A FEW WORDS: Research at Civil Services Academy, Walton, Lahore

A FEW WORDS: Research at Civil Services Academy, Walton, Lahore

Research is still a new area in Pakistan. Though the academic institutions are constrained to undertake research to fulfil the needs of their degree programmes, the training institutes are keen to keep their trainees abreast of the concepts and techniques of research.

The Civil Services Academy (CSA), Walton, Lahore, is one such training institute that is endeavouring to equip probationers (who are newly inducted civil servants) with the arsenal of research. In this regard, the efforts of its Director, Shahid Gul Qureshi, and Chief Instructor, Aamir Hasan, are praiseworthy.This writer was honoured to supervise (as a syndicate advisor) a research project allotted to syndicate 09 of the (ongoing) 40th Common Training Programme (CTP). The research project bearing the title,

“Probable withdrawal of USA and Allied forces from Afghanistan in 2014: implications for Pakistan”, started on November 1, 2012 and completed on February 6, 2013. There were a total 16 syndicates and the (power point) presentation of their paper continued from February 12 to 15, and on February 14, the presentation of syndicate 09 took place.

The research paper of syndicate 09 tried to introduce at least seven points to the research knowledge of the CSA. First, the research paper of syndicate 09 elucidates that research could not be done without researchers’ understanding of research methodology and that the understanding had to be expressed. Writing one paragraph or a page on research methodology is an outdated method. The latest method is that the researchers should not only describe but also explain the research methodology adopted. Further, the researchers should justify the chosen methods, techniques and tools of research. The research paper submitted by syndicate 09 exemplified how that could be done. If researchers do not know the rationale for and techniques of conducting research, the whole thesis of research is a waste of paper.

Secondly, the research paper of syndicate 09 demonstrated that at training institutes such as the CSA, qualitative research should be given due importance, as quantitative research is related more to the field of marketing than to the career benefit of civil servants. For qualitative research purposes, interviews of Professor Rasul Bakhsh Rais of Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) and Professor Sajjad Naseer of Lahore School of Economics (LSE) were conducted.

Shahzeb Khan and Sana Baloch, the members of Syndicate 06 and 07, took part in research through the questionnaire mode. To equate the quality of the responses from the two sets of respondents, the research paper of syndicate 09 typified how the format of the Likert Scale (which is used for studying a closed-ended questionnaire meant for quantitative research) could be applied.Thirdly, the research paper of syndicate 09 articulated what measures should be undertaken to reduce the possibilities of researchers’ bias, which got incorporated into the data during its collection and analysis. In this regard, the paper underscored the importance of the method of triangulation in qualitative research.

That is, instead of relying on only one research method (e.g. interviews), at least two research methods (e.g. interviews and questionnaires) should be used to meet the minimum needs of conducting qualitative research. The reduction in bias is vital to enhance the validity of the research methods used and the data so collected, as low validity means that research is untrustworthy and its conclusions questionable.

Fourthly, the research paper of syndicate 09 illustrated the significance of the reliability of research methods and the data so collected. Commonly, the structured format of a questionnaire is used in quantitative research while an unstructured format of a questionnaire is used in qualitative research. In this regard, the research paper of syndicate 09 highlighted how a standardised structured questionnaire could be constructed to be used in interviews — when the researchers were not expert in conducting interviews — to enhance the reliability of the research method and the data so collected.

Fifthly, the research paper of syndicate 09 laid emphasis on the thematic analysis of the transcript of interviews and the responses given through the open-ended questionnaires. Thematic analysis is an area that has attracted substantial attention in recent years and is considered a mind-reading research technique (which can help a reader/researcher read the mind of a writer/speaker and perform an improved analysis and reach a better conclusion).

The research paper of syndicate 09 emphasised that if the technique of thematic analysis was taught to the researchers, only two interviews and two open-ended questionnaires could generate sufficient data to fulfil the total word count needs (10,000 words) of a research paper. The paper also pointed out that thematic analysis was what civil servants would be doing throughout their careers and hence its importance.Sixthly, the research paper of syndicate 09 established the importance of research ethics. The syndicate constructed and donated research ethics guidelines to the CSA to sensitise the probationers of the (forthcoming) 41st CTP of the importance of research ethics. The syndicate also donated the cover letter of the questionnaire to the CSA to modernise its research orientation.

Seventhly, by mentioning 255 footnotes, the research paper of syndicate 09 showed the way each sentence should be cited in the Turabian style to avoid plagiarism and prove the validity of the sentence. That is, in the literature review, research methodology and discussion sections, no sentence should be written without referencing it unless it is the writer’s own point of view or a description of results. Nevertheless, some researchers suggest that the same treatment should be given to the introduction section.

Ayesha Ashraf (President), Serein Asad (Co-President), and Uzair Ahmed (Secretary) of syndicate 09 worked very hard to update — whether recognised or not — the research orientation of the CSA. Support was provided by members Amna Tariq Shah, Dr Jahanzeb, Captain Muhammad Ajmal, Sarfraz Ahmed Gohar, Liaqat Ali, Muneeb Ahmed, Abdul Wahab, Muhammad Sarfraz Awan, Hafeez ullah Khan, Huma Ruqayya Safdar and Muhammad Waqas Maqsood. It is hoped that these probationers will also upgrade the research knowledge of their respective specialised training institutes. – DailyTimes