Reading research in the social sciences by classical theorists, for example, Weber, Aristotle, Freud, Rothelishberger, Mayo, Skinner, Sharif and others, give inspiration and deep insight about social phenomena; it gives a feeling as if one were close to reality; unfortunately this is not the case with most of the contemporary research (research conducted around mid 70s and afterwards). Contrast to classical research, contemporary research appears to be jargon of words and statistical analysis, which contributes very little in enhancing understanding social phenomena.

Contemporary research has become like Google or Yahoo that searches billions of garbage but only a few quality websites. Over the period of time, quantity of research has gone drastically up and quality has gone down, significantly. Interestingly literature review of research studies is impressive but actual research question hardly enhance understanding about the issue in-hand; after reading such studies, one can only wonder, ‘what was the purpose of conducting this research?’

Professionalism* has taken over research passion and enthusiasm. It appears as researchers wish only to be professionally correct in order to publish their work speedily in journals and get grants for their work. Finance granting bodies wish to provide financial grants for projects that appear only to be correct in methodology and could be completed within the specified time so they can prove satisfactory ROI to higher authorities and the public. Research has become a money making machine for researchers and institutions.

Research institutions criteria for accepting new research topics though appear to be very strict and rational but the reality is that they support researches which leaves hardly strong impact on enhancing deep understanding about the phenomena. Universities have turned PhD into a simple degree than a lifetime’s work. They are competing with each other like business firms to have a specific number of researches which can generate more grants in return. Academic institutions are more willing to follow secure business strategy than entrepreneur; hence they demand research proposals that are in line with the departments’ interest so that they can find a research supervisor easily; mind it, the role of supervisor in research is not as significant as it portrays by the higher education institutions. The problem of researching on innovative topics has become so gross that new and young researchers are discouraged to join this field, except for those researchers who know the art to satisfy criteria by producing garbage. The intellectual cows have yet to appreciate that demanding extensive literature review can kill originality. Similarly, demanding clear methodology prior to starting research impinges upon researchers to find a straightforward statistical method to prove the point. Young researchers are scared to take exploratory studies because they know that it will not be supported by the intellectual cows.

The academia has misunderstood the movement of ‘positivism’ in the same fashion as the European and American societies misunderstood Freud’s views on sexuality, which led to open sexual relationship out of wedlock. The movement of positivism, believing in facts that are observable, has taken over by statistical analysis which has taken away a real essence of social science research. It was just a metaphor of the positivism that research in social science can be conducted in the same fashion as natural science research, but never promoted the idea that statistical analysis take over the social science research. Research in social sciences is being dominated by statistical analysis for decades without questioning its contribution to various disciplines. For example, there are so many statistical studies in Psychology but their findings are hardly comparable to the findings of classical and pioneer studies of psychoanalysis and behaviorism. It is still a question, did Galton and others revolutionized psychology by developing personality tests, which are primarily based on conducting statistical analysis studies? All these tests strongly advise to psychologists and psychiatrists to develop their own reference group while interpreting the results of these tests. If we could really measure personality by these statistical tests, we would have been in a position by now to select the best people of various fields. These personality tests are analogous to those software that claim to shortlist the best candidates. Mind it, people will turn it into robots the day such tests and software could accurately predict human behavior. Almost all institutions in USA demand tests like GMAT and GRE, which are developed using statistical analysis, to starting a University degree but the vital question is, are they producing better qualified people than those European institutions that do not demand these tests to join higher education? Of course, not. The evidence comes from the published journal articles are not written by all those who completed their degrees after taking the GMAT or GRE. Frankly speaking, mathematical analyses are much better than statistical analysis because human life is mostly revolving around simple mathematical calculations.

The crux of the article is to rethink about research activity and it should not be poisoned in the cage. Only vaguely defined researches can break the inertia that has killed new and interesting assumptions.

*The word ‘Professionalism’ is not used in a positive sense here.

Nadeem Yousaf

21 August 2001

Rotten Contemporary Research