Lex Librero, PhD
UP Open University
Among graduate research students, the phrase “contributions to the body of knowledge” may be common concept and we may think that most graduate research students understand it in the same way. Well, frequently this concept is vague and open to various interpretations, each one of which might be partly correct. A cursory look at what various academic advisers and theses panel members across universities would show different verbalizations of the idea which may seem to point towards the same direction but with different instructions or explanations. For example, phrases like “new findings”, “new results”, “new procedures”, “new application”, and the like are common verbalizations by academic advisers. This is just fine when the adviser and the student find common ground for agreement, but when they differ in opinions and interpretations it is likely that the end-result of the debate could be hurting to the research student. And frequently the academic adviser and the research student do not necessarily understand one another.
It is in articulating the issue of contributing to the body of knowledge where there is need for creative thinking in research. This is where words, phrases, pictures, drawings, and illustrations, the most common tools of the research process, are handy and very useful. It takes creative thinking to describe a new idea or way of doing things. To a large extent, the “contribution” that may be referred to is actually a mere description of a process that may be different from what has generally been accepted. And, actually, it need not be new but perhaps it may be something old and ordinary that has not been done before as far as the conditions of the research may be concerned.
If you’re a graduate research student grappling with the issue of “contribution to the body of knowledge,” what actually does this phrase mean to you?