July 02 2018, By Chidi Rafael

The essence of research is to find more knowledge and add to the existing body of knowledge. How has your study contributed to the Body of Knowledge?

This is one question students especially at the Masters or PhD level must answer one day. The body of knowledge (BOK) encompasses every field of study from medicine to soap making and even our regular sports. You may choose to look at it as a vast library that needs constant updates from brilliant and creative minds to solve newer issues in the society.

If you do not contribute, posterity may suffer because they cannot rely on old data and theories to survive and keep up with the pace at which the world is evolving today coupled with rapid growth in technology. Just imagine if we were to be using research studies on Malaria conducted in 1890 to cure Malaria today...imagine how many people that will die as a result of no current work to show that nutrition has improved, life styles have changed, hygiene is getting better, mosquitoes are getting smarter, newer herbs and chemicals exist-now that is the essence of research! So do not feel bad when asked if your work will or has added to existing knowledge.

From my little observations, most Nigerian students develop negative mind sets that portray their work is not adding to the body of knowledge...if possible, it may actually be subtracting. It is very funny how some students feel that every researchable idea or topic on earth has been tackled by someone. Some go to the extent of feeling that there are no fresh research areas anymore, unless you are willing to tackle the 'impossible'. The most difficult areas where little or nothing has been done on is tagged the 'impossible'.
The funny fact is you can still contribute positively without researching on the 'impossible' or trying to tie yourself down to a new research area where no one has ever crossed...you may hang on the way as material availability may rob you. Various ways you can go ahead with your normal research and still contribute meaningfully to the body of knowledge are addressed below, so take a good time out, read them, apply them and contribute by bringing in your own ideas in the comment box below. Enjoy!

Being smart in the defense room is your number one strength. Do not allow your panel members to intimidate you with statements like 'this study has been conducted by plenty people already, I do not see how it can add to existing knowledge'. Very funny right? You may not know how many Supervisors have frustrated students with this statement. You may not know how many recognized and international Journal websites have refused to publish original work done by students because it is deemed 'popular' so no addition to knowledge. The first secret in countering that statement is by using your area or case study as a major contribution to knowledge. Remember you have got to be smart and logical here. For the mere fact that you conducted that study in your village is enough reason for it to be of great significance. A popular topic like 'The Impact of Motivation on Employee Productivity in New York' may not have the same findings if conducted in a town in Nigeria say- Oshogbo. The mere fact that we have researched on the impact of motivation on employees in Oshogbo, (which may be totally new) is a contribution to the body of Knowledge. Surprised?

Another way students can add great significance to existing knowledge is by methodology adopted. By reviewing empirical studies on a subject matter, a student can discover a new method or approach in tackling the same problem identified in prior research studies. For example, data collection method, sample size, data analysis can be changed to tackle the same problem in-order to bring out a unique study. If Mr. A and B used questionnaires in their study, you can also contribute by reviewing secondary data instead or opt for other measurement instruments such as observations, focus group studies, interviews etc. Different Inferential statistics or data analysis methods can also be adopted here to bring a difference and hence add to the body of knowledge. If appropriate, deeper analyses such as regressions, ANOVA and the rest can make you outstanding.

Your ability to solve trending or new issues in the society is an added advantage to you. This could be used in justifying the study as well as a way of adding to existing knowledge. Through asking the right questions and doing a thorough data analysis, one could solve current issues in his or her environment from the findings of the study as well as good recommendations listed. These trending issues are still new and enough research may not have been carried out on the subject matter. So the ability of the student to boldly tackle this new issue and surviving the problems of new research areas and building literature for the subject area is highly rewarded, hence it is a major contribution to knowledge.

Although not easy as it looks, but very possible. One can actually make meaningful contribution to knowledge by using a different approach to solving an identified problem. New models, conceptual frameworks/concepts and hypotheses that are valid and result oriented will definitely add to existing knowledge on the subject matter.

For Example:
‘The primary aim of the researcher in this study is to relook at the concept of leadership from a new perspective.
So far most studies on leadership have focused on the individual and the personal qualities and traits that shape leaders.
In this study the researcher has tried to shift the focus to the issues rather than the individual glorification and this has lead to the development of The Global Leadership Model which is based on contemporary issues.
This model or the concept is The Global Leadership Model which is issue based’.



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