the goal and an important understanding which will contribute to the professional field studies. In this part, scholar should state clearly the objective of the research.
(E) Methodology of Research:
In this describe the methodology which will be used to carry out the research. This will involves what are the sources of studies and data collection if any. What are the primary sources and secondary sources? It may be pointed out that while considering the various primary sources it is the primary responsibility of the scholar to check up the authenticity of the documents and facts. Usually the problem of authenticity of sources arises more in case of manuscripts than the printed documents because the printed documents have already been authenticate by the editor. Being a history research scholar, he has to confirm the authenticity of document by number of tests such as-authorship, date of document, textual accuracy, and the internal criticism. If the secondary sources are used, their names, where they are available should be given.
(F) Synthesis of Facts:
Synthesis of facts or synthetic operation involve a very intelligent use of the material. It requires some acute power to know in what relationship one facts stands with the other. Those facts which have relationship to one another must be linked together in such a manner that the entire piece appears to be an organic whole.
In every study of successive facts it is necessary to provide number of breaks to distinguish beginnings and ends. The breaks or divisions are periods which should clearly indicate in chronological and different subject-matter’s sequence how one phase has led to another.
Historical developments have a rhythm manifests itself. If is the duty of the historian to show through what process this rhythm manifests itself. In order to perform this effectively the mental image of the historian must be very clear.
He should be able to pick a trace from the documents, judge its soundness or validity and fix it in its proper place. The whole operation is a mental one which is performed not in isolation but simultaneously. It is purely a mental activity and required the depth in sight of the study of problem. The classification of facts is one of the synthetic operations which facilitates the main job of interpretation of data, i.e. the key activity.
(G) Expected Conclusion:
This will give the conclusions which may be expected from the results of synthesis of facts or material. Obviously, it will be related to the objectives and hypothesis, which may or may not turn out to be true. A summary of the research proposal and importance of the study in brief may be given again.
(H) Tentative Chapterization:
The tentative chapterization provides the structure in to various sections which are illustrated via the chapters. The number of chapter will depends upon the nature of problem which will begins with the introduction, early references review, chronological and subjects wise, synthesis of material result and conclusion.
The beginning should be effective and ending should contain related ideas. All the historical narrative is for a definite purpose quite clear at every stage. All the historical research is to throw light on dark corners to resolve the controversies that had escaped or had remained unresolved.
The development of ideas is also a technique. Young research scholars should carefully study the works of great historians in order to know the techniques they have adopted to develop the ideas. You will find that no one method or no one combination of method is better than another except the one that appears to you to be suitable.
The discussion in the narrative must be critical and analytical. At every stage assess yourself, whether every statement you made has added usefulness and value to the passage or not. Gradually, you will need to expand some parts or cut down the others with the intention of using the material in the best way.