Dr R Valavan
Doing post-graduation is a dream for many. It helps to specialize in a specific field of one’s interest through which one can focus his attention in that particular subject. So that he gains a wider knowledge and expertise in that area. It helps him to handle different type of cases with ease (in case of clinical specialization). Further, it equips to pursue extensive researches in that field or subject in future by enrolling in PhD. By pursuing MD one can develop his personality, presentation, teaching and lecturing skills, knowledge in researches, clinical practice, etc. through routine clinical and journal presentations, teaching and by doing research as part of PG curriculum. One has to keep in mind that the purpose is to gain knowledge and develop skills. It has to be pursued with a passion. At the end of the successful completion one can start the career with additional confidence which offers wider prospect to choose from. Many PG scholars feel clueless after joining MD. This article is aimed to give confidence and some insights into pursuing research, presenting the results in the thesis, and some tips for publications.
Research and pursuing it with passion
One simple yet clear definition for research is that ‘research is an art of scientific investigation’. It is finding the answer for an enquiry. As a famous scientist Hudson Maxim’s quote goes, “All progress is born of inquiry. Doubt is often better than over-confidence, for it leads to inquiry, and inquiry leads to invention.” Finding answer for puzzle is always interesting. First of all a PG scholar has to prepare his mind and motivate himself that he is going to find out a new thing which will contribute a new knowledge to the society. Then he has to find out what kind, type and method of research will be suitable for him, which are discussed in the subsequent paragraphs.
Kind and type of study to choose from
Think out of the box. Think out of the conventional way of doing research in homoeopathy. Majority of the PG dissertation is on the efficacy of homoeopathy in a condition. A very few does think differently and does things differently, which is of worth. Everyday new research papers are published from different allied fields. Many leads and ideas can be taken from them. A new line of knowledge has opened up in the field of nano-technology. IIT Bombay and IISc Bangalore have recently published break-through researches in relation with homoeopathy. There is much scope in following and continuing such researches.
Sometimes new ideas develop from our own problems. For example, there are some myths surrounding homoeopathy. Sometimes people avoid a list of items such as onion, garlic, tea, coffee, etc. while taking homoeopathic medicine. Whether all these items antidote all the homoeopathic drugs can be a hypothesis. A scientific investigation can be carried out to find what all the drugs are antidoted by a specific substance like garlic or onion. Initiative to Promote Research in Homeopathy (IPRH), a not-for-profit organization, has started a project PHORECISS – Promotion of Homeopathic Research by Community Initiated and Supported Studies. They have recently released ‘Priority Areas for Research in Homeopathy Document’ including possible research topics in homoeopathy. The document can be downloaded from http://audesapere.in/phoreciss by sending a request.
The type of study has to be finalized based on the above. One has to decide whether he is intended to do descriptive or analytical, applied or fundamental, quantitative or qualitative, conceptual or empirical, prospective or retrospective study, etc. Most of the PG dissertations have been descriptive, quantitative, empirical and prospective studies. It is better to choose a type different than what has been majorly used so far. Further, it is also important to choose the method of study viz. literature research, field research and clinical/laboratory research.
Getting trained and developing current research skills
Lack of scientific training, as a prominent author points out, is one of the major difficulties research scholars face. Perhaps foreseeing this difficulty, CCH has included Research Methodology and Biostatistics as the prime subjects in addition to the homoeopathic subjects in the Part 1 MD syllabus. PG scholars have to utilize this opportunity. Missing a single class will create a chaos that the next topic will become completely incomprehensible. Understanding the statistics by only reading book is next to impossible. Hence it is better to learn them thoroughly in the part 1 itself through the faculty. Apart from these, a special out-of-campus training may be requested if needed, especially in case of pharmacy scholars.
Funds and aids
A clear monetary budget has to be planned for the study and the source of funding to be explored. In case of a minor study within the institute, self-funding will be sufficient. Big researches may need external funding. In such cases, some other options have to be explored. There are institutes which offer scholarship programs with financial support. For instance, Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy, Department of AYUSH, has recently announced a scheme for homoeopathic research by students/scholars. They provide a scholarship of Rs. 25,000/- to 10 candidates per year. The details can be obtained from www.ccrhindia.org/pdf/MD_SCHEME.PDF. Institute for the History of Medicine of the Robert Bosch Foundation, Stuttgart, Germany, has been offering research grants to pursue the study of the history of homeopathy at the Institute. The details can be obtained from http://www.igm-bosch.de/content/language2/html/11771.asp.
Importance of choosing and adopting statistical analysis
At the end of the Part 1 of PG course, a competent candidate will be able to decide on his own about the statistical analysis. He should not only possess the knowledge of how to calculate the mean, median & mode, standard deviation, variance, out layers, probability, probability distributions, chi-square, etc., but also needs to know which technique is relevant and which is not for the topic he has chosen. Many studies conclude only based on the data in the results without adopting a proper statistical method. In the present scenario no research is accepted as valid if the results are not statistically significant. Since homoeopathy faces criticism from the people with vested interest, the quality of the research at par with current scientific and statistical standards is our at most priority.
Literature survey – effective use of electronic tools in addition to book search
It is convenient to use internet for literature survey in many ways. It is the fastest which can throw results in a fraction of second. It saves time better than physical searching. For any search in the electronic tool, keywords play an important role. Choosing and trying the right word is essential. Use different keywords till getting desired information. Prime and significant search engine is google and others include Yahoo, Bing, Rediff, AOL Search, MSN Search, Live Search, etc. Specific search engines and databases for research studies include Google Scholar, PubMed, IndMed, MedInd, ScienceDirect, Refseek, Infomine, infotopia.info, archives.gov/research/search, Citeulike, eric.ed.gov. While searching, it is unnecessary to type ‘http://’ or ‘www’. It is waste of time. Current browsers pick the url without these prefixes. Also, current browsers straight away pick the keywords from url bar. No need to open google webpage then type the keyword in the google search bar. The url bar can be customized to use as search bar using any search engine. During searching, the relevant results can be opened in different tabs by pressing Ctrl + click. It saves time of loading. Using many such short-cuts helps to save time in browser.
Google Scholar and PubMed
Almost majority of the literature survey could be done with Google Scholar. Searching the keywords, fine tuning the results with timeline, type of data, etc. are easier. It has advanced search/filter options on the left bar. Now Google Scholar button is available to install in the browser. There are third party mobile apps available to install in smart phones to use google scholar. ‘My library’ is an option to save or bookmark the relevant papers in your google account to access later. It also provides an option “My citations” to track your papers cited by other papers. It is easy to monitor the ‘impact factor’. Pubmed is a medical research database with convenient search option. It is a service by the US National Library of Medicine. It is considered as an authentic database. It also has almost all features of Google Scholar. Scopus is claimed as the largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature including scientific journals, books and conference proceedings. It is a paid service by Elsevier Publication.
Collection of literature may be an issue for pharmacy scholars who undertake a study from a different field. Not everything is available from the internet. Proper planning to visit the libraries of different universities, discussions with people from different discipline will help.
Developing the content of the dissertation
The first step would be to create a template with major sections. There are certain common sections like introduction, literature survey, methodology, results and discussion, conclusion, etc. Then the sub-sections have to be tailor-made based on the individual study. Literature survey has to be elaborate. Consistent small steps will help to achieve in a lighter way. First writing a brief preliminary article on the topic will help in many ways, which may also be published in different homoeopathic journals/magazines. If it gets published, that gives motivation. If not, anyway the article will serve as the base source to develop the manuscript further for dissertation.
Plagiarism is a kind of literature stealing. This includes stealing information from web pages, books, songs, television shows, email messages, interviews, articles, artworks or any other medium and presenting as own. Collecting the information and using them is not an issue, but copying and presenting without giving credit to the source is considered plagiarism. It is considered as serious unethical practice in research. So whatever information is taken, that has to be presented in the dissertation in scholar’s own language and writing with giving credit to the source. Sentences and phrases can be quoted within the quotation marks by stating the original author. There are chances that if the copying is proved, the scholar may be invoked by copyright law.
Proof correction and error elimination
After completing the first draft, a self-proof-reading has to be conducted. During this course, much development will take place including spelling and grammatical corrections. If the scholar is not well versed in English language, a help from an English academician may be sought. Then it may be sent for the final review of guide. 2-3 revisions may be required in this phase. After the final amendments, a careful check is necessary before print-out.
Final review and submission
Final review by different experts will help to get different opinions, to eliminate of maximum possible errors and to improve the thesis. It may be difficult especially because of time constraint at the last moment. Proper planning of timeline will help to avoid such critical situation. If everything is planned properly, the thesis can be submitted at time without any hassle.
It is the final and important part of any research. Though it is not mandatory in the PG curriculum, it adds value to the work. The final manuscript can be sent to different journals and magazines. A research study can be looked into different perspective. Accordingly splitting it into different parts will help to publish more than one paper. Prominent journals, magazines and online portals from India include Indian Journal of Research in Homoeopathy, Asian Journal of Homoeopathy, Homoeopathy for All, Homoeopathic Heritage, Homoeo Times, HomoeoBook.com, Homeopathy 4 Everyone, National Journal of Homoeopathy, Homoeopathy – The Friend of Health, Research Updates -Homeopathy, etc. Apart from these, articles can be published in the scholar’s own blog and facebook timeline.
All the best!
Comments and feedback are welcome through the below comment box.
Dr R Valavan