Saturday, April 27, 2013

Nipping it in the bud : Overcoming the fear of doing Research

Dissertations or thesis writing sessions are usually no fun for students except a few very academic oriented ones. Research is always this humongous task which looks very daunting and very intimidating to budding researchers. 

Well I don't blame them. We all went through this phase. I was preparing some fresh lectures for my research classes to begin in the next academic year. Keeping in mind all the experiences I have had so far while teaching the subject and then coaxing them to submit a research proposal and later a complete thesis I could come up with some points.

Research actually becomes easy if we begin with reading or simply observing. Keeping ears and eyes open can be the first step to doing research. Thus research is born out of identifying an issue which needs further study so it could be studying professions, studying a particular case at hand or simply studying events which have already taken place. 

 One cannot do something if one does not like doing it. So one has to first carefully choose out of many the topic of research that one would like to do.

Once this is clear, a thorough search of the problem at hand is to be looked upon. A simple google search or a quick run to the local library of the institution would help you to know what other researchers have already said about your topic that you have chosen. At the same time you could come up with a working research question and a working hypothesis which could become like road maps giving you a direction to where you are headed for. They will also remind you in case you slip away from your goal: Your chosen topic. 

Your search will essentially lead you to what appears the toughest while penning down a research: "The literature review" Will not go much into this as this is not the intention of this article and it is assumed here that you know what that means.

So you see a little effort from your side will result in a cluster of research papers or books or credible articles which helped you formulate and even tighten your research question and hypothesis.

Now you wonder why you did all this? Well the answer is that your next step of your research usually and ideally follows from all the ground work you just did. Now this will help in deciding the best methodology and methods which will help in implementing your research. It will help you in deciding your samples from the population at large. It will help you in deciding what should be the tools of your research and how you would prepare them, here I mean your questionnaire. Assuming you are doing a survey or an in-depth interview. But there could be other tools too. There your Guide could help you in deciding that.

The most important part in doing your research is getting all the above in place, as that would have prepared the foundation of your research. Now the next step would be the actual data collection. This is another phase which needs to given enough time as we should understand that if I am doing a survey or an in-depth interview the respondents are not in my hands. They are somewhere there and I am at their mercy of being given time for the data collection. If this method was content analysis of either text, audio or video or all, the time taken in doing a large amount of content collection has to be well thought of as this also takes up your time. (Here the example is of some basic methods, there are others too.)

Once this is done, next step is penning down your findings and analyzing them. You may require the help of your Guide here again and of course all the literature that you had reviewed will be useful while analysing. 

The final step is the conclusion. Here the researcher pens down his/her views, the place where the researcher is able to voice but now with all the credibility of the above data in place. A holistic picture of all that you have done so far has to be critically examined and a conclusion drawn. The limitation & delimitation of the study and of course the future scope of this research has to be written so as to remind the reader of the boundaries of your research.

Research is a journey and it never completely ends at one point. It is continuous and can be re-looked upon time and again by different people, always helping us understand the why and hows of this world.

This was a small attempt in driving out the fear of doing research, hopefully it helps you to break free.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Visual Writing for Public Relations

I remember when one of my students was keen on doing her thesis on something to do with photography. Now as she was in the domain of public relations as that was the Master subject, I suggested her to work on Photo PR. So basically how do companies create images about themselves via their pictures on their galleries on their website or through newspapers. The study was extensive and today she holds a post of a Photo PR executive in a reputed agency, a post especially created for this domain.

Images play a major role in defining an organisation's image. If we take this one step further videos play another role in creation of images. A moving image with sound. Capturing emotions, feelings through sound and movement, an added component in moving images. A holistic experience of the object. Public relations students and practitioners can take the help of these moving images to create the image they want to about their client. Readily available video cameras and camera softwares available on apple and android devices is making the work easier.

Now I need not be a photo or movie editor to work on these pictures and images. There are plenty of softwares available to edit pictures via Picsart and now even shoot small films to describe my client's work. I came across this very useful software called Vine  which is a mobile app created by Twitter to create and post small video clippings. But right now it is only available for apple devices. But android mobile phone users can use Viddy  for the same purpose.Vine helps you shoot for 6 seconds and post the video to Facebook and Twitter accounts. Whereas Viddy lets you shoot for 15 seconds and lets you add effects to your video and post it to Twitter and Facebook. All this work can be done on your smartphone or tablets. This also indicates something very important;  the growing use of smartphones and tablets and its easy accessibility.

The idea is that if I am getting an opportunity to shoot a video of the object concerned and upload it in real time it can be more of value as compared to something appearing later, due to delay in editing. Some quick videos can be more than enough. And will not look like an ad. Time has come where people may not have the time to read long paragraphs but will not miss out a well placed and well clicked picture or an attractive video clip. Of course keeping in mind the various logistics issues and the digital divide, this article stresses on the need for PR practitioners to create content on the go.

Would be keen to know your views.