PhD comprehensive studies: Key to building quality researchers
It is usual for the research scholars of the MPhil and PhD programs to go through some course works assigned by the universities and research institutes before they enter their key researches. It is the preparatory time for the apprentice researchers. Actually, the course works include a number of courses such as major and none- major ones. The courses assigned to the research scholars may not be directly relevant but these all correspond to knowledge sharing. Again it is evident that the branches of knowledge are inter-related one another in a balanced system that can hardly be separated.
Course work is a kind of training that is designed to develop the comprehensiveness of newly admitted research students by making them accustomed to various subjects. These subjects help the researchers to make a good foundation on the research paradigm. Not only that, the courses on different fields help students to be creative, critical and autonomous which are pre-requisite for being a quality researcher in the research arena.
Undeniably, research creates innovations and new knowledge. The question is pertinent to raise; how an individual can be a researcher when he/she observes everything as usual? Obviously, they cannot be good researchers who are not inquisitive in their mind. The observation of a researcher must be different from that of the common people. Evidently, comprehensive studies provide ample scopes of the research scholars to be more responsive and inquisitive.
It is a global practice in the research arena that research students have to qualify the comprehensive examinations before working on their research topics. Through the exams analytical and critical thinking abilities of the researchers are assessed. On top of that, whether the researchers are competent to conduct their individual researches are assessed. Most importantly, the sound knowledge of research paradigm is measured through written and oral exams.
Many students think course works and comprehensive exams as an overload. Even many scholars do not want to realize the importance of course work and consider it nothing but a wastage of time and advise the researchers straight with dealing the topic.
It is common to notice that in most countries students are advised to select an intended area of research and subsequently, they are told to develop a research topic from the area of interest. Bangladesh is not the exception in this regard as in most cases students select their area of interest along with research topic before enrolling at the universities to pursue MPhil and PhD . But it is the comprehensive studies that make many change their predetermined research area of interest and these courses make them able to be self-decisive which shows the proper way to be spontaneous researchers.
Being a research student of the Institute of Bangladesh Studies (IBS), Rajshahi University have some observations regarding the comprehensive studies assigned for MPhil and PhD students. The IBS is the oldest and largest research institute in the northern region of Bangladesh cherishing the research philosophy of the father of nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. This institute is committed to developing the culture of quality research on various aspects including different aspects of life, society, culture, anthropology, geography, environment, law, language and literature and other fields. The applicants who meet the primary criteria for application have to go through a highly competitive written and oral exams for final selection to be researchers in this institute.
Attending course works is mandatory for all research students and no student is allowed to take part in comprehensive exams unless they have at least 70% class attendance. In the session 2020-2021, we have been provided seventeen courses as a package of comprehensive studies. Five days a week the researchers have to attend classes like the undergraduate students. Apart from this library works, submitting assignments, taking class test and many more activities are the part of rigorous research journey.
The IBS is a student-friendly research institute. They do not compel students to give their research proposal at the time of taking admission. They believe that the presupposed knowledge is not enough for a student to select the research topic. Through giving their autonomy and boosting them with the integrated knowledge of course work students are able to recognize their passionate field of research that ultimately develops a spirit into every researcher.
At the beginning of my research journey I had a question like most other apprentice researchers who ask themselves why they need to go through a number of comprehensive courses as these subjects are not related to their research interest. I tried to find answer of the question but at the end of my comprehensive studies I have realized that the knowledge of these courses I have achieved have helped me to be a complete researcher.
There is a question in my mind; is there any possibility of an individual to be a researcher unless he/she has developed language skills both in Bangla and English in our context? Obviously, it cannot be. Not only that, a PhD scholar should have a sound knowledge of his/her country, culture and society. In most universities around the globe are found to assign some indigenous courses compulsorily for the overseas students to provide them a background knowledge of the country and culture. Obviously, time has come to think of the issue that every researcher has to go through Bangladesh studies irrespective of their subject and interest to build up the quality human resources. Thanks to the IBS to take research to a global height and produce quality manpower in the arena of research and education.
Again, it is evident that the purpose of a researcher should not be only to get degree. But In most cases many see this degree to get promotion or write the Dr. before their name. Their degrees hardly contribute to developing our nation. But the nation desires much from the individuals who have obtained the highest degree. Again, what will we do with the huge degree holders if their researches are conducted in the deceptive way which fails to address the desirous outcome? Can the reviewers and research supervisors deny their responsibilities in this regards? Obviously, they have little scopes to do so.
So upon this discussion it is obvious that there is no shortcut way to be a researcher or a PhD holder. More importantly, to produce quality researchers, universities and research institutes should be strict to their ethics as the quality researchers are one of the greatest resources of a country.
The writer is a teacher, Prime University& research scholar at the IBS