Sunday, January 22, 2012

On Being a Researcher: A counter-intuitive observation

Most of the discussion of research seems to focus entirely on research methodology, or theory of research. However, the question of 'how to be a researcher' has hardly received any attention, probably because of the assumption that 'knowing how to do research effectively' will automatically lead to 'being an effective researcher'. Though this assumption looks logical enough, in actual practice the knowledge of 'how to do' research' hardly seems to lead automatically to ' how to be a researcher'. The crucial distinction which seems to be missing in the most of such discussions is the one between 'being someone' and 'knowing how to do something', that is 'being' is distinct from ' knowing' or 'having'.  For instance, 'knowing about scientific method or having scientific knowledge' as being distinct from ' being a scientist', or 'knowing how to cook' being distinct from 'being a cook', or even 'knowing how to raise children' is distinct from 'being a parent'. Similarly, 'being a manager' is distinct from ' knowledge of how to manage'. 

If one asks 'WHO is a scientist?' or 'WHO is a doctor?', we realize that the scientist is not just a person who knows 'how to do' science, and the doctor is not just a person who 'knows' medical science, though it is just a part of who he is. A scientist is not just a scientist when he is in the laboratory or a seminar hall or library, a scientist is a scientist even when he is playing with his children, and a doctor is a doctor even when he is with his girlfriend.  Entire life seems to show up as laboratory, seminar hall or library for someone who IS a scientist. The scientist IS a scientist not when he HAS scientific outlook but the scientist IS a scientist when the scientific outlook HAS HIM. A scientist is not 'somebody who USES scientific method, the scientist is the person who is USED BY scientific method. Hence, while we think that being a scientist or a parent is all about knowing 'how to do science' or how to parent' well, it seems that it is 'being a scientist or a parent' leads to 'knowing how to' do these things.
Therefore, it seems that the researcher is not a person who 'uses' research methodology, but someone who is used by research methodology. A literary theorist is not someone who 'uses theoretical terminology' but someone who is used by theoretical terminology. One is a critical theorist not when one 'knows how to to think critically', but someone who is used by critical thinking. A researcher is not someone who 'has research skills' but someone whom research skills have. You become a researcher not when you 'learn how to do research' but when the research starts having you, and you no longer use 'research methodology' but research methodology starts using you. The research or scientific outlook becomes the context of the researcher's life and the whole life shows up inside this context.The activity of research and writing dissertation, thesis or research report , then, becomes a natural expression of who the researcher is, much in the same fashion as a poem is a natural expression of who the poet is or parenting is a natural expression of who the parent is. 

The above observations are counter-intuitive and out-of-the-box, but I think they will definitely be useful to people who want to 'do research'. I owe these insights to the profound ontological technology developed by Werner Erhard, one of the greatest and unacknowledged educationists of our times. Indeed, such insights start showing up when the ontological technology made available by Landmark Education start using you.

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