Research Proposal for Behavioural Sciences -A Procedural Analysis


Dr. V.K.Maheshwari, M.A(Socio, Phil) B.Sc. M. Ed, Ph.D

Former Principal, K.L.D.A.V.(P.G) College, Roorkee, India


When social scientists desire to conduct an experiment, they first develop a proposal. A proposal introduces the problem, purpose, and significance of a study as well as the experimenter’s research question and hypothesis. It also gives a brief explanation of the theory guiding the study, a review of relevant literature pertaining to the theory, and the procedure for the experiment.

The research proposal can be envisaged as the process (step by step guidelines) to plan and to give structure to the prospective research with the final aim of increasing the validity of the research. It is therefore a written submission to spell out in a logic format the nature of the design and the means and strategies that are going to be used.

Proposal writing stifles the creative process necessary to conduct good research The research proposal is a detailed description of how the study will be conducted that includes the study title and researcher names, statement of the research problem and research purpose, review of relevant literature, and the research question(s) or hypothesis(es).  The proposal also includes a formal description of the procedure to be used in the study that includes the information or variables to be gathered, the participants of the study and potential benefits or risks, the design and procedure for gathering data, what data gathering method(s) will be used, and how the data will be analyzed.

Before an attempt is made to start with a research project, a research proposal should be compiled. The synopsis should be between 1000 and 4000 words in length and must be typed in double spacing. Figures and tables may be included if considered absolutely necessary.

Purpose of a Proposal

The purpose of the proposal is to help you (as a student) to focus and define your research plans. These plans are not binding, in that they may well change substantially as you progress in the research. The proposal is expected to:

  • Develop your skills in thinking about and designing a comprehensive research study;
  • Establish a particular theoretical orientation
  • Establish your methodological approach, and Critically review, examine, and consider the use of different methods for gathering and analyzing data related to the research problem; and,
  • Improve your general research and writing skills;
  • Learn how to conduct a comprehensive review of the literature to ensure a research problem has not already been answered .
  • link your proposed work with the work of others, while proving you are acquainted with major schools of thought relevant to the topic
  • Nurture a sense of inquisitiveness within yourself and to help see yourself as an active participant in the process of doing scholarly research.
  • Practice identifying the logical steps that must be taken to accomplish one’s research goals;
  • Show that you are engaging in genuine enquiry, finding out about something worthwhile in a particular context
  • Show you have thought about the ethical issues.

A proposal should contain all the key elements involved in designing a completed research study, with sufficient information that allows readers to assess the validity and usefulness of your proposed study. The only elements missing from a research proposal are the findings of the study and your analysis of those results. Finally, an effective proposal is judged on the quality of your writing and, therefore, it is important that your writing is coherent, clear, and compelling.

Regardless of the research problem you are investigating and the methodology you choose, all research proposals must address the following questions:

  1. What do you plan to accomplish? Be clear and succinct in defining the research problem and what it is you are proposing to research.
  2. Why do you want to do it? In addition to detailing your research design, you also must conduct a thorough review of the literature and provide convincing evidence that it is a topic worthy of study. Be sure to answer the “So What?” question.
  3. How are you going to do it? Be sure that what you propose is doable. If you’re having trouble formulating a research problem to propose investigating.

General Structure of Research proposal

The synopsis / Research proposal  must be divided into subsections with titles.

Cover page- identifies topic, writer, institution and degree

  • Proposed thesis title (should be descriptive of focus, concise, eye-catching and preferably use keywords from international information retrieval systems).
  • Your name and qualifications.
  • Department, university and degree the proposal is for.
  • (Working) Title of your planned dissertation or research report.
  • Words in the title should be chosen with great care, and their association with one another must be carefully considered.
  • While the title should be brief, it should be accurate, descriptive and comprehensive, clearly indicating the subject of the investigation.
  • In order to develop a clear title, you must also be clear about the focus of your research!
    Strive for the title to be ten words or 60 characters: focus on or incorporate keywords that reference the classification of the research subject
  • Indicate a realistic time frame toward project completion, followed by the name(s) of your supervisor(s), the university department where you hope to do your research and, if applicable, information about other academics with whom you plan to collaborate.

Table of Contents

Lists sections of proposal and page references

  • Use a hierarchy for titles and subtitles
  • Use the numbering system as follows: 1; 1.1, 1.2…; 1.1.1, 1.1.2…;,…etc. (don’t use more than four digits)

Abstract/Summary statement of the Research Project

This one page summary focuses on the research topic, its new, current and relevant aspects. Strive for clarity; your greatest challenge might be narrowing the topic The abstract is a brief summary of the entire proposal, typically ranging from 150 to 250 words.

It is different from a thesis statement in that the abstract summarizes the entire proposal, not just

mentioning the study’s purpose or hypothesis. Therefore, the abstract should outline the proposal’s major headings: the research question, theoretical framework, research design, sampling method, instrumentation, and data and analysis procedures. A good abstract accurately reflects the content of the proposal, while at the same time being coherent, readable, and concise.

Do not add any information in the abstract that is not previously discussed throughout the proposal. Notice this paragraph is not indented; the abstract will be the only paragraph in the

entire proposal that is not indented. Because it highlights the entire proposal, it would be wise to wait and write the abstract last. This way, one merely has to reword information that was previously written.

Note-  Writing of Abstract is not essential for writing Research Proposal


The introduction explains in detail several components of the experiment that must be included in any proposal. After reading the Introduction, the reader should conclude why the experimenter is conducting the research and how this research will affect the academic community and society at large. For this paragraph in particular, it is sufficient to grab the reader’s attention, introduce the topic at hand, and provide a brief definition of the theory from which the study is based.

The introduction is the part of the  that research proposal  that provides   the background information for the research proposal. Its purpose is to establish a framework for the research.

In an introduction, the Investigator  , create  interest in the topic, lay the broad foundation for the problem that leads to the study, and place the study within the larger context of the scholarly literature.

If a researcher is working within a particular theoretical framework/line of inquiry, the theory or line of inquiry should be introduced and discussed  in the introduction . The theory/line of inquiry selected will include the statement of the problem, rationale for the study,  hypotheses, selection of instruments, and choice of methods. Ultimately, findings will be discussed in terms of how they relate to the theory/line of inquiry that undergirds the study.

In Quantitative studies,  use theory deductively and places it toward the beginning of the plan for a study. The objective is to test or verify theory.  Thus begins the study advancing a theory, collects data to test it, and reflects on whether the theory was confirmed or disconfirmed by the results in the study. The theory becomes a framework for the entire study, an organizing model for the research questions or hypotheses for the data collection procedure.

In qualitative inquiry, the use of theory and of a line of inquiry depends on the nature of the investigation. In studies aiming at “grounded theory,” for example, theory and theoretical tenets emerge from findings. Much qualitative inquiry, however, also aims to test or verify theory, hence in these cases the theoretical framework, as in quantitative efforts, should be identified and discussed early on.

The introduction should also include;

  • Background information relating to the social/political/historical/ educational (etc.) context of the study.
  • Historical, cultural, political, social or organisational information about the context of the research
  • A theoretical starting point or policy
  • Personal motivation
  • Problematise the current status quo
  • Need for the study/ Rationale follows from background to persuade the reader that the study is needed and will be useful/interesting.
  • Reference to a ‘gap’ in the research literature, to the need to apply certain ideas in a new context, or to the significance of your particular topic
  • Ways in which the study may be significant for the educational community may also be discussed

Background and Significance

This section can be melded into your introduction or you can create a separate section to help with the organization and narrative flow of your proposal. This is where you explain the context of your proposal and describe in detail why it’s important. Approach writing this section with the thought that you can’t assume your readers will know as much about the research problem as you do. Note that this section is not an essay going over everything you have learned about the topic; instead, you must choose what is relevant to help explain the goals for your study.

Key points:

  • Describe the major issues or problems to be addressed by your research.
  • Explain  plan to go about conducting your research. Clearly identify the key sources  intended to use and explain how they will contribute to the analysis of the topic.
  • If necessary, provide definitions of key concepts or terms.
  • Present the rationale of your proposed study and clearly indicate why it is worth doing.
  • Set the boundaries of  proposed research in order to provide a clear focus.
  • State the research problem and give a more detailed explanation about the purpose of the study than what you stated in the introduction.

Statement of the Problem

The  research forms a circle. It starts with a problem and ends with a solution to the problem. Problem statement is therefore the axis around  which the whole research revolves around, as  it explains in short the aim of the research. Prospective researchers can search within their own subject field for suitable problems. What should, however, be mentioned, is that not all identified problems within a scientific field of study is suitable for research.

The problem statement describes the context for the study and it also identifies the general analysis approach . It  refers to some difficulty that the researcher experiences in the context of either a theoretical or practical situation/ issue that exists in the literature, theory, or practice that leads to a need for the study”  and to which he/she wants to obtain a solution. The formulation of a problem is far more  essential than its solutions. To raise new questions, new possibilities, to comprehend  old problems from a new angle requires creative imagination and marks real advance in the related subject.

A good problem statement begins by introducing the broad area in which  research is centred and then gradually leads  to the more narrow questions .A problem statement should be presented within a context, and that context should be provided and briefly explained, including a discussion of the conceptual or theoretical framework in which it is embedded. Clearly and succinctly identify and explain the problem within the framework of the theory or line of inquiry that undergirds the study. This is of major importance in nearly all proposals and requires careful attention. It is essential in all quantitative research and much in  qualitative research.

State the problem in terms intelligible to someone who is generally sophisticated but who is relatively uninformed in the area of  investigation.In an experimental study (and even in some ethnographic research) the questions are one of the most important parts of the proposal. They should be carefully worded and measurable. For  testable hypotheses, write them as directional hypotheses  rather than in the null form The  research questions,  which  are not predicting an effect or relationship, simply label them as such and state them

The research problem should be stated in such a way that it would lead to analytical thinking on the part of the researcher with the aim of possibly concluding solutions to the stated problem.

The following aspects are important when formulating a research problem:

  • The research problem should always be formulated grammatically correct and as completely as possible. You should bear in mind the wording (expressions) you use. Avoid meaningless words. There should be no doubt in the mind of the reader what your intentions are.
  • Demarcating the research field into manageable parts by dividing the main problem into sub problems is of the utmost importance.

Delimitations of the Study

In this section a precise indication is given of the scope of the research with indication of the assumptions made, limitations and delimitations of the research before the research is started

A limitation identifies potential weaknesses of the study. Think about the analysis, the nature of self-report, the instruments, the sample. Think about threats to internal validity that may have been impossible to avoid or minimize—explain.

Delimitation addresses how a study will be narrowed in scope, that is, how it is bounded.

The Title

The title is usually only formulated after the research problem and subproblems have been stated in a more or less final format. The research project title should demarcate the following:

  • The WHO or/and WHAT is researched;
  • The WHERE;
  • The WHEN;
  • The HOW; and
  • An indication of the ENVISAGED SOLUTION

Definitions of  Terminology/Concepts and Terms used

The success of any research depends on unambiguity and clarity on each inherent aspect. The terms used must be related with the study in question. To make the things clear, the investigator  must define the terms in clear terms.

Indication of how the researcher interpreted and is going to use terminology/ concepts in the research report  is very important, because some concepts/terms are often used in different meanings by different authors.

Every research study involves certain key or technical terms which have some special connotation in the context of study; hence it is always desirable to define such key words. There are two types definitions,

(i)                  Theoretical / constitutive and

(ii)                (ii) Operational.

A constitutive definition elucidates a term and perhaps gives some more insight into the phenomena described by the terms. Thus, this definition is based on some theory. While an operational  definition is one which ascribes meaning to a concept by specifying the operations that must be performed in order to measure the concept. Apart from operational definitions, one can define some terms which have definite meaning with reference to particular investigation. The terms like Minimum Levels of Learning, Programmed Learning etc. can be define in particular context of research.

So avoid broad topic areas which would be unmanageable as research topics ,vague descriptions of research areas and subject areas where  University  has no expertise

In experimental research, it is essential that one defines the central ideas or concepts of the research study. Therefore, carefully define each concept/variable that will be used in the study, citing other research studies as much as needed. List each term, italicize it, and use a hyphen to define the term.

Variables :

Variables involved in the research need to be identified here. Their operational definitions should be given in the research proposal. Especially in study where experimental research is conducted, variables be specified with enough care. Their classification should be done in terms and dependent variables, independent variables, intervening variables, extraneous variables etc. Controlling of some variables need to be discussed at an appropriate stage in proposal.

Exploration of the Purpose of the Research

The researcher should indicate and defend why it is necessary to undertake the research. The benefits that will result from the research and to whom it will be beneficial should be indicated.

Identifying a clear purpose and creating a purpose statement helps determine how the research should be conducted, what research design to use, and the research  hypothesis(es) of your study.

Four general purposes for conducting educational research are to explore, describe, predict, or explain the relation between two or more educational variables.

  • Explore – an attempt to generate ideas about educational phenomenon
  • Describe – an attempt to describe the characteristics of educational phenomenon
  • Predict – an attempt to forecast an educational phenomenon
  • Explain – an attempt to show why and how an educational  phenomenon operates

The identification  of purpose of  study will help in determining  the research design  should follow.   Three research designs are mixed, qualitative, and quantitative paradigms

Research purpose  foreshadow the hypotheses to be tested or the questions to be raised, as well as the significance of the study. These will require specific elaboration in subsequent sections.

“The purpose statement should provide a specific and accurate synopsis of the overall purpose of the study” . If the purpose is not clear to the writer, it cannot be clear to the reader..  So briefly define and delimit the specific area of the research  The purpose statement can also incorporate the rationale for the study. Some committees prefer that the purpose and rationale be provided in separate sections.

Precautions when preparing a Purpose statement.

  • Clearly identify and define the central concepts or ideas of the study. Some committee Chairs prefer a separate section to this end. When defining terms, make a judicious choice between using descriptive or operational definitions.
  • Identify the specific method of inquiry to be used.
  • Identify the unit of analysis in the study.
  • Try to incorporate a sentence that begins with “The purpose of this study is . . .” This will clarify the mind  to the purpose and it will inform the reader directly and explicitly.

Review of the Literature

In this section, one presents what is so far known about the problem under investigation. Generally theoretical / conceptual frame work is already reported in earlier section. In this section researcher concentrates on studies conducted in the area of interest. here, a researcher will locate various studies conducted in his area and interest. Try to justify that all such located studies are related to your work.

This section of the proposal need not be equivalent to the literature review chapter of thesis  or dissertation. Again, two or three pages may suffice. The goal is not to give description of every study that has ever been conducted in the area, but to weave a careful overview of what has been done and how this study adds to existing knowledge

To conduct research regarding a topic, by implication means that the researcher has obtained sound knowledge with regard to the research topic. It is therefore imperative that the researcher, at the time of the submission of the research proposal, clearly indicates what theoretical knowledge he possesses about the prospective research. A literature search therefore will entail the literature the prospective researcher has already consulted.

An overview of the literature anticipates the background knowledge of the researcher and a possible classification of the content for the purpose of stating the research problem. This should also reveal the importance of the contemplated research. A literature search therefore simplifies the formulation of hypotheses for the researcher.

Explore the research literature to gain an understanding of the current state of knowledge pertaining to your research problem.  A review of prior research will inform about the research problem has already been explored (and if a revision or replication is needed), how to design  the study, what data collection methods to use, and how to make sense of the findings of the study once data analysis is complete. Reviewing prior research can also help with creating research questions, what population to explore, and laying the theoretical groundwork for the study.

“The review of the literature provides the background and context for the research problem. It should establish the need for the research and indicate that the investigator is knowledgeable about the area

The aims of a literature study are :

  • To give all-round perspectives on the latest research findings regarding the topic.
  • To indicate the best method, scale of measurements and statistics that can be used.
  • To interpret the research findings in a better way; and
  • To determine the relevancy of the prospective research.
  • To  shares with the reader the results of other studies that are closely related to the study  being reported .
  • To  relates a study to the larger, ongoing dialogue in the literature about a topic, filling in gaps and extending prior studies .
  • To  provides a framework for establishing the importance of the study, as well as a benchmark for comparing the results of a study with other findings.
  • To  “frames” the problem earlier identified.
  • To demonstrate  that the investigator have a comprehensive grasp of the field and are aware of important recent substantive and methodological developments.

In research proposal, the review of studies conducted earlier is reported briefly. There are two was of reporting the same. One way could be all such related studies be reported chronologically in brief indicating purpose, sample, tools and major findings. Of course, this will increase the volume of research proposal. Second studies with similar trends be put together and its important trend/s be highlighted. This is bit difficult, but innovative. Normally in review the surname of author and year in bracket is mentioned. There is also a trend to report studies conducted in other countries separately. It is left to guide and researcher whether such separate caption is necessary or not.

In qualitative research, this step is sometimes used throughout the research process or after data is collected (e.g., grounded theory research).

The most effective and efficient way to review prior research is to search educational journals through electronic computer databases .   Searching other library databases is also recommended.

It should further noted that the research design must be accompanied by a preliminary list of references consulted by the researcher during the preparation of the research proposal. The list should include the most recent publications on the research topic. It must however be emphasized that this reference list by no means is sufficient to complete the research project – it must be augmented during further literature searches as the research process continues.

The “five C’s” of writing a literature Review:

  1. Cite, so as to keep the primary focus on the literature pertinent to your research problem.
  2. Compare the various arguments, theories, methodologies, and findings expressed in the literature: what do the authors agree on? Who applies similar approaches to analyzing the research problem?
  3. Contrast the various arguments, themes, methodologies, approaches, and controversies expressed in the literature: what are the major areas of disagreement, controversy, or debate?
  4. Critique the literature: Which arguments are more persuasive, and why? Which approaches, findings, methodologies seem most reliable, valid, or appropriate, and why? Pay attention to the verbs you use to describe what an author says/does [e.g., asserts, demonstrates, argues, etc.].
  5. Connect the literature to your own area of research and investigation: how does your own work draw upon, depart from, synthesize, or add a new perspective to what has been said in the literature?

At the end of review, in research proposal, there should be conclusion. (Of course a separate caption like conclusion be avoided.) Here, the researcher shares the insights he has gained from the review. Also, on the basis of review he will justice the need of conducting present study. The researcher should conclude with following points :

What has been done so far in this area?

Where? (Area wise)

When? (Year wise)

How? (Methodology wise)


What needs to be done?


Thus, the researcher will identify the Research Gap‘.


Formulating Hypotheses

A hypothesis states  expectations concerning the relation between two or more variables in the research problem .  Usually, a hypothesis represents an extension of a purpose statement or research question by adding a prediction or explanation component.

The practice of using hypotheses was derived from using the scientific method in social science inquiry. They have philosophical advantages in statistical testing, as researchers should be and tend to be conservative and cautious in their statements of conclusions

A hypothesis is a tentative statement, that implies a proposed answer to a problem, setting accountability and responsibility of effective research procedure as high priority Hypotheses are thus tentative statements that should either be acknowledged or rejected by means of research.

Hypotheses are relevant to theoretical research and are typically used only in quantitative inquiry. When a writer states hypotheses, the reader is entitled to have an exposition of the theory that lead to them (and of the assumptions underlying the theory). Just as conclusions must be grounded in the data, hypotheses must be grounded in the theoretical framework.

Deciding whether to use questions or hypotheses depends on factors such as the purpose of the study, the nature of the design and methodology, and the audience of the research

A hypothesis represents a declarative statement of the relations between two or more variables  Hypotheses can be couched in four kinds of statements.

  • Literary null—a “no difference” form in terms of theoretical constructs. For example, “There is no relationship between support services and academic persistence of nontraditional-aged college women.” Or, “There is no difference in school achievement for high and low self-regulated students.
  • Operational null—a “no difference” form in terms of the operation required to test the hypothesis. The operational null is generally the preferred form of hypothesis-writing.
  • Literary alternative—a form that states the hypothesis you will accept if the null hypothesis is rejected, stated in terms of theoretical constructs. In other words, this is usually what you hope the results will show,
  • Operational alternative—Similar to the literary alternative except that the operations are specified.

Precautions  in Formulating a Hypothesis:

  • Hypotheses can only be formulated after the researcher has gained enough knowledge regarding the nature, extent and intensity of the problem.
  • Hypotheses should figure throughout the research process in order to give structure to the research.
  • Hypotheses are tentative statements/solutions or explanations of the formulated problem. Care should be taken not to over-simplify and generalize the formulation of hypotheses.
  • The research problem does not have to consist of one hypothesis only. The type of problem area investigated, the extent which encircles the research field are the determination factors on how many hypotheses will be included in the research proposal.

A research hypothesis is usually stated in an explanatory form, because it indicates the expected reference of the difference between two variables. ln other words it verifies the reference that the researcher expects by means of incorporating selected research procedures.

The research hypothesis may be stated in a directional or non-directional form. A directional hypothesis statement indicates the expected direction of results, while a no directional one indicates no difference or no relationship

In general, the null hypothesis is used if theory does not suggest a hypothesized relationship between the variables under investigation; the alternative is generally reserved for situations in which theory/research suggests a relationship or directional interplay.

Make a clear and careful distinction between the dependent and independent variables and be certain they are clear to the reader. Be excruciatingly consistent in your use of terms. If appropriate, use the same pattern of wording and word order in all hypotheses.

Criteria for the Formulation of a Hypothesis

A hypothesis should:

  • stand a test;
  • be expressed in clear language;
  • be in accordance with the general theme of other hypotheses statements in the same field of study, and should be regarded as valid;
  • be co-ordinated with the theory of science;
  • be a tentative answer to the formulated problem;
  • be logical and simplistic;
  • consider available research techniques (to be able to analyze and interpret the results);
  • be specific; and
  • be relevant to the collection of empirical phenomenon and not merely conclude value judgements.

Propose in Research Methods and Procedures

It is one task to generate a research question, it is quite another to determine an effective way to answer the question. First, we must decide to use a specific paradigm or mixture of paradigms. Each paradigm or research method has certain advantages and disadvantages and can be applied appropriately or inappropriately. The task of the proposal writer is to determine which method or combination of methods would be most effective to answer the research questions posed.

The methods or procedures section is really the heart of the research proposal. The activities should be described with as much detail as possible, and the continuity between them should be apparent

Indicate the methodological steps you will take to answer every question or to test every hypothesis illustrated in the hypotheses section.

All research is plagued by the presence of confounding variables .Confounding variables should be minimized by various kinds of controls or be estimated and taken into account by randomization processes. In the design section, indicate,   the variables to control and to control them, experimentally or statistically, and   the variables to be randomize, and the nature of the randomizing unit.

Be aware and anticipate possible sources of error and attempt to overcome them or take them into account in the analysis. Moreover, disclose the sources and identify the efforts to account for them.

•             Decide on the method, techniques and tools to use

•             Explain the rationale of each vis-à-vis the statement of the problems

•             Describe the tool development process or use of existing one

•             Describe how you will gather data for the study

•             Indicate the population, sample size and the sampling procedure.Explain the statistical methods to be used with rationale

Describe the overall research design by building upon and drawing examples from your review of the literature. Consider not only methods that other researchers have used but methods of data gathering that have not been used but perhaps could be. Be specific about the methodological approaches you plan to undertake to obtain information, the techniques you would use to analyze the data, and the tests of external validity to which you commit yourself [i.e., the trustworthiness by which you can generalize from your study to other people, places, events, and/or periods of time].

When describing the methods you will use, be sure to cover the following:

  • Specify the research operations you will undertake and the way you will interpret the results of these operations in relation to the research problem.
  • Keep in mind that a methodology is not just a list of tasks; it is an argument as to why these tasks add up to the best way to investigate the research problem. Mere listing of tasks to be performed does not demonstrate that, collectively, they effectively address the research problem. Be sure you explain this.
  • Anticipate and acknowledge any potential barriers and pitfalls in carrying out your research design and explain how you plan to address them. No method is perfect so you need to describe where you believe challenges may exist in obtaining data or accessing information.


The key reason for being concerned with sampling is that of validity—the extent to which the interpretations of the results of the study follow from the study itself and the extent to which results may be generalized to other situations with other people .

Sampling is critical to external validity—the extent to which findings of a study can be generalized to people or situations other than those observed in the study. To generalize validly the findings from a sample to some defined population requires that the sample has been drawn from that population according to one of several probability sampling plans. By a probability sample is meant that the probability of inclusion in the sample of any element in the population must be given a priori. All probability samples involve the idea of random sampling at some stage . In experimentation, two distinct steps are involved.

Random selection—participants to be included in the sample have been chosen at random from the same population. Define the population and indicate the sampling plan in detail.

Random assignment—participants for the sample have been assigned at random to one of the experimental conditions.

Another reason for being concerned with sampling is that of internal validity—the extent to which the outcomes of a study result from the variables that were manipulated, measured, or selected rather than from other variables not systematically treated. Without probability sampling, error estimates cannot be constructed .

Perhaps the key word in sampling is representative. One must ask oneself, “How representative is the sample of the survey population (the group from which the sample is selected) and how representative is the survey population of the target population (the larger group to which we wish to generalize)?”

When a sample is drawn out of convenience (a nonprobability sample), rationale and limitations must be clearly provided.

If available, outline the characteristics of the sample (by gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or other relevant group membership).

Detail procedures to follow to obtain informed consent and ensure anonymity and/or confidentiality.


Outline the instruments propose to be used (surveys, scales, interview, standardised tests observation  etc ). If instruments have previously been used, identify previous studies and findings related to reliability and validity. If instruments have not previously been used, outline procedures to develop and test their reliability and validity. In the latter case, a pilot study is nearly essential.

Because selection of instruments in most cases provides the operational definition of constructs, this is a crucial step in the proposal

  • Include an appendix with a copy of the instruments to be used or the interview protocol to be followed. Also include sample items in the description of the instrument.
  • For a mailed survey, identify steps to be taken in administering and following up the survey to obtain a high response rate.

Data Collection

Data gathering focuses on information acquisition that will attempt to answer the research questions or support the hypotheses.

Data gathering includes consideration about what variables to investigate, the unit of analysis or participants of the study (population and sample), human subject protections, procedures used for selecting participants, the methods and procedures used for data collection, and any reliability or validity of collection methods.

Outline the general plan for collecting the data. This may include survey administration procedures, interview or observation procedures. Include an explicit statement covering the field controls to be employed.

Provide a general outline of the time schedule you expect to follow.

Proposed Analysis of Data

Data or statistical analysis will depend on whether the collected quantitative data, qualitative data , or both.

For quantitative data, there are a variety of statistical analysis tools can be used to identify statistical relationships between variables.  For qualitative data, data analysis generally involves holistically identifying patterns, categories, and themes.

Bibliography : During preparation of proposal, researcher consults various sources like books, journals, reports, Ph.D. theses etc. All such primary / secondary sources need to be reported in the bibliography. Generally American Psychological Association – Publication Manual be followed to write references. All authors quoted in proposal need to be listed in bibliography. Authors who are not quoted but they are useful for further reading be also listed. Consistency and uniformity be observed in reporting references.

Timetable/Plan (may be part of Research Design)

  • Depicts the tasks proposed and the stages/times for their completion
  • This may take the form of a chart, timeline or flowchart (or any other)

Final  Editing of the Research Proposal

In this part we discuss some aspects of good academic writing.

Aspects of Academic writing

Although the research proposal is considered the preliminary planning of a research problem, it should comply with the following requirements:

•             It should preferably be typed in double spacing on size A4 paper.

•             A margin of 4cm is required on the left side of the paper.

Information-prominent and Author-prominent references

Swales  shows how you can decide whether to focus on the source of an idea or on the idea itself in your writing. He provides two categories of referencing: author prominent, where the author’s name appears in your sentence, or information prominent, where the author’s name appears only in parentheses (brackets).

Verb tense

The three tenses which appear most frequently are used in the following ways:

The present tense is used for: generalisation (in overviews, statements of main points); a statement which is generally applicable or which seems relevant; a statement made by you as writer; or to report the position of a theorist/ researcher to which you feel some proximity, either in time or allegiance.

The past tense is used to “claim non-generality about past literature” ; that is, it is used to report or describe the content, findings or conclusions of past research. The specificity of the study is thus emphasised. Past tense can be used in your methodology chapter to describe what you have done.

The present perfect is used to indicate that inquiry into the specified area continues, to generalise about past literature, or to present a view using a non-integral form of referencing.

The future tense is often used in the methodology section in a proposal to state intention. When you are describing what appears in your writing, use the present tense, not the future .

Referencing and Citing Conventions:

Note some very basic rules:

Book titles are in italics but only the first word (and the first word in subtitle) and proper nouns are capitalised

Journal names are in italics and capitalised – the volume number also appears in italics

The titles of articles in journals and chapters of books are in plain font and are not capitalised

• When a chapter of an edited book (one where the different chapters are written by different authors) is referenced, the chapter is treated in the same way as a journal article, but instead of the journal name, the book in which the chapter appears must also be referenced in the reference list entry. Note that the book is introduced by the word “In”, which is followed by the initials of the author (first) and then the family name. This is the reverse of what you do in the rest of the list, where the family name comes first and then the initials of the given name.

Facilitating  writing process

Discussion, concept maps, questions, note-taking techniques may all facilitate your writing. Using certain software (e.g., Endnote, NVivo, MS OneNote, EverNote) can also help.


It is a great help to your reader if you make a clearly signposted ‘map’ of your writing. You can do this by:

  • Repeating key words or further developing propositions from an earlier sentence in order to make clear the connection between the ideas discussed earlier and those discussed later.
  • Stating explicitly the points you will focus on in the introduction of a chapter or (for a longer piece) at the beginning of a major section; and
  • Using subheadings which indicate what you will focus on in that part of your writing.


The use of mapping or advance organisers is very important in a long piece of work. In such pieces of writing you may insert maps at strategic points (e.g. beginnings of chapters/sections) so that readers reorient themselves and know where they’re headed. For example look at the opening paragraph of section 4.

Useful Discourse Markers

The ways in which parts of your writing are related to other parts can be made clearer by using discourse markers, which can be grouped according to their function in the discourse. Here are some groups of markers that might help you when you need a little variety.

Ordering points or Sequencing

Firstly, …; secondly, …; finally,…

Adding something

Moreover, …; Furthermore,…; Further,…; In addition,…; Additionally,…

NOTE: “Besides” is mainly used in speaking

Comparing (Similarity)

Similarly,…; … likewise,…; equally,…

Comparing (difference – establishing contrast)

However,…; in fact,…; On the other hand,…; …, rather,…; In contrast, …; On the contrary,…; Nevertheless,…; Nonetheless,…; …, yet …; Despite…; In spite of…; Notwithstanding…

Introducing a Cause

As a result of…; Because of…; Because…; Owing to …; Due to…

Introducing a Result

Consequently…; Therefore…; Hence,…; As a result,…; Thus,…; So …; Then…


For example,…; For instance,…; Notably,…


In other words,…; that is,…; namely,…


In general, …; generally,…; on the whole,…


In summary,…; In conclusion,…

6. Common problems (Grammar, style, conventions)

Below are examples of some commonly confused words/expressions in academic writing. Can you think of more?

Et al. (and others)

Only one of these two words is abbreviated. Et is a whole word meaning and, while alii, a word meaning others, is abbreviated to al. (note the full stop/period mark.

Use of the ‘&’ sign

The &’ (ampersand) sign in referencing appears only in brackets or in the reference list at the end of your thesis.

Plurals and Singulars

  • Criterion/criteria
  • Datum/data (the data were categorised…)
  • Focus/foci (or focuses) (The foci of this study were…)
  • Phenomenon/phenomena (… was understood to be a phenomenon)
  • Research/information (used as non-countable nouns in the singular)

Often Confused Spelling


When these words mean influence, affect is used as a verb and effect is used as a noun.


Its is used when you are talking about something belonging to the thing you have already mentioned. It’s is a contraction or a shortened form of “It is” or “It has” – the apostrophe stands for the letter omitted.

That or which?

In academic writing, which often needs to very specifically define the issues that it is discussing, while the word “that” is used more frequently than “which”. Both these words introduce information that is related to a word or phrase that appeared earlier. “That” is used when you wish to specify more closely the defining characteristics of the word or phrase (the word or phrase that appeared earlier). “Which” is used to provide extra information rather than to specify or define. You need a comma before “which”, but not before “that” (“that” must stick to the word it is defining).

‘As’ and ‘that’

Many writers use both ‘as’ and ‘that’ to introduce what other authors are saying. They both mean the same thing, so you must choose only ONE of these words.

Hanging (dangling) Modifiers

  • In a sentence with two parts, the writer’s intention might be to give the reader one piece of information that can enlighten us about the other (main) part of the sentence. This extra information seems to remain hanging or dangling if the writer forgets to indicate clearly who is doing what in both parts of the sentence.
  • The rule is that if you have an –ing word at the beginning of the first part of the sentence, the action of that word must be carried out by the first word of the second part of the sentence.

The goal of a research proposal is to present and justify the need to study a research problem and to present the practical ways in which the proposed study should be conducted. The design elements and procedures for conducting the research are governed by standards within the predominant discipline in which the problem resides, so guidelines for research proposals are more exacting and less formal than a general project proposal. Research proposals contain extensive literature reviews. They must provide persuasive evidence that a need exists for the proposed study. In addition to providing a rationale, a proposal describes detailed methodology for conducting the research consistent with requirements of the professional or academic field and a statement on anticipated outcomes and/or benefits derived from the study’s completion.





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Dr. V.K.Maheshwari, M.A. (Socio, Phil) B.Sc. M. Ed, Ph.D.

Former Principal, K.L.D.A.V.(P.G) College, Roorkee,India

“Temporal notions in Europe were overturned by an India rooted in eternity. The Bible had been the yardstick for measuring time, but the infinitely vast time cycles of India suggested that the world was much older than anything the Bible spoke of. It seem as if the Indian mind was better prepared for the chronological mutations of Darwinian evolution and astrophysics.”

Guy Sorman, visiting scholar at Hoover Institution at Stanford and the leader of new liberalism in France

One answer to the question “What is time?” is that it is a collection of objects called “times” that ultimately reduce to relationships among events. A competing answer is that time is a substance, not a relationship among events. Before the creation of Einstein’s  theory of relativity, it might have been said that time must have these  characteristics for any event, or any pair of events   :

  • it specifies when it occurs.
  • it specifies its duration—how long it lasts.
  • it specifies what other events are simultaneous with it.
  • it specifies which happens first.

It was realized that these questions can get different answers in different frame of reference.

Time in Hindu mythology is conceived as a wheel turning through vast cycles of creation and destruction (pralaya), known as kalpa.

According to the Hindu theory of creation, time (Sanskrit ‘kal’) is a manifestation of God. Creation begins when God makes his energies active and ends when he withdraws all his energies into a state of inactivity. God is timeless, for time is relative and ceases to exist in the Absolute. The past, the present and the future coexist in him simultaneously.

In Hinduism time is known as kala. Kala means both time and death. Time is personified as the god of death, Yama, because death is a limiting factor in human life. Kala as god of death determines how long a person should live upon earth. So death and time are associated together. An individual’s time upon earth begins with his birth and ends with his death. However for the soul, there is no death. It has no time because it is without a beginning and without an end.

After a cycle of universal dissolution, the Supreme Being decides to recreate the cosmos so that we souls can experience worlds of shape and solidity. Very subtle atoms begin to combine, eventually generating a cosmic wind that blows heavier and heavier atoms together. Souls depending on their karma earned in previous world systems, spontaneously draw to themselves atoms that coalesce into an appropriate body.” – Prashasta Pada.

Surya Siddhanta: The Startlingly Accurate Astronomy Book of the 1st Millennium BC

Many people know Ravana,  in the Indian Epic the Ramayana; however, less well known are the incredible accomplishments of his father-in-law, King Maya. According to legend, the Hindu Sun god, Surya, revealed to Maya highly specific knowledge of the cosmos, presumably to allow the people of Earth to better worship him. This series of treatises is known as the Surya Siddhanta and it is the oldest book of astronomy known to exist. It is startlingly accurate.

However, the present version available is believed to be more than 2500 years old, which still makes it the oldest book on earth in Astronomy.

This book covers kinds of time, length of the year of gods and demons, day and night of god Brahma, the elapsed period since creation, how planets move eastwards and sidereal revolution. The lengths of the Earth’s diameter, circumference are also given. Eclipses and color of the eclipsed portion of the moon is mentioned.

Citation of the Surya Siddhanta is also found in the works of Aryabhata.

The work as preserved and edited by Burgess (1860) dates to the Middle Ages.

Utpala, a 10th-century commentator of Varahamihira, quotes six shlokas of the Surya Siddhanta of his day . The present version was modified by Bhaskaracharya during the Middle Ages.

The present Surya Siddhanta may nevertheless be considered a direct descendant of the text available to Varahamihira (who lived between 505–587 CE)

The Surya Siddhanta is an incredible testament to the advanced thinking of ancient Indians. In this text, one can find the roots of trigonometry as well as essential mathematical inventions such as standard notation and the decimal system. In addition, the text describes gravity over a millennium before Sir Isaac Newton developed his theory in 1687. It explains sidereal revolutions and how planets move eastward. It accurately calculates the size and position of distant planets, the length of a tropical year, and the amount of time that has passed since creation. Finally, in its discussion of how time passes at different rates under different circumstances, it contains the seeds for relativity.

Concept of Time

The tricky part about understanding Yugas in a historical context is that time is relative. Yugas pertaining to the mechanics of the universe and affairs of the gods have a different scale than those pertaining to human history.

Here is the definition given in Surya Siddhanta :

Time creates, maintains and destroys everything.
There are two types of time, finite and infinite.
Infinite time has no beginning or end.
We are currently aware only of finite time, which has beginnings and endings.

There are two types of finite time: practical and philosophical.
Measurable time is practical.
Time too small to be measured is “philosophical time.”

Practical time begins with a unit called “respiration” (prANa).
Philosophical time begins with an “atomic” unit (truTi).

. Surya Siddhanta is concerned only with practical time:

6 repirations = 1 “semi-pulse” (vinADI)
60 semi-pulses = 1 “pulse” (nADI)

A sidereal “day” (which includes the night), has 60 pulses.

There are 30 sidereal days in a month.
[Another system:] A “common” month instead has 30 sunrises.
[Another system:] A “lunar” month instead has 30 “phases” (tithi [relative distance of the Moon and Sun]).

A “tropical” month begins when the Sun enters a new zodiac sign.

There are 12 months in a year.

A year = 1 “day” for the gods.

Day for the gods is night for the anti-gods, and visa versa.
360 years = 1 “year” for the gods.

12,000 divine years = a “quadruple-age” (catur-yuga)
It is the same as 4,320,000 solar years.
These figures account for the “dawns” and “twilights” in the ages.

Each of the four ages in the quadruple-age possesses on less “foot” of the “bull” named dharma. The duration of each age (“yuga”) is a tenth of the catur-yuga multiplied by the number of legs the age possess. The durations of the twilight and dawn are each a 10th of this.

71 quadruple ages = 1 “patriarch-epoch” (manvantara)
The dawn and twilight of each manvantara is each equal to the length of Age 4, there is a catastrophic flood during this time.

14 patriach-epochs = 1 “aeon” (kalpa)
The aeon has its own dawn – the same length as Age 4 – so that there are 15 sets of transitional periods altogether in an aeon.

An aeon is thus equivalent to the duration of 1,000 quadruple-ages.

Everything is destroyed at the end of an aeon.

1 aeon = 1 daytime for Brahma (the creator), and his night is the same length

He lives for 100 years of such days and nights.
Half his life is past, and we are now in the first aeon of his second half [i.e. the first day” of his 50th “year”]

In this aeon, six patriarch-epochs have past, along with their transitions.
In the seventh patriarch-epochs (where the partiarch is named Vaivasvata) 27 quadruple-ages have past.

In this 28th quadruple-age, Age 1 has already passed.
Try to calculate the time that has passed till now!

From the beginning of the current day of Brahma, he spent 47,400 years setting up the creation of plants, stars, gods, anti-gods, etc.

The Surya Siddhanta also goes into a detailed discussion about time cycles and that time flows differently in differently circumstances, the roots of relativity. Here we have a perfect example of Indian philosophy’s belief that science and religion are not mutually exclusive.

This work shows that spirituality is all about the search for Truth (Satya) and that Science is as valid a path to God as living in a monastery. It is the search for ones own personal Truth that will lead one ultimately to God.

The astronomical time cycles contained in the text were remarkably accurate at the time.

That which begins with respirations (prana) is called real…. Six respirations make a vinadi, sixty of these a nadi

And sixty nadis make a sidereal day and night. Of thirty of these sidereal days is composed a month; a civil (savana) month consists of as many sunrises

A lunar month, of as many lunar days (tithi); a solar (saura) month is determined by the entrance of the sun into a sign of the zodiac; twelve months make a year. This is called a day of the gods. (Day at North Pole)

The day and night of the gods and of the demons are mutually opposed to one another. Six times sixty of them are a year of the gods, and likewise of the demons. (Day and Night being six months each at South Pole)

Twelve thousands of these divine years are denominated a chaturyuga; of ten thousand times four hundred and thirty-two solar years Is composed that chaturyuga, with its dawn and twilight. The difference of the kritayuga and the other yugas, as measured by the difference in the number of the feet of Virtue in each, is as follows:

A- The tenth part of a chaturyuga, multiplied successively by four, three, two, and one, gives the length of the krita and the other yugas: the sixth part of each belongs to its dawn and twilight.

B. One and seventy chaturyugas make a manu; at its end is a twilight which has the number of years of a kritayuga, and which is a deluge.

C. In a kalpa are reckoned fourteen manus with their respective twilights; at the commencement of the kalpa is a fifteenth dawn, having the length of a kritayuga.

D. The kalpa, thus composed of a thousand chaturyugas, and which brings about the destruction of all that exists, is a day of Brahma; his night is of the same length.

E. His extreme age is a hundred, according to this valuation of a day and a night. The half of his life is past; of the remainder, this is the first kalpa.

F. And of this kalpa, six manus are past, with their respective twilights; and of the Manu son of Vivasvant, twenty-seven chaturyugas are past;

G. Of the present, the twenty-eighth, chaturyuga, this kritayuga is past..

Beliefs of Hinduism associated with time

Here are some important beliefs of Hinduism associated with time as an aspect of creation.

1. Perceives time as cyclical. This is based on our own experience of time in terms of days and nights. We see this cyclical pattern in days, weeks, months, years, seasons and yugas or epochs. So from this perspective, time is a never-ending cyclical process, which is both repetitive and exhaustive. In a sense it is limited. In another it is eternal. From a spiritual perspective, time exists when we are in a state of duality but disappears when we enter into the state of unity or samadhi.

2. Each time-cycle has three components, srishti, sthithi and laya. Srishthi means creation. Sthithi means continuation and laya means dissolution. Each time cycle begins with creation, continues for certain duration of time and then dissolves into nothingness. After a brief respite, the cycle begins all over again. These three aspects of time are under the control of the Trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Siva. Brahma is responsible for creation, Vishnu for existence and Siva for dissolution. We can see the same divisions in a day also. Each day is created in the early hours, continues throughout the day and then finally dissolves into darkness. We can see the same pattern in life also, as childhood, adulthood and old age.

3. The Hindu calculation of time comes to us from sage Ganita who is mentioned in the Manusmriti and the Mahabharata. He calculated the duration of each cycle of creation in human years. He divided the cosmic time into Kalpas, which is a day and night in the time and space of Brahma. It is considered to be equal to 8.64 billion years (Vishnu Purana). Each Kalpa consists of two Artha Kalpas of 4.32 billion years each. They are the day and night of Brahman. Each Kalpa is further divided into 1000 maha yugas. Each maha yuga is again divided into four yugas, namely krita yuga, treat yuga, dvapara yuga and kali yuga. Their duration varies. Krita yuga the first in the series has the longest duration of 1.728 million years and kali yuga, which is the last and the current, has a duration of only 432000 years.

4. The lifespan of Brahma is considered 100 Brahma years, which is known as Maha Kalpa or Parardha. It is equal to 311.04 trillion human years.

5. A day in the life of gods is equal to one year upon earth. It is divided into day and night. The day is known as uttarayana and the night as dakshinayana. They are equal to 180 days each.

6. In Hindu tradition there is another division of time called manvantara. A manavantara is the period during which the earth is ruled by a particular Manu, the father of man. The word ‘man’ comes from the Sanskrit word Manu. According to tradition, a new Manu manifests at the beginning of each manvantara to produce a new race of human beings. Each manvantara lasts for about 71 mahayugas or approximately 308 million years. In each manvantara along with Manu appear seven seers or rishis and one Indra. In all 14 Manus appear in each Kalpa over a period of 1000 mahayugas in succession. The current Manu is 7th in the line and is known as Vaivasvata Manu.

7. The current yuga or epoch is known as Kaliyuga. It is the last in the cycle of the current mahayuga or great epoch. Its calculated duration is 432000 years.

Time as a coefficient of all consciousness

The Indian philosophers are of opinion that time is a coefficient of all consciousness including external perception and internal perception. They do not recognize the perception of time as an independent entity. They believe that time is related to events or changes, and succession and duration are the two important constituents of time. They derive the perception of succession from the perception of changes, and the perception of duration from the perception of the ” specious present “. They regard the perception of the “specious present “as the nucleus of all our time-consciousness. They derive the conception of the past and the future from the perception of the ” specious present ” in which there is an echo of the immediate past and a foretaste of the immediate future. In it there is a rudimentary consciousness of the past and the future which are clearly brought to consciousness by memory and expectation respectively

The Indian philosophers discuss quite comprehensively the problems of temporal perception. The first question that arises in connection with temporal perception is whether time is an object of perception or not. According to the Vedantist philosophers, time is a coefficient of all perception. The Bhatta Mlmamsaka philosophers and Naiyayika philosophers too hold that time is perceived by both the external and the internal sense-organs as a qualification of their objects of perception.

Visual perception of time

Jayanta Bhatta has discussed the possibility of the visual perception of time. Can time be an object of visual perception ? According to the philosophers of Vaisesika philosophy, an object of visual perception must have extensity or appreciable magnitude (mahattva) and manifest or sensible colour (udbhutarupa). But time is colourless. How, then, can it be an object of visual perception ? But the Naiyayika philosophers argues : How is colour perceived though it is colourless ? Certainly an object has colour which inheres in it ; but colour itself has no colour inhering in it. And if colour can be perceived, though it is colourless, then time also can be an object of visual perception, though it is colourless. Jayanta Bhatta says that time is perceived through the visual organ ; it is a fact of experience, and so it cannot be denied, though we may not account for it as a fact of experience cannot be argued out of existence. As a matter of fact, that is visible which can be perceived through the visual organ, be it coloured or colourless ; and time can be perceived through the visual organ, though it is colourless hence none can deny the visual perception of time,

Ramakrsnadhvarin, the author of Sikhamani rightly points out that if we deny the visual perception of time because it is colourless, we cannot account for our visual perception of an object as existing at present, e.g. ” the jar exists now ” (idanlrh ghato vartate). If the present time were not an object of this perception, then there would be no certainty as to the time in which the jar is perceived to exist, but there would be a doubt whether the jar exists at present or not. But, in fact, the jar is definitely perceived as existing now; the actual perception of the jar is not vitiated by the least doubt whether the jar exists at present or not. Such an undoubted perception of an object as existing “now ” clearly shows that besides the object, an element of time also, viz. the present time, enters into the visual perception of the object.

But if time is regarded as an object of visual perception, though it is colourless, because of our visual perception of an object as existing ” now “, then it may equally be argued that akasa (ether) also is an object of visual perception, because of our visual perception of a row of herons in akasa (akase valaka). But akasa is not admitted to be an object of perception  it is regarded as a supersensible object which is inferred from sound as its substrate.  And if, in spite of our visual perception of a row of herons in akasa (akase valaka} akasa is not regarded as an object of visual perception, or of any kind of perception, whatsoever, then why should time be regarded as an object of visual perception, because of our visual perception of an object as existing ” now ” ?

It may be argued that the visual perception of a row of herons in akasa is an acquired perception like the visual perception of fragrant sandal. Just as in the visual perception of fragrant sandal the visual presentation of the sandal (i.e. its visual qualities) is blended with the representation of its fragrance perceived by the olfactory organ on a previous occasion and revived in memory by the sight of the sandal, so in the visual perception of a row of herons in akasa the visual perception of the row of herons (valdka) is blended with the idea of akasa which is represented to consciousness by another cognition by association, and so akasa is not an object of visual perception. But if this argument is valid, then it may as well be argued that the element of time which enters into every perceptive process is not an object of perception, but it is represented in consciousness by another cognition, with which it is associated in experience, and thus the element of time entering into every perception is not an object of direct perception.

The truth is that the visual perception of an object as existing ” now ” is not an acquired perception like the acquired perception of fragrant sandal, because in this perception the element of time (now) is felt as an object of direct visual perception  nor is it like the visual perception of a row of herons in akasa because akasa does not enter into the perception as a qualification (visesana} of its object. The present time is perceived as a qualification of every object of perception. Whenever an object, event, or action is perceived, it is not perceived as timeless, but as existing or occurring in time, or qualified by the present time.

And time is not only an object of visual perception, but of all kinds of perception. It is perceived by all the sense-organs, external and internal, as a qualification of their objects.  Here we are reminded of Kant’s doctrine that time is the form of external and internal perception.

Perception of Time as an Independent Entity

But though time is an object of perception, it is never perceived as an independent entity. One of the essential characteristics of time is succession, and succession is never perceived apart from changes. So we can never perceive time apart from actions or changes which occur In time. The temporal marks of before and after, sooner and later, etc., are never perceived apart from actions or changes. And if there is no distinct perception of time apart from that of changes, is it not natural to conclude that there is no perception of time, but only a perception of changes? Is time nothing but change or action ? Some hold that time apart from action is a fiction of imagination; time is identical with action or change ; time and action are synonymous. Hence there is no perception of time at all, but only that of actions(karyamatravalambana).

The Naiyayika philosopfers admits that there is no perception of time apart from that of actions. But from this it does not follow that there is no perception of time at all ; for an element of time always enters into the perception of actions as a constituent factor  actions are never perceived without being qualified by time ; actions unqualified by time or timeless actions are never perceived. The perception of time is inseparable from the perception of actions  but they are not identical with each other. Hence the legitimate conclusion is that time cannot be perceived as an independent entity, but only as a qualifying adjunct (visesana) of events or actions ; there is no perception of empty time devoid of all sensible content, but only of filled time or time filled with some sensible matter. Just as there is no perception of mere actions unqualified by time, so there is no perception of empty time devoid of all sensible content. When we perceive succession or simultaneity, sooner or later, we do not perceive mere actions, but we perceive something else which qualifies these actions, and that is time. Time, therefore, is perceived not as an independent entity, but as a qualification of the objects of perception ; there is no perception of empty time.

But it may be seen that,if time is an object of perception, why is it perceived not as an independent entity, but only as a qualification of perceptible objects ? Jayanta Bhatta says that it is the very nature of time (vastusvalhava] that it can be perceived only as a qualification of perceptible objects. This is the final limit of explanation. We can never account for the ultimate nature of things.

So time is an object of perception. The Bhatta Mlmaiiisaka also admits that time cannot be perceived by the sense-organs as an independent entity, but it is perceived by all the sense-organs as aqualification (visesana) of their own objects.

This psychological analysis of the perception of time is parallel to that of William James. ” We have no sense,” he says, ” for empty time. . . . We can no more intuit a duration than we can Intuit an extension devoid of all sensible content”  Kant’s notion of a pure intuition of time without any sensible matter is psychologically false.

Perception of the Present

Time could be linear or closed. Linear time might have a beginning or have no beginning; it might have an ending or no ending. There could be two disconnected time streams, in two parallel worlds; perhaps one would be linear and the other circular. There could be branching time, in which time is like the letter “Y”, and there could be a fusion time in which two different time streams merge into one. Time might be two dimensional instead of one dimensional. For all these topologies, there could be discrete time or continuous time.

Some deny the existence of the present time and consequently of the perception of the present. When a fruit falls to the ground, it is detached from its stalk and comes gradually nearer and nearer to the ground, traversing a certain space and gradually passing from one position to another, say, from A to B  from B to R, and so on until it comes to the ground. When the fruit has passed from A to B  the space between A and B is the space traversed, and the time related to that traversed space is that which has been passed through (patitakala or the past) ; and when the fruit will pass from B to R, the space between B and C is the space to be traversed, and the time related to this space is that which is to be passed through (patitavyakala or the future)  and apart from these two spaces, the traversed space and the space to be traversed, there is no third space left intervening between them which may be perceived as being traversed and give rise to the perception of the present time. So the present time does not exist. Here by the present time is meant the mathematical time-point which is the boundary line between the past and future. But such a time- point is never an object of actual perception. Hence there is no present time at all.  This argument reminds us of Zeno’s dialectic against the possibility of motion.

Vatsyayana rightly points out that time cannot be conceived in terms of space but only in terms of action.  Thus Vatsyayana  holds that there can be no spatial representation of time. According to him, time is perceived as qualifying an action  an action is perceived as occurring in time. When, for instance, the action of falling has ceased, and is no more, it is perceived as past ; and when the action of falling is going to happen and not yet commenced, it is perceived as future ; and when the action of falling is going on, it is perceived as present. Thus time- consciousness is found in the perception of action. When an action is no more it is perceived as past , when it is not yet begun, it is perceived as future ; and when it is going on  it is perceived as present.

If an action is never perceived as going on, how can it be perceived as no more or as not yet ? For instance, if the action of falling is not perceived as going on, how can it be perceived as having ceased, or as going to happen ? As a matter of fact, what is meant by the past time or the time ” that has been fallen through ” (patttakala] in the present case, is that the action of falling is over or no more and what is meant by the future time or the time ” to be fallen through ” (patitavyaksla) is that the action of falling is going to happen and not yet begun, so that at both these points of time, past and future, the object is devoid of action ; but when we perceive that the fruit is in the process of falling, we perceive the object in action. Thus time is perceived not in terms of space but in terms of actions  when they are perceived as going on or in the process of happening, they are perceived as present , when they are perceived as over or no more, they are perceived as past, and when they are perceived as going to happen and not yet begun, they are perceived as future. The consciousness of the present is the nucleus of the”  consciousness of the past and the future  the past and the future are built upon the present. Time is perceived only through an action ; the actual happening of an action is perceived as present ; and unless an action is perceived as happening or present, it can never be perceived as past or future, inasmuch as the action does not really exist in the past or in the future but only in the present. Hence the perception of the present cannot be denied as all our time- consciousness is centred in it.

The whole controversy hinges on the meaning of the present time. Vatsyayana takes it in the sense of the ” specious present ” or felt present .which is a tract of time. His opponent takes It in the sense of the mathematical time-point or indivisible instant which is never a fact of actual experience. Vatsyayana is right in so far as he gives a psychological explanation of the specious present which is the basis of our conception of the past and future.

The one issue upon which philosophers are deeply divided: What sort of ontological differences are there among the present, past and future? There are three competing theories. Presentists argue that necessarily only present objects and present experiences are real, and we conscious beings recognize this in the special “vividness” of our present experience. So, the dinosaurs have slipped out of reality. However,  the past and present are both real, but the future is not real because the future is .The third point of view is that there are no objective ontological differences among present, past, and future because the differences are merely subjective. This view  can be called eternalism.”

Time may be viewed either as one-dimensional or as bi-dimensional. Either it may be regarded as having only linear extension or succession, or it may be regarded as having simultaneity and succession both.

The Vedantist philosophers and some Naiyayika philosophers hold that the sensible present is not a mathematical point of time but has a certain duration ; the sensible present is a tract of time extending over a few moments it is an extended present or the ” specious present ” (vitata evakalah). According to them the ” specious present” having a certain duration yields us one unitary presentation without flickering of attention.

According to Prabhakara, in the consciousness ” I know this ” (aham idam janami) there is a simultaneity of three presentations, viz. the presentation of the knower , the presentation of the known object (this)) and the presentation of knowledge (or the relation between the knower and the known). This is Prabhakara’s doctrine of Triputl Samvit or triple consciousness.

Some Naiyayika philosophers hold that sometimes the present is perceived as extended or with a certain duration, for instance, when we perceive a continuous action, e.g. cooking, reading, etc. The sensible present is not momentary, but has a certain length of duration (vartamanaksano dtrghah) ; it is not made up of a single moment, but composed of a number of moments (ndndksanaganatmaka).

The Naiyayikaphilosophers  and the Vedantist philosophers  hold that a continuous and uniform impression bears clear testimony to the unbroken and uninterrupted existence of its object ; and consequently, it apprehends an extended present with a certain duration.

Some Naiyayika philosophers and the Vedantist philosophesr clearly recognize the importance of duration apart from which succession has no meaning. The Buddhist philosophers have argued that a presentation cannot apprehend the past and the future as they are not presented to consciousness ; it can apprehend only the present which is constituted by a single moment. The Naiyayika philosophers urges that even a momentary glance (nimesa-drsti] can apprehend the continued existence of an object. Why should, then, perception be regarded as apprehending the instantaneous present ?  Even supposing that a momentary glance cannot apprehend the past and the future, but only the present, what is the span of the present time perceived by a continuous and uniform impression (animesa-drsti} ? Is it a time-point or a tract of time ? Is it an instant or a length of duration ? The sensible present continues as long as the continuous and uniform impression persists without an oscillation of attention, and as long as it is not interrupted by another impression ; so that this single unitary presentation apprehends not an instantaneous present but a lengthened or extended present with a certain duration.

Most philosophers  believe time travel is physically possible. To define the term, we can say that in time travel, the traveller’s journey as judged by the traveller’s correct clock takes a different amount of time than the journey does as judged by the correct clocks of those who do not take the journey. The physical possibility of travel to the future is well accepted, but travel to the past is more controversial, and time travel that changes the future or the past is generally considered to be impossible.

You may have heard the remark that you have no time to take a spaceship ride across the galaxy since it is 100,000 light years across. So, even if you were to travel at just under the speed of light, it would take you over 100,000 years. Who has that kind of time? This remark contains a misunderstanding about time dilation. This is 100,000 years as judged by clocks that are stationary relative to Earth, not as judged by your clock. If you were in the spaceship that accelerated quickly to just under the speed of light, then you and your clock might age hardly at all as you traveled across the galaxy. In fact, with a very fast spaceship, you have plenty of time to go anywhere in the universe you wish to go.

Indian philosophers also believe the difference in time dimensions in other planes .we can find references of travelling to different planes and outer space and its impact on time status,in many mythology  events,(like marriage episode of Balram, the brother of Lord Krishna , with Raveti, the daughter of King Raivat, who just returned from Swarga after one month and find one complete yuga has passed here.)

A psychological investigation must not be guided by metaphysical speculation ; but metaphysics must be based on psychology. Psychologically considered, there is no mathematical point of time, but only a tract of time. That time must be regarded as present which is grasped by a single continuous impression without a break or interruption. And such an unbroken and uninterrupted impression apprehends the present as an unbroken and uninterrupted block or duration of time. Hence the sensible present is not an instant, but has a length of duration.

An object is apprehended by consciousness as having a continued existence. A pulse of consciousness, though existing at present can apprehend the past as well as the future as past and future.  The feeling of the past is not a past feeling and the feeling of the future is not a future feeling. For instance, a present recollection apprehends the past ; a present flash of intuition (pratibha jnana) apprehends the future ; and a present inference apprehends both the past and the future.

The Naiyayika philosophers  replies that peripheral action does not exist for a moment, but continues for some time. The perception of an object depends upon the intercourse of a sense-organ with an object, and this intercourse is not momentary, but persists for some time ;peripheral stimulation is not a momentary act, but a somewhat prolonged process ; and consequently perception does not apprehend an instant or a ” time-point “, but a tract of time with a certain duration,

Vatsyayana says that sometimes the present is perceived as unmixed with the past and the future, for instance, when we perceive that a substance exists. And sometimes the present is perceived as mixed up with the past and the future, for instance, when we perceive the continuity of an action, e.g. cooking, cutting, etc. Thus Vatsyayana admits that the present is sometimes perceived as having a certain duration.

According to the Vedantist phjlosophers , too, a continuous and uniform impression (dharavahikaluddhi] is a single unitary psychosis with a certain duration ; it is not a series of momentary impressions in rapid succession, as the Buddhist philosophers hold. In the continuous impression of a jar the mental mode which assumes the form of the jar is one and undivided as long as the jar is presented to consciousness without any flickering of attention, and is not interrupted by another psychosis. It is not made up of many momentary psychoses, because according to the Vedantist philosophers , a psychosis continues in the field of consciousness as long as the mind does not assume the form of a different object. So the Vedantist also admits that a continuous and uniform presentation does not apprehend an instantaneous present, but an extended present with a certain duration. Thus the Vedantist philosophers and some Naiyayika philosophers hold that the sensible present has duration, while the Buddhist philosophers hold that the sensible present is instantaneous or momentary. Certainly the former view is psychologically correct. The Buddhists deny the  specious present ” because it contradicts their fundamental doctrine of impermanence or momentariness.

The practically cognized present is no knife-edge, but a saddle- back, with a certain breadth of its own on which we sit perched, and from which we look in two directions into time. The unit of composition of our perception of time is a duration with a bow and a stern, as it were, a rearward and a forward looking end.”

Time is a real however it has many facets and it may not be possible to nail down our perception of time to any single one.

Is time more like a straight line or instead more like a circle? If your personal time were circular, then eventually you would be reborn. With circular time, the future is also in the past, and every event occurs before itself. If your time is like this, then the question arises as to whether you would be born an infinite number of times or only once.

Indian philosophers strongly believe the essentiality of time as a dimension for the existence. That is why they believe in the existence of past , present and future. According to them past provide base and future is the by-product of present. Time is continuity. Remotely it appears that this concept of time gave the base to the theory of reincarnation and rebirth.

The present is a fleeting moment; whatever is happening now (present) is confined to an infinite simply narrow point on the time line which is being encroached upon by what we think of as the past and the future. Present resembles the sharp point of a recording laser or needle; it may be mental awareness of the recording  of memory as it is being inscribed into our brain..

Unlike the present we see past and future as measurable durations of time. Past historical events,  are all measurable durations or extensions in time, just like a recorded material on tape. This similarity suggests that past is just a recorded memory, while future can be compared to an unrecorded tape. Historical events have in them the same time characteristic as stories that are just creations of human imagination. Both contain in them the time concepts of earlier, the later, the past present and the future; this again suggests that past really is similar to memory of events.

Future appears to be a projection created by our past experiences stored in our memory. The fact that the present which gives us the most real feel of time cannot be measured while the inaccessible past and future can be measured as durations strongly suggest that the way we perceive time is an illusion. Time is most likely is a concept created by our mind by merging consciousness, memories, anticipation, perception, change and motion. There however is a real underlying process and there is a cause for this process the Time is a real phenomenon a continuous change through which we live. Time becomes evident through motion; sunrise sunsets, night and day, the changing seasons, the movement of the celestial bodies all is indicative of continuous change.

The Hindu holy book, the Rig Veda (X:129), has a much more realistic view of the matter:
“Who knows for certain? Who shall here declare it?
Whence was it born, whence came creation?
The gods are later than this world’s formation;
Who then can know the origins of the world?
None knows whence creation arose;
And whether he has or has not made it;
He who surveys it from the lofty skies,
Only he knows- or perhaps he knows not.”

(source: Broca’s Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science – By Carl Sagan p. 106 – 137).


A Manual of Psychology., second edition, 1910,

Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology,

James -Principles of Psychology,

Ladd -Psychology Descriptive and Explanatory ,

Nyayabindu of Dharmakirti (Benares, 1924).

Nyayabhasya of Vatsyayana (Jlvananda’s edition, Calcutta, 1919).

Nylyamanjari of Jayanta. (V.S.S., Benares, 1895

Nyayavartika of Udyotkara (B.L, 1887-1904).

NyayavartikatatparyatikS of Vacaspati Misra (V.S.S., Benares),

Vivaranaprameyasarngralia of Madhavacarya Vidyaranya

Vivaranaprameyasarngralia of Madhavacarya Vidyaranya (V.S.S,, Benares, 1893).





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Samkhya Yoga Darshan- The Classical Indian Philosophy


Dr. V.K.Maheshwari, M.A(Socio, Phil) B.Sc. M. Ed, Ph.D

Former Principal, K.L.D.A.V.(P.G) College, Roorkee, India


Samkhya, also Sankhya, Sāṃkhya, or Sāṅkhya (Sanskrit: सांख्य, : sāṃkhya – ‘enumeration’) is one of the six schools of classical Indian philosophy. Sage Kapila is traditionally considered as the founder of the Samkhya school, although no historical verification is possible. It is regarded as one of the oldest philosophical systems in India.This is the most significant system of philosophy that India has produced.”  Professor Garbe, who devoted a large part of his life to the study of the Sankhya, consoled himself with the thought that “in Kapila’s doctrine, for the first time in the history of the world, the complete independence and freedom of the human mind, its full confidence in its own powers, were exhibited.”

Its earliest extant literature, the Sankhya-karika of the commentator Ishvara Krishna,dates back only to the fifth century A.D., and the Sankbya-sutras once attributed to Kapila are not older than our fifteenth century; but the origins of the system apparently antedate Buddhism itself.  The Buddhist texts and the Mahabharata  repeatedly refer to it, and Winternitz finds its influence in Pythagoras.

Kapila is  once a realist and a scholastic. He begins almost medically by laying it down, in his first aphorism, that “the complete cessation of pain … is the complete goal of man.” He rejects as inadequate the at- tempt to elude suffering by physical means; he refutes, with much logical prestidigitation, the views of all and sundry on the matter, and then proceeds to construct, in one unintelligibly abbreviated sutra after another, his own metaphysical system. It derives its name from his enumeration of the twenty-five Realities (Tattivas, “Thatnesses”) which, in Kapila’s judgment, make up the world.

The Samkhya philosophy combines the basic doctrines of Samkhya and Yoga. However it should be remembered that the Samkhya represents the theory and Yoga  represents the application or the practical aspects.

The Sankhya system is based on Satkaryavada. According to Satkaryavada, the effect pre-exists in the cause. Cause and effect are seen as different temporal aspects of the same thing – the effect lies latent in the cause which in turn seeds the next effect.

The Sankhya system is  an exponent of an evolutionary theory of matter beginning with primordial matter. In evolution, Prakriti is transformed and differentiated into multiplicity of objects. Evolution is followed by dissolution. In dissolution the physical existence, all the worldly objects mingle back into Prakriti, which now remains as the undifferentiated, primordial substance. This is how the cycles of evolution and dissolution follow each other.

Samkhya is dualistic realism. It is dualistic because it advocates two ultimate realities: Prakriti, matter and Purusha, self (spirit). Samkhya is realism as it considers that both matter and spirit are equally real.  According to Samkhya the cause is always subtler than the effect.

Prakriti is the non-self.  It is devoid of consciousness Prakriti is unintelligible and gets greatly influenced by the Purusha, the self.  It can only manifest itself as the various objects of experience of the Purusha

Prakriti is constituted of three gunas, namely sattvarajas and tamas. The term guna, in ordinary sense means quality or nature. But here, it is to be understood in the sense of constituent (component) in Samkhya. Sattva is concerned with happiness. While rajas is concerned with action, tamas is associated with ignorance and inaction.

Sattva is the guna whose essence is purity, fineness and subtlety. Rajas is concerned with the actions of objects.

Tamas is the constituent concerned with the inertia and inaction. In material objects, it resists motion and activity.

Samkhya maintains that the three gunas of Prakriti are also associated with all the world-objects. Prakriti is the primordial and ultimate cause of all physical existence. Naturally the three gunas which constitute Prakriti also constitute every object of the physical world. Prakriti is never static. Even before evolution, the gunas are relentlessly changing and balancing each other. As a result, Prakriti and all the physical objects that are effected or produced by Prakriti, are also in a state of constant change and transformation. This is further confirmed by the scientists today.( It is now proved beyond doubt that ultra-minute particles of objects – like electrons – are in a state of incessant motion and transformation.)

According to Samkhya, the efficient cause of the world is Purusha and the material cause is the Prakriti. Here Purusha stands for the ‘Supreme spirit’ and Prakriti stands for ‘matter’. Purusha (spirit) is the first principle of Samkhya. Prakriti is the second, the material principle of Samkhya.

Prakriti is the material cause of the world. Prakriti is dynamic. Its dynamism is attributed to its constituent gunas. The gunas are not only constituents, nor are they simply qualities. The gunas are the very essence of PrakritiGunas are constituents not only of Prakriti but also of all world-objects as they are produced by PrakritiPrakriti is considered homogeneous and its constituent gunas cannot be separated. The gunas are always changing, rendering a dynamic character to Prakriti. Still a balance among three gunas is maintained in Prakriti. The changes in the gunas and in thePrakriti may take two forms: Homogeneous and Heterogeneous. Homogeneous changes do not affect the state of equilibrium in the Prakriti. As a result, worldly objects are not produced.  Heterogeneous changes involve radical interaction among the three gunas. They disturb the state of equilibrium. This is the preliminary phase of the evolution. As the gunas undergo more and more changes, Prakriti goes on differentiating into numerous, various world-objects. Thus it becomes more and more determinate. This is what is termed as evolution.

In evolution, Prakriti is transformed and differentiated into multiplicity of objects. Evolution is followed by dissolution. In dissolution the physical existence, all the worldly objects mingle back into Prakriti, which now remains as the undifferentiated, primordial substance. This is how the cycles of evolution and dissolution follow each other.

The evolution  results in 23 different categories of objects. They comprise of three elements  of  Antahkaranas or the internal organs as well as the ten Bahyakaranas or the external organs

Among all these, the first to evolve is Mahat(the great one). Mahat evolves as a result of preponderance of sattva. Since it is an evolute of Prakriti, it is made of matter. But it has psychological, intellectual aspect known as buddhi or intellect. Mahat or intellect is a unique faculty of human beings. It helps man in judgment and discrimination. Buddhi can reflect  Purusha owing to these qualities.

The second evolute is ahamkara (ego). It arises out of the cosmic nature of MahatAhamkara is the self-sense. It is concerned with the self-identity and it brings about awareness of “I” and “mine”.

According to the Samkhya there emanates two sets of objects from ahamkara. The first set comprises of the manas (mind), the five sense-organs and the five motor organs. The second set consists of the five elements which may exist in two forms, subtle and gross.

The five subtle elements are also called tanmatras. These five subtle elements or tanmatras are:

  1. Shabda ( elemental sound)
  2. Sparsha (elemental touch)
  3. Rupa( elemental colour)
  4. Rasa( elemental taste)
  5. Gandha( elemental smell)

. The gross elements  arise as a result of combination of the subtle elements.

The five gross elements are space or ether (akasa), water, air, fire and earth.

It should be noted here that the manas or the mind is different from Mahat or the buddhiManas or the mind in co-ordination with the sense-organs, receives impressions from the external world, transforms them into determinate perceptions and conveys them to the experiencer or the ego. Thus manas is produced and is capable of producing also. But though Mahat is produced, it can not produce.

As we have seen ahamkara produces both the subtle and the gross elements. These gross elements are produced by various combinations of subtle elementsThe five gross elements combine in different ways to form all gross objects. All the gross elements and the gross objects in the world are perceivable.

The evolution obeys causality relationships, with primal Nature itself being the material cause of all physical creation. The cause and effect theory of Sankhya is called Satkaarya-vaada (theory of existent causes), and holds that nothing can really be created from or destroyed into nothingness – all evolution is simply the transformation of primal Nature from one form to another.

The evolution of matter occurs when the relative strengths of the attributes change. The evolution ceases when the spirit realizes that it is distinct from primal Nature and thus cannot evolve. This destroys the purpose of evolution, thus stopping Prakrti from evolving for Purusha.

Samkhya and the Theory of Knowledge

Samkhya accepts three sources of valid knowledge: Perception, inference and testimony.

According to Samkhya, the manas(mind), the Mahat (intellect = buddhi) and the purusha play a role in ‘producing’ knowledge. When the sense-organs come in contact with an object, the sensations and impressions reach the manas. The manas processes these impressions into proper forms and converts them into determinate percepts. These percepts are carried to the Mahat. By its own applications, Mahat gets modified. Mahat takes the form of the particular object. This transformation of Mahat is known as vritti or modification of buddhi. But still the process of knowledge is not completed.Mahat is a physical entity. It lacks consciousness so it can not generate knowledge on its own. However, it can reflect the consciousness of thePurusha(self). Illumined by the consciousness of the reflected self, the unconscious Mahat becomes conscious of the form into which it is modified (i.e. of the form of the object.

Samkhya cites out two types of perceptions:

Indeterminate (nirvikalpa) perceptions and determinate  (savikalpa) perceptions.

Indeterminate perceptions are sort of pure sensations or crude impressions. They reveal no knowledge of the form or the name of the object. There is vague awareness about an object. There is cognition, but no recognition.

Determinate perceptions are the mature state of perceptions which have been processed and differentiated appropriately. Once the sensations have been processed, categorized and interpreted properly, they become determinate perceptions. They can lead to identification and also generate knowledge.

Samkhya and God

Kapila, the proponent of the Samkhya School, rules out the existence of God. He asserts that the existence of God can not be proved and that God does not exist. Samkhya argues that if God exists and if God is eternal and unchanging as is widely claimed, then he can not be the cause of the world. A cause has to be active and changing.

Bondage and Salvation

Like other major systems of Indian philosophy, Samkhya regards ignorance as the root cause of bondage and suffering.  According to Samkhya, the self is eternal, pure consciousness.  Due to ignorance, the self identifies itself with the physical body and its constituents. Once the self becomes free of this false identification and the material bonds, the salvation is possible.

Yoga system of Indian philosophy

The Yoga system of philosophy was founded by Patanjali. He authored the Yoga Sutras or the aphorisms of Yoga. What is Yoga? Literally, a yoke: not so much a yoking or union of the soul with the Supreme Being,  as the yoke of ascetic discipline and abstinence which the aspirant puts upon himself in order to cleanse his spirit of all material limitations, and achieve supernatural intelligence and powers.

Samkhya  system is based on atheism but Yoga believes in God.

The Yoga system of philosophy accepts three fundamental realities, namely, Ishwara, Purusha and Prakriti or the primordial matter. Patanjali says that scriptures are the sources of the existence of Ishwara. Ishwara is omniscient and is free from the qualities inherent in Prakriti. Patanjali defines Yoga as ‘Chittavriitinirodha’. Yoga is the restraint of the mental operations.

Patanjali names some obstacles to the path of Yoga. They are called ‘Antarayas’ and they include:

  • Vyadhi (illness),
  • styana (apathy),
  • Samsaya (doubt),
  • Pramada (inadvertence),
  • Alasya (laziness),
  • Avirati (incontinence),
  • Bhrantidarshana (wrong understanding),
  • Alabdha Bhumikatva (non-attainment of mental plane)
  • Anavasthitatva (instability).

In addition to the obstacles mentioned above, Patanjali accepts five more obstacles called

  • Dukha (pain),
  • Daurmanasya (frustration,
  • Angamejayatva (fickle limbs)
  • , Svasa (spasmodic breathing in)
  • Prasvasa (spasmodic breathing out).

Patanjali speaks about Jatyantara Parinama or the phenomenon of the evolution of one species or genus into another species or genus.

Matter is the root of ignorance and suffering; therefore Yoga seeks to free the soul from all sense phenomena and all bodily attachment; it is an attempt to attain supreme enlightenment and salvation in one life by atoning in one existence for all the sins of the soul’s past incarnations.

Such enlightenment cannot be won at a stroke; the aspirant must move towards it step by step, and no stage of the process can be understood by anyone who has not passed through the stages before it; one comes to Yoga only by long and patient study and self-discipline.

The stages of Yoga are eight:

I. Yama, or the death of desire; here the soul accepts the restraints of ahmsa and Brahmacharia, abandons all self-seeking, emancipates itself from all material interests and pursuits, and wishes well to all things. Yama means restraint. One must turn to ethics by refraining himself from immoral activities. This is the first step towards self–discipline. Niyamameans observance. It refers to the cultivation of values and virtues in life. These two angaYama and Niyama – protects the aspirant from irresistible temptations and desires and offer a protection from the distractions.

II. Niyama, a faithful observance of certain preliminary rules for Yoga: cleanliness, content, purification, study, and piety.

The next two steps, asana and pranayama, prepares the physical body for the Yogic practice.

III. Asana, posture; the aim here is to still all movement as well as all sensation; the best asana for this purpose is to place the right foot upon the left thigh and the left foot upon the right thigh, to cross the hands and grasp the two great toes, to bend the chin upon the chest, and direct the eyes to the tip of the nose.

IV. Pranayama, or regulation of the breath: by these exercises one may forget everything but breathing, and in this way clear his mind for the passive emptiness that must precede absorption; at the same time one may learn to live on a minimum of air, and may let himself, with impunity, be buried in the earth for many days.

V. Pratyahara, abstraction; now the mind controls all the senses, and with- draws itself from all sense objects. Pratyahara is concerned with the withdrawal of the senses. The senses, by their inherent nature, remain focused on the external world. Pratyaharahelps to detach the sense organs from the objects of the world. The isolation from the world objects facilitates the concentration of the mind on any particular object.

VI. Dharana, or concentration the identification or filling of the mind and the senses with one idea or object to the exclusion of everything else. The fixation of any one object long enough will free the soul of all sensation, all specific thought, and all selfish desire; then the mind, abstracted fromthings, will be left free to feel the immaterial essence of reality .

VII. Dhyana, or meditation: this is an almost hypnotic condition, resulting from Dharana; it may be produced, says Patanjali, by the persistent repetition of the sacred syllable Om.

VIII. Samadhi, or trance contemplation; even the last thought now disappears from the mind; empty, the mind loses consciousness of itself as a separate being;  it is merged with totality, and achieves a blissful and god- like comprehension of all things in One. Samadhi is the ultimate stage of Yogic practice. Now all self-awareness of the mind disappearsThe illusion is gone. This is the ultimate, nirbeej Samadhi. There is the unification of the subject and the object. Now there is no object at all.  The duo, the subject and the object, mingles into unity. They are no separate entities. There is only one, but it is not an object.  There is oneness devoid of material existence; it is pure Consciousness.

Nevertheless it is not God, or union with God, that the yogi seeks; in the Yoga philosophy God (Ishvara) is not the creator or preserver of the universe, or the rewarder and punisher of men, but merely one of several objects on which the soul may meditate as a means of achieving concentration and enlightenment. The aim, frankly, is that dissociation of the mind from the body, that removal of all material obstruction from the spirit, which brings with it, in Yoga theory, supernatural understanding and capacity.

Eliot compares, for the illumination of this stage, a passage from Schopenhauer, obviously inspired by his study of Hindu philosophy: “When some sudden cause or inward disposition lifts us out of the endless stream of willing, the attention is no longer directed to the motives of willing, but comprehends things free from their relation to the will, and thus observes them without subjectivity, purely objectively, gives itself entirely up to them so far as they are ideas, but not in so far as they are motives. Then all at once the peace that we were always seeking, but which always fled from us on the former path of die desires, comes to us of its own accord, and it is well with us.” which remains when all sense attachments have been exercised away. To the extent to which the soul can free itself from its physical environment and prison it becomes Brahman, and exercises Brahman’s intelligence and power. Here the magical basis of religion reappears, and almost threatens the essence of religion itself the worship of powers superior to man.

In the days of the Upanishads, Yoga was pure mysticism an attempt to realize the identity of the soul with God. In Hindu legend it is said that in ancient days seven Wise Men, or Rishis, acquired, by penance and medi- tation, complete knowledge of all things. In the later history of India Yoga became corrupted with magic, and thought more of the power of miracles than of the peace of understanding. The Yogi trusts that by Yoga he will be able to anesthetize and control any part of his body by concentrating upon it;  he will be able at will to make himself invisible, or to prevent his body from being moved, or to pass in a moment from any part of the earth, or to live as long as he desires, or to know the past and the future, and the most distant stars.


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Philosophy- Hindu point of view

Dr. V.K.Maheshwari, M.A(Socio, Phil) B.Sc. M. Ed, Ph.D

Former Principal, K.L.D.A.V.(P.G) College, Roorkee, India

From the Indian viewpoint,  the word ‘philosophy’ suggests “observing and surveying”  the existence. In Sanskrit, the philosophy is referred to as  ‘darshana’.  The Sanskrit word ‘darshana’ has its root in the word ‘drs’ that means ‘to see’, ‘to look’ or ‘to view’. “Seeing” or “viewing” the reality and the facts of experience forms the basis of philosophy. Senses, mind and even consciousness are involved in this ‘seeing’. “Seeing” also encompasses “contemplation”. Seeing is not simply a sensory activity. ‘Seeing’ may primarily be a perceptual observation. But it may also concern the conceptual knowledge or an intuitional flash.  Thus ‘darshana‘ suggests vision. In other words, ‘darshana’ is a whole view revealed to the inner self, what we term as the soul or the spirit or the inner being.  Philosophy or ‘darshana’ is concerned with the vision of ‘truth and reality’.

In the context of spiritual philosophy darsana means a world vision, a view or window to the true nature of the world. Traditionally darsana is defined as one that envisions the true nature of of the world (samsara), the cause of binding (mula karana) and the path to liberation of self (nishreyasa). The purpose of darsana is to show the path to liberation, and the source of binding. The knowledge of self (jiva), phenomenal world (jagat) and absolute nature of the world (brahman) and the consciousness that relates these, is the basis for knowing the nature of binding and liberation.

Most darsanas have some  common elements. Many of the darsanas have developed along with spiritual philosophy, elaborate methods and practices that help the individual’s liberation. The methods are based on the theory of consciousness They all lay emphasis on dharmic life, devotion, turning mind inwards and meditation on the ultimate reality.

Eastern Thought, has different forms ranging from Taoism to Zen-Buddhism and Transcendental Meditation; despite some practically oriented strains (Confucianism), it is mostly intuitive, directed toward the Self and introspection; its insights come from our inwardness that needs to be emptied from all external influences; the Self is meditative, with ready made precepts for the resolution of all life problems; this is why so many self-help books draw on this tradition; Eastern sage is balanced, poised, silent; his/her prototype is the Buddha. The findings of Eastern wisdom are not fully communicable which prevents it from being entirely discoursive and argumentative.

Despite many deserved attempts to integrate Eastern thought (primarily Indian and Chinese) into Western intellectual tradition the differences are so huge that it is advisable not to apply the same term “philosophy” (itself of Western origin) to both.

Some of the fundamentals expressed in the Indian philosophy and the Western philosophy may be similar. However, Indian philosophy differs from the Western philosophy on several counts. While the Western philosophy deals with metaphysics, epistemology, psychology, ethics etc. separately, Indian philosophy takes a comprehensive view of all these topics.

All systems of Indian philosophy are ranged by the Hindus in two categories: Astika systems, which affirm, and Nastika systems.Indian philosophy, include both orthodox (astika) systems, namely, theNyayaVaisheshikaSamkhyaYoga, Purva-Mimamsa (orMimamsa), andVedanta schools of philosophy.

Nastika systems, which were chiefly those of the Charvakas, the Buddhists, and the Jains. But, strange to say, these systems were called Nastika, heterodox and nihilist, not because they questioned or denied the existence of God ,but because they questioned, denied or ignored the authority of the Vedas.

Of the “orthodox” systems or darshanas these six became so prominent that in time every Hindu thinker who acknowledged the authority of the Brahmans attached himself to one or another of these schools. All six make certain assumptions which are the bases of Hindu thought: that the Vedas are inspired; that reasoning is less reliable as a guide to reality and truth than the direct perception and feeling of an individual properly prepared for spiritual receptiveness and subtlety by ascetic practices and years of obedient tutelage; that the purpose of knowledge and philosophy is not control of the world so much as release from it; and that the goal of thought is to find freedom from the suffering of frustrated desire by achieving freedom from desire itself. These are the philosophies to which men come when they tire of ambition, struggle, wealth, “progress,” and “success.”

Each of these systems differs in one way or the other in terms of its concepts, phenomena, laws and dogmas. Each system has it’s own founder as well. It is important to know that the founders of these systems of philosophy are sages of the highest order that have devoted their lives for the study and propagation of philosophy..

Each darsana explains the origin of the world, its creation and transformation.

There are three different approaches that these darsanas follow:

1- Arambha vada- holds that the universe is created.

2- Parinama vada- holds that the universe is not created or destroyed but it only transforms. Particularly, it is transformation of the manifesting form of the immutable absolute.

3- Vivarta vada- holds that the Universe as it appears is but because of the limitation of observer and it appears so, because of Maya.

It becomes difficult, sometimes, to name a single founder or a promoter of a system. However, the following are widely acknowledged as proponents of the above systems: Gautama for Nyaya, Kanada for Vaisheshika, Patanjali for Yoga, Kapila for Samkhya, Jaimini for Purva-Mimamsaand Shamkara for Uttar-Mimamsa.

Charvakism is believed to have been promoted by Charvaka. Vardhamana Mahavira is acknowledged as the founder of Jainism and GautamaBuddha as the founder of Buddhism.

The common characteristics in Indian Philosophies:

The systems of Indian philosophies, with a singular exception of Charvakism, have certain common characteristics. Charvakism remarkably differs from other systems as it promotes materialism.

The following characteristics are common to all other systems:

(1) All the schools emphasize that the philosophy must have a positive impact on life of man. The schools have a general agreement on the importance of the Purushartha.  All the schools agree that the philosophy should help man in realizing the main ends of human life: the purusharthas, i.e. arthakamadharma and moksha.

(2) All the systems reflect that the philosophy should lead a man from darkness and ignorance to light and knowledge.

(3) There is a general agreement among the systems that the truth and reality should be verifiable. They should be substantiated with reasoning and experience. An experience may be sensory, conceptual or intuitional.

(4) It is accepted by all the schools that man’s suffering results from his ignorance. Man can conquer ignorance and attain total freedom (moksha) in this bodily existence.

(5) There is a general agreement on man’s essential spirituality.

The History of Indian Philosophy

The philosophies develop over long spells of time.  It is difficult for the historians to ascertain the period for the development of a particular philosophy.

However, we can safely outline the history of Indian philosophies, as per Dr. Radhakrishnan,  as follows:

(1)    The Vedic period (1500 B.C. to 600 B.C.)

(2)    The Epic period (600 B.C. to 200 A.D.)

(3)    The Sutra period (200 A.D. to 1700 A.D.)

(4)    The Scholastic period ( From Sutra Period to 17th century )

Let us get an idea of these periods:

(1)    The Vedic Period: This period can be regarded as the dawn of civilization in the world.  The literature of the Vedic period is considered to be the most ancient in the world. It consists of the four Vedas, namely, Rig Veda, Yajur  Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda. Each of the Vedas is divided into four parts: The Samhitas (the Mantras) , the Brahmanas, the Aranyakas and the Upanishads.

(2)    The Epic Period: It is the period of the development of the early Upanishads and the darshanas and is concerned with the enriching of intellect of man. The darshanas paved the way for the growth of the systems of philosophies in India. The invaluable dharma -shastras, the great treatises on ethical and social philosophy, are the gifts of this period.  The period is very significant because it witnessed the rise and early development of Shaivism and Vaishnavism as well as that of Jainism and Buddhism.

(3)    The Sutra Period: The  scholars made efforts to safeguard the rich heritage. That is how the illustrious Sutras were written. The Sutras are, mostly, epigrammatic sentences in the verse-form. The Sutras laid the foundation of the different systems of philosophies in India. The six orthodox systems based on the Sutras are Vaisheshika, Nyaya, Samkhya, Yoga, Purva-Mimamsa and Uttar-Mimamsa.

(4)    The Scholastic Period:. With the passage of time, the ancient literature became nearly incomprehensible.. Thus a number of commentaries were written. Chief among them were Shamkaracharya, Ramanujacharya and Madhavacharya. Incidentally, three schools of Vedanta were developed: Shamkaracharya’s Advaita Vedanta, Ramanujacharya’s Vishishtadvaita Vedanta and Madhavacharya’s DvaitaVedanta.

Briefly outline of Shad-Darshan is given below:

1. Nyaya - by Sage Gautam

Logical Quest of Supreme, Phases of Creation, Science of Logical Reasoning

The first of the “Brahmanical” systems in the logical order of Indian thought  is a body of logical theory extending over two millenniums. Nyaya means an argument, a way of leading the mind to a conclusion. One of the six DARSHANS (orthodox systems) of Indian philosophy, important for its analysis of logic and epistemology and for its detailed model of the reasoning method of inference. Like other darshans, Nyaya is both a philosophy and a religion; its ultimate concern is to bring an end to human suffering, which results from ignorance of reality. It recognizes four valid means of knowledge: perception, inference, comparison, and testimony. It is called Nyaya because it is constituted of five “laws” – Pratijna, Hetu, Udaharana, Upanaya, Nigamana. Nyaya includes formal logic and modes of scientific debate. It explains the logical constructs like antecedent and laws of implying. It expounds various modes of scientific debate and methods for debate, like tarka, vitanda, chala, jalpa and so on.

It is a logical quest for God, the absolute Divinity. It tells that the material power “Maya”, with the help of God, becomes the universe. Nyaya Darshan is based on establishing the fact that only the Divinity (God) is desirable, knowable and attainable, and not this world.Nyaya philosophy is primarily concerned with the correct knowledge to be acquire in the human life and the means of receiving this knowledge.

2. Vaishesika – by Sage Kanad

Science of Logic, Futility of Maya, Vedic Atomic Theory

As Gautama is the Aristotle of India, so Kanada is its Democritus. The founder of Vaisheshik philosophy is known to us by the name of his theory “Kanaad” (atom eater, or atom theorist), because he was the first person in the world (460-370 BC) to propound the atomic theory of matter. According to this theory, God has created different substances from several basic atoms of matter. This philosophy is very close to the Nyaaya philosophy.

The date at which the Vaisheshika system was formulated has not been fixed with excessive accuracy: we are told that it was not before 300 B.C., and not after 800 A.D. Its name came from vishesha, meaning particularity: the world, in Kanada’s theory, is full of a number of things, but they are all, in some form, mere combinations of atoms; the forms change, but the atoms remain indestructible. Thoroughly Democritean, Kanada announces that nothing exists but “atoms and the void,” and that the atoms move not according to the will of an intelligent deity, but through an impersonal force or law Adrishta, “the invisible.”

According to this school of philosophy, there is no creation or annihilation but rather an orderly and morally systematized composition and decomposition of matter. Atoms (not we studied in our elementary science) are the smallest particle exists in the universe and are eternal in nature.

3. Sankhya -  by Sage Kapil

Eliminate Physical and Mental Pains for receiving liberations, Nontheistic Dualism

Samkhya, also Sankhya, Sāṃkhya, or Sāṅkhya (Sanskrit: सांख्य, : sāṃkhya – ‘enumeration’) is one of the six schools of classical Indian philosophy. Sage Kapila is traditionally considered as the founder of the Samkhya school, although no historical verification is possible. It is regarded as one of the oldest philosophical systems in India.This is the most significant system of philosophy that India has produced.”  Professor Garbe, who devoted a large part of his life to the study of the Sankhya, consoled himself with the thought that “in Kapila’s doctrine, for the first time in the history of the world, the complete independence and freedom of the human mind, its full confidence in its own powers, were exhibited.”

The dualistic philosophy of Purusa and Prakrti; according to many followers of Sankhyaphilosophy, there is no such God exists. For them Purusa is sufficient to inspire the unconscious Prakrti to manifest herself in the form of universe. However, a section of Sankhya philosophers believed about the existence of Supreme Being who guides Prakrtiindependently accordingly to His will. The extent of mayic creation and Divinity beyond that; it tells that the entire mayic creation is worth discarding and only the Divinity is to be attained because that is the only source of Bliss.

4. Yoga – by Sage Patanjali

Practice of Meditation and Samadhi for Renunciation, Self Discipline for Self Realization

The Yoga system of philosophy was founded by Patanjali. He authored the Yoga Sutras or the aphorisms of Yoga. What is Yoga? Literally, a yoke: not so much a yoking or union of the soul with the Supreme Being,  as the yoke of ascetic discipline and abstinence which the aspirant puts upon himself in order to cleanse his spirit of all material limitations, and achieve supernatural intelligence and powers.

The Yoga system of philosophy accepts three fundamental realities, namely, Ishwara, Purusha and Prakriti or the primordial matter. Patanjali says that scriptures are the sources of the existence of Ishwara. Ishwara is omniscient and is free from the qualities inherent in Prakriti. Patanjali defines Yoga as ‘Chittavriitinirodha’. Yoga is the restraint of the mental operations. Patanjali names some obstacles to the path of Yoga. They are called ‘Antarayas’ and they include Vyadhi (illness), styana (apathy), Samsaya (doubt), Pramada (inadvertence), Alasya (laziness), Avirati (incontinence), Bhrantidarshana (wrong understanding), Alabdha Bhumikatva (non-attainment of mental plane) and Anavasthitatva (instability). In addition to the obstacles mentioned above, Patanjali accepts five more obstacles called Dukha (pain), Daurmanasya (frustration, Angamejayatva (fickle limbs), Svasa (spasmodic breathing in) and Prasvasa (spasmodic breathing out). Patanjali speaks about Jatyantara Parinama or the phenomenon of the evolution of one species or genus into another species or genus.

Explain the practical process of heart purification which may qualify the individual to experience the absolute Divine. The word Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root yug, which meant “TO UNITE“. The yoga system provides a methodology for linking up individual consiousness with the Supreme Being. Various schools of yoga systems are: Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Karma yoga, Ashtanga Yoga (practical application of Sankhya Philosophy), etc.

5. Karma Mimamsa -  by Sage Jaimini

Poorv Mimamsa explaining the Vedas are eternal and Divine; Elevation Through the Performance of Duty

Sanskrit mīmāṁ, literally, reflection, investigation, from manyate he thinks. It is  an orthodox Hindu philosophy concerned with the interpretation of Vedic texts and literature and comprising one part dealing with the earlier writings concerned with right practice and another part dealing with the later writings concerned with right thought —called also Purva Mimamsa,

To step from Yoga to the Purva-Mimansa is to pass from the most renowned to the least known and least important of the six systems of Brahmanical philosophy. Meemaansaa philosophy is attributed to sage Jaimini (c 350 BC). It proclaims that the Soul does not die with the body, but passes from the body of the dead to the body of the one to be born. The purpose of the migration of the Soul is to reap the rewards and punishments of the deeds of the previous lives to which it was attached. An Individual Soul can attain liberation from rebirth by means of knowledge and performance of duties. Knowledge alone will not help attain liberation. It is necessary not only to perform worldly duties, but also to perform religious rituals prescribed by Ved. Meemaansaa is also basically atheistic.

Vedanta – by Sage VedVyas

Uttar Mimansa (Brahma Sutra) explaning the divine nature of Soul, Maya and Creation; Conclusion of edic Revelation

Sanskrit Vedānta, literally, end of the Veda, from Veda +anta end; akin to Old English ende endFirst Known Use: 1788. One of the six orthodox systems (darshans) of Indian philosophy and the one that forms the basis of most modern schools of Hinduism. Its three fundamental texts are theUpanishads, the Bhagavadgita, and the Brahma Sutras, which are very brief interpretations of the doctrine of the Upanishads. Several schools of Vedanta have developed, differentiated by their conception of the relationship between the self (atman) and the absolute (Brahman). They share beliefs in samsara and the authority of the Vedas as well as the conviction that Brahman is both the material and instrumental cause of the world and that the atman is the agent of its own acts and therefore the recipient of the consequences of action

Vedant philosophy was first expounded by Baadaraayan in c 650 BC. In his book Vedaant Sootra, also called “Brahm Sootra”. Baadaraayan claims that he has not put anything new – all was only the summary of Upanishadik teachings – but the claim does not seem to be totally justified. Complicating the matters further, there have been three Aachaarya, famously known for three systems of metaphysics, are known consecutively as A-Dwait, Vishisht A-Dwait and Dwait, explaining the relationship between man and God.

It reveals this secret that God is absolute Divinity and absolute Bliss, and He is Gracious. So desire, fully remember Him and with His Grace experience His absolute Blissfulness forever. Vedanta examines the Vedas teachings in the light of transcendental knowledge.

The six Darshan Shastras are divided in the groups of two each based on their closely related texts, such as Nyaya and Vaisheshika are closely allied to each other. The next twoSankhaya and Yoga are closed to each other, and finally the Poorva Mimamsa and Uttar Mimamsa are allied to each other.


Another pre-Buddhistic system of philosophy, the Charvaka, or the Lokayata, is one of the earliest materialistic schools of philosophy.The name Charvakais traced back to one Charvaka, supposed to have been one of the great teachers of the school. The other name, Lokayata, means “the view held by the common people,” “the system which has its base in the common, profane world,” “the art of sophistry,” and also “the philosophy that denies that there is any world other than this one.” Brihaspati probably was the founder of this school.

The Charvakas apparently sought to establish their materialism on an epistemological basis. In their epistemology, they viewed sense perception alone as a means of valid knowledge. The validity of inferential knowledge was challenged on the ground that all inference requires a universal major premise (“All that possesses smoke possesses fire”) whereas there is no means of arriving at a certainty about such a proposition. No amount of finite observations could possibly yield the required universal premise. The supposed “invariable connection” may be vitiated by some unknown “condition,” and there is no means of knowing that such a vitiating factor does not exist. Since inference is not a means of valid knowledge, all such supersensible objects as “afterlife,” “destiny,” or “soul” do not exist. To say that such entities exist though there is no means of knowing them is regarded as absurd, for no unverifiable assertion of existence is meaningful.


Jainism, founded about the 6th century bce by Vardhamana Mahavira, the 24th in a succession of religious leaders known either as Tirthankaras(Saviours) or as Jinas (Conquerors), rejects the idea of God as the creator of the world but teaches the perfectibility of humanity, to be accomplished through the strictly moral and ascetic life.

Jains believe in the philosophy of karma, reincarnation of worldly soul, hell and heaven as a punishment or reward for one’s deeds, and liberation (Nirvän or Moksha) of the self from life’s misery of birth and death in a way similar to the Hindu and Buddhist beliefs .The Jain philosophy believes that the universe and all its entities such as soul and matter are eternal (there is no beginning or end), no one has created them and no one can destroy them.

Jains do not believe that there is a supernatural power who does favor to us if we please him. Jains rely a great deal on self-efforts and self-initiative, for both – their worldly requirements and their salvation.

Jains believe that from eternity, the soul is bounded by karma and is ignorant of its true nature.  It is due to karma soul migrates from one life cycle to another and continues to attract new karma, and the ignorant soul continues to bind with new karma.

To overcome the sufferings, Jainism addresses the path of liberation in a rational way.   It states that the proper Knowledge of reality, when combined with right Faith and right Conduct leads the worldly soul to liberation (Moksha or Nirvän).


Buddhism is a religion based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, He came to be called “the Buddha,” which means “awakened one,” after he experienced a profound realization of the nature of life, death and existence. He taught that awakening comes through one’s own direct experience, not through beliefs and dogmas.

Instead of teaching doctrines to be memorized and believed, the Buddha taught how we can realize truth for ourselves. The focus of Buddhism is on practice rather than belief. The major outline of Buddhist practice is the Eightfold Path.

The Buddha discouraged his followers from indulging in intellectual disputation for its own sake, which is fruitless, and distracting from true awakening. Nevertheless, the delivered sayings of the Buddha contain a philosophical component, in its teachings on the working of the mind, and its criticisms of the philosophies of his contemporaries.

According to the scriptures, during his lifetime the Buddha remained silent when asked several metaphysical questions. These regarded issues such as whether the universe is eternal or non-eternal (or whether it is finite or infinite), the unity or separation of the body and the self, the complete inexistence of a person after Nirvana and death, and others.



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Buddhism – the Rebel child of Hinduism.

Dr. V.K.Maheshwari, M.A(Socio, Phil) B.Sc. M. Ed, Ph.D

Former Principal, K.L.D.A.V.(P.G) College, Roorkee, India

Buddhism is a religion based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, He came to be called “the Buddha,” which means “awakened one,” after he experienced a profound realization of the nature of life, death and existence. Buddha (c. 500s B.C.E.) also known as Gotama Buddha, Siddhārtha Gautama, and Buddha Śākyamuni, was born in Lumbini, in the Nepalese region of Terai, near the Indian border The Buddha’s teaching formed the foundation for Buddhist philosophy, initially developed in South Asia, then later in the rest of Asia.

Instead of teaching doctrines to be memorized and believed, the Buddha taught how we can realize truth for ourselves. The focus of Buddhism is on practice rather than belief. The major outline of Buddhist practice is the Eightfold Path.

The Buddha discouraged his followers from indulging in intellectual disputation for its own sake, which is fruitless, and distracting from true awakening. Nevertheless, the delivered sayings of the Buddha contain a philosophical component, in its teachings on the working of the mind, and its criticisms of the philosophies of his contemporaries.

According to the scriptures, during his lifetime the Buddha remained silent when asked several metaphysical questions. These regarded issues such as whether the universe is eternal or non-eternal (or whether it is finite or infinite), the unity or separation of the body and the self, the complete inexistence of a person after Nirvana and death, and others.

Buddhism and Buddhist philosophy now have a global following. While the Buddha’s view of the spiritual path is traditionally described as a middle way between the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification, the Buddha’s epistemology can be interpreted as a middle way between the extremes of dogmatism and skepticism.

Higher Knowledge

Contemplative experiences are of two main types:

meditative absorptions or abstractions (jhāna), and higher or direct knowledge (abhiññā).
Stages of the Eight Jhānas // Meditative Absorption

EIGHT JHĀNAS – In the Pāli canon the Buddha describes eight progressive states of absorption meditation or jhāna. Four are considered to be meditations of form (rūpa jhāna) and four are formless meditations (arūpa jhāna). The first four jhānas are said by the Buddha to be conducive to a pleasant abiding and freedom from suffering.[10] The jhānasare states of meditation where the mind is free from the five hindrances — craving, aversion, sloth, agitation and doubt — and (from the second jhāna onwards) incapable of discursive thinking. The deeper jhānas can last for many hours. Jhāna empowers a meditator’s mind, making it able to penetrate into the deepest truths of existence.

There are four deeper states of meditative absorption called “the immaterial attainments.” Sometimes these are also referred to as the “formless” jhānas (arūpa jhānas) in distinction from the first four jhānas (rūpa jhānas). In the Buddhist canonical texts, the word “jhāna” is never explicitly used to denote them, but they are always mentioned in sequence after the first four jhānas. The enlightenment of complete dwelling in emptiness is reached when the eighth jhāna is transcended.

The Rupa Jhānas

There are four stages of deep collectedness which are called the Rupa Jhāna (Fine-material Jhāna):

  1. First Jhāna – In the first jhana there are – “directed thought, evaluation, rapture, pleasure, unification of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity & attention”
  2. Second Jhāna – In the second jhana there are – “internal assurancerapture, pleasure, unification of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention”
  3. Third Jhāna – In the third jhana, there are – “equanimity-pleasure, unification of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity & attention”
  4. Fourth Jhāna – In the fourth jhana there are – “a feeling of equanimity, neither pleasure nor pain; an unconcern due to serenity of awareness; unification of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity & attention”.[11]

The Arupa Jhānas

Beyond the four jhānas lie four attainments, referred to in the early texts as aruppas. These are also referred to in commentarial literature as immaterial/the formless jhānas (arūpajhānas), also translated as The Formless Dimensions:

  1. Dimension of Infinite Space – In the dimension of infinite space there are – “the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of space, unification of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention”
  2. Dimension of Infinite Consciousness – In the Dimension of infinite consciousness there are – “the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, unification of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention”
  3. Dimension of Nothingness – In the dimension of nothingness, there are – “the perception of the dimension of nothingness, singleness of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention”
  4. Dimension of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception – About the role of this jhana it is said: “He emerged mindfully from that attainment. On emerging mindfully from that attainment, he regarded the past qualities that had ceased & changed: ‘So this is how these qualities, not having been, come into play. Having been, they vanish.’ He remained unattracted & unrepelled with regard to those qualities, independent, detached, released, dissociated, with an awareness rid of barriers. He discerned that ‘There is a further escape,’ and pursuing it there really was for him.”

The four Arūpajhāna

While rupajhanas differ considering their characteristics, arupajhanas differ as their object is determined by the level of the jhana:

  • fifth jhāna: infinite space,
  • sixth jhāna: infinite consciousness,
  • seventh jhāna: infinite nothingness,
  • eighth jhāna: neither perception nor non-perception.

This has to be understood. In the fourth rupajhana, there is already Upekkha, equanimity and Ekkagata, concentration, but the mind is still focused on a “material” object, as any color.

  • In the fifth jhana, the meditator discovers that there is no object, but only an infinite space, which is empty. This perception motivates the interest of claiming arupajhanas.
  • In the sixth jhana, it becomes obvious that space has no existence. There is only infinite consciousness.
  • In the seventh jhana appears the feeling that there is no consciousness, but nothingness.
  • The eighth jhana consists in the most discrete possible state of mind, which justifies the using of “neither perception nor non-perception”.

These “explanations” do not refer to any intellectual, philosophical comprehension, which disappear since the second jhana. They attempt to figure mental process. The arūpajhānas are part of the kammatthanas, and are referred to as the four “formless states”.

The two elements of Arūpajhāna

Some Tipitaka texts identify arūpajhānas as a part of the fourth rūpajhāna, as they include two elements: upekkhā (Sanskrit: upekṣā) and ekaggatā (Skt: ekāgratā).


Upekkhā is a Pali word meaning equanimity. The opposition between comfortable sensations and uncomfortable ones disappears. More importantly, it is one of the fourth Jhāna’s factors, present only in this Jhāna.


Ekaggatā or “singlepointedness”, as a Jhāna’s factor, simply means a very deep concentration, which includes the ceasing of stimuli from the exterior world. It is the only jhānic factor present in each Jhāna

There are six classes of higher or direct knowledge:

the first one refers to a variety of supernatural powers including levitation and walking on water; in this sense, it is better understood as a know-how type of knowledge.

The second higher knowledge is literally called “divine ear element” or clairaudience.

The third higher knowledge is usually translated as telepathy, though it means simply the ability to know the underlying mental state of others, not the reading of their minds and thoughts.

The next three types of higher knowledge are especially important because they were experienced by the Buddha the night of his enlightenment, and because they are the Buddhist counterparts to the triple knowledge of the Vedas.

The fourth higher knowledge is retrocognition or knowledge of past lives, which entails a direct experience of the process of rebirth.

The fifth is the divine eye or clairvoyance; that is, direct experience of the process of karma, or as the texts put it, the passing away and reappearing of beings in accordance with their past actions. The sixth is knowledge of the destruction of taints, which implies experiential knowledge of the four noble truths and the process of liberation.

The Four Noble Truths

The Four Noble Truths are thus:

1. Life means suffering

2. The origin of suffering is attachment.

3. The cessation of suffering is attainable.

4. The path to the cessation of suffering.

The First Truth: Dukkhaṃ

In the Sutta on the Turning of the Wheel of Dhamma, the buddha explained the first truth at greater length than at other points in the Pali canon:

This, monks, is the noble truth that is pain. Birth is pain, old age is pain, illness is pain, death is pain, sorrow and grief, physical and mental suffering, and disturbance are pain. Association with things not liked is pain, separation from desired things is pain, not getting what one wants is pain; in short, the five aggregates of grasping are pain.

This is the most expansive description of the first truth of the noble ones: the truth that is pain is birth, old age, illness, death, and so on. An important distinction should be made here: the first truth is not pain in and of itself, but rather the pain that is associated with all of the following conditions: birth is pain, death is pain, not getting what we want is pain, and so on. All of these conditions are characteristic of human life, and thus the first truth is often understood to mean that Buddhism claims that human life is associated with pain, or to use a term from the Abrahamic religions, human life is suffering.

“The one who acts is the one who experiences [the result of the act]” amounts to the eternalist statement, “Existing from the very beginning, stress is self-made.” “The one who acts is someone other than the one who experiences” amounts to the annihilationist statement, “For one existing harassed by feeling, stress is other-made.” Avoiding these two extremes, the Tathagata teaches the dhamma via the middle.

To be born into this world means to suffer. That’s Buddha’s first Noble Truth. This is because human life isn’t perfect and neither are our surroundings. Our life in this world is subject to suffering and physical pain due to sickness, old age, disease, injury and death. We undergo mental suffering and pain due to sadness, disappointment, poverty, lust, love, fear, frustration, greed, injustice and depression.

The Second Truth: Samudayo (Arising)

The second truth of the four noble truths is samudayo, or arising. In the Sutta on the Turning of the Dhamma Wheel, it reads: “This, monks, is the noble truth that is the arising of pain. This is craving that leads to rebirth, is connected with pleasure and passion and finds pleasure in this or that; that is, craving for desire, craving for existence, and craving for existence to fade away.” This second truth is most often understood as laying out the causation of pain, the first truth

The origin of suffering is attachment to impermanence that’s perceived to bring us happiness. This is the second Noble Truth. The transient illusions(wealth, lust, power, beauty) condition our mindset into believing their permanence, thus preventing our mind from overcoming ignorance. We suffer because of our desire, passion, greed, pursue of wealth and status, by striving for fame and acceptance, or in other words – due to craving and attachment.

The Third Truth: Nirodho (Ending)

The third truth is nirodho, or ending. It is explained in the Sutta on the Turning of the Dhamma Wheel: “This, monks is the noble truth that is the ending of pain. This is the complete fading away and ending of that very craving, giving it up, renouncing it, releasing it, and letting go.” This is a natural movement in the sequence of the truths thus far: the first is to recognize the truth “this is pain” or “this is suffering.” The second step is to know why “this is pain.” The three types of thirst or craving lead to things that cause us pain in this life. We stop that pain, we stop that hurting or suffering by stopping craving or thirst: “the complete fading away and ending of that very craving, giving it up, renouncing it, releasing it, and letting it go.” This truth is just a simple fact: to end things that cause us pain, we need to end their arising.

The Buddha explicitly stated that attaining dispassion will eliminate suffering. Nirodha eliminates all forms of craving and attachment thus setting us off on our long journey towards ultimate salvation from suffering. The meaning of Nirodha is elimination of sensual craving and worldly attachment.

The Fourth Truth: Paṭipadā (Way)

The fourth truth, the way, according to the Sutta on the Turning of the Dhamma Wheel, reads:

This, monks, is the noble truth that is the way leading to the ending of pain. This is the eightfold path of the noble ones: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

The fourth truth, again, follows logically after the first three: pain, arising, ending, and the way—or the how. The eightfold path is always found as the explanation of the fourth truth, and is often taken as the buddha’s teaching of “the” path to enlightenment.

The Noble Eightfold Path ( Ariya Ashtanga Marga )

The Noble Eightfold Path ( Ariya Ashtanga Marga ) explains the gradual path of self-improvement towards the cessation of rebirth and its resultant suffering. Lord Buddha described the Eightfold Path as the Middle Path as it avoids extremes of self-indulgence (such as hedonism) and excessive self-mortification (asceticism). This is the Path which leads to the end of Samsara, the cycle of rebirth.

Eightfold Path

The Buddhist system of ethics can be summed up in the eightfold path:

The way of practice leading to the cessation of suffering – precisely is through  Noble Eightfold Path – right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

The purpose of living an ethical life is to escape the suffering inherent in samsara. Skillful actions condition the mind in a positive way and lead to future happiness, while the opposite is true for unskillful actions. Ethical discipline also provides the mental stability and freedom to embark upon mental cultivation via meditation.

The part of the Noble Eightfold path that covers morality/ethics is right speech, right action and right livelihood. The other parts cover concentration and wisdom, with wisdom being covered by right view and right intention and the remaining three belonging to concentration.

The three aggregates are not included under the noble eightfold path, friend Visakha, but the noble eightfold path is included under the three aggregates. Right speech, right action, & right livelihood come under the aggregate of virtue. Right effort, right mindfulness, & right concentration come under the aggregate of concentration. Right view & right resolve come under the aggregate of discernment.

he Path

1. * Samma-Ditthi — Complete or Perfect Vision, also translated as right view or understanding. Vision of the nature of reality and the path of transformation.

2. Samma-Sankappa — Perfected Emotion or Aspiration, also translated as right thought or attitude. Liberating emotional intelligence in your life and acting from love and compassion. An informed heart and feeling mind that are free to practice letting go.

3. Samma-Vaca — Perfected or whole Speech. Also called right speech. Clear, truthful, uplifting and non-harmful communication.

4. Samma-Kammanta — Integral Action. Also called right action. An ethical foundation for life based on the principle of non-exploitation of oneself and others. The five precepts.

5. Samma-Ajiva — Proper Livelihood. Also called right livelihood. This is a livelihood based on correct action the ethical principal of non-exploitation. The basis of an Ideal society.

6. Samma-Vayama Complete or Full Effort, Energy or Vitality. Also called right effort or diligence. Consciously directing our life energy to the transformative path of creative and healing action that fosters wholeness. Conscious evolution.

7. Samma-Sati Complete or Thorough Awareness. Also called “right mindfulness”. Developing awareness, “if you hold yourself dear watch yourself well”. Levels of Awareness and mindfulness – of things, oneself, feelings, thought, people and Reality.

8. Samma-Samadhi — Full, Integral or Holistic Samadhi. This is often translated as concentration, meditation, absorption or one-pointedness of mind. None of these translations is adequate. Samadhi literally means to be fixed, absorbed in or established at one point, thus the first level of meaning is concentration when the mind is fixed on a single object. The second level of meaning goes further and represents the establishment, not just of the mind, but also of the whole being in various levels or modes of consciousness and awareness. This is Samadhi in the sense of enlightenment or Buddhahood.

The word Samma means ‘proper’, ‘whole’, ‘thorough’, ‘integral’, ‘complete’, and ‘perfect’ – related to English ‘summit’ – It does not necessarily mean ‘right’, as opposed to ‘wrong’.

Early Buddhist schools

The main early Buddhist philosophical schools are the Abhidharma schools, particularly Sarvāstivāda and Theravāda.

Sarvastivadin realism

Early Buddhist philosophers and exegetes of the Sarvāstivādins created a pluralist metaphysical and phenomenological system, in which all experiences of people, things and events can be broken down into smaller and smaller perceptual or perceptual-ontological units called “dharmas”.

Texts of the Sarvastivada Abhidharma

The Sarvāstivāda Abhidharma consists of seven texts. The texts of the Sarvāstivādin Abhidharma are:


Theravada promotes the concept of vibhajjavada (Pāli, literally “Teaching of Analysis”) to non-Buddhists. This doctrine says that insight must come from the aspirant’s experience, critical investigation, and reasoning instead of by blind faith. As the Buddha said according to the canonical scriptures:

Do not accept anything by mere tradition … Do not accept anything just because it accords with your scriptures … Do not accept anything merely because it agrees with your pre-conceived notions … But when you know for yourselves—these things are moral, these things are blameless, these things are praised by the wise, these things, when performed and undertaken, conduce to well-being and happiness—then do you live acting accordingly.

Theravada accepts only the Pali Tipitika as scripture. There are a large number of other sutras that are venerated by Mahayana that Theravada does not accept as legitimate.

Buddhism  is divided into two sects: Mahayana and Hinayana. Mahayana literature is written in Sanskrit and Hinayana literature is written in Pali.


Mahayana often adopts a pragmatic concept of truth:[16] doctrines are regarded as conditionally “true” in the sense of being spiritually beneficial. In modern Chinese Buddhism, all doctrinal traditions are regarded as equally valid.[17]

Main Mahayana philosophical schools and traditions include the prajnaparamita, Madhyamaka, Tathagatagarbha, Yogācāra,  schools.


The Prajanaparamita-sutras emphasize the emptiness of the five skandhas.


The Mahāyānist Nāgārjuna, asserted a direct connection between, even identity of, dependent origination, selflessness (anatta), and emptiness (śūnyatā). He pointed out that implicit in the early Buddhist concept of dependent origination is the lack of any substantial being (anatta) underlying the participants in origination, so that they have no independent existence, a state identified as emptiness (śūnyatā), or emptiness of a nature or essence (svabhāva).


The tathāgathagarbha sutras, in a departure from mainstream Buddhist language, insist that the potential for awakening is inherent to every sentient being. They marked a shift from a largely apophatic (negative) philosophical trend within Buddhism to a decidedly more cataphatic (positive) modu.


The Yogacara-school tries to explain the arising of suffering by explaining the workings of our mind. It takes the concepts of the five skandhas and the six consciousnesses, to explain howmanas creates vijnapti, concepts to which we cling.

Chinese Buddhism

The schools of Buddhism that had existed in China prior to the emergence of the Tiantai are generally believed to represent direct transplantations from India, with little modification to their basic doctrines and methods. However, Tiantai grew and flourished as a natively Chinese Buddhist school under the 4th patriarch, Zhiyi, who developed a hierarchy Buddhist sutras that asserted the Lotus Sutra as the supreme teaching, as well as a system of meditation and practices around it.

The principal schools of Buddhism which flourished in China were:

1. The Vinaya School (Lu-tsung)

2. The Realistic School (Chu-she)

3. The Three Treatises School (San-lun)

4.The Idealist School (Fa-hsiang)

5. The Mantra or Tantric School (Mi-tsung or Chen-yen)

6. The Avatamsaka or Flower Adornment School (Hua-yen)

7. The T’ien-t’ai or White Lotus School (Fa-hua)

8. The Pure Land School (Ching t’u)

9. The Dhyana School (Ch’an)

Huayan school

The Huayan developed the doctrine of “interpenetration” or “coalescence” (Wylie: zung-’jug; Sanskrit: yuganaddha),[24][25] based on the Avataṃsaka Sūtra, a Mahāyāna scripture. It holds that all phenomena (Sanskrit: dharmas) are intimately connected (and mutually arising The doctrine of interpenetration influenced the Japanese monk Kūkai, who founded the Shingon school of Buddhism. Interpenetration and essence-function are mutually informing in the East Asian Buddhist traditions, especially the Korean Buddhist tradition.

The founding of the school is traditionally attributed to a series of five “patriarchs” who were instrumental in developing the schools’ doctrines. These five are (Wade-Giles in brackets):

  1. Dushun (Tu-Shun), 杜順, responsible for the establishment of Huayan studies as a distinct field;
  2. Zhiyan (Chih-yen), 智儼, considered to have established the basic doctrines of the sect;
  3. Fazang (Fa-tsang), 法藏, considered to have rationalized the Doctrine for greater acceptance by society;
  4. Chengguan (Ch’eng-kuan), 澄觀, together with Zongmi are understood to have further developed and transformed the teachings
  5. Zongmi (Tsung-mi), 宗密, who is simultaneous a Patriarch of the Chan tradition.

Tibetan Buddhism

The Tibetan tantra entitled the “All-Creating King” (Kunjed Gyalpo Tantra) also emphasizes how Buddhist realization lies beyond the range of discursive/verbal thought and is ultimately mysterious. The Tibetan expression of Buddhism (sometimes called Lamaism) is the form of Vajrayana Buddhism that developed in Tibet and the surrounding Himalayan region beginning in the 7th century CE.

Tibetan Buddhism incorporates Madhyamika and Yogacara philosophy, Tantric symbolic rituals, Theravadin monastic discipline and the shamanistic features of the local Tibetan religion Bön. Among its most unique characteristics are its system of reincarnating lamas and the vast number of deities in its pantheon.

The most famous Tibetan Buddhist text is the Bardo Thodol (“liberation through hearing in the intermediate state”), popularly known as the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The Bardo Thodol is a funerary text that describes the experiences of the soul during the interval between death and rebirth called bardo. It is recited by lamas over a dying or recently deceased person, or sometimes over an effigy of the deceased. It has been suggested that it is a sign of the influence of shamanism on Tibetan Buddhism.




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Jainism – A Religion of purely human origin

Dr. V.K.Maheshwari, M.A(Socio, Phil) B.Sc. M. Ed, Ph.D

Former Principal, K.L.D.A.V.(P.G) College, Roorkee, India

In ancient times Jainism was known by many names such as the Saman tradition, the religion of Nirgantha, or the religion of Jin.  Jin is one, who has conquered the inner enemies of worldly passions such as desire, hatred, anger, ego, deceit and greed by personal effort.  By definition, a Jin is a human being, like one of us and not a supernatural immortal nor an incarnation of an almighty God.  Jins are popularly viewed as Gods in Jainism. There are an infinite number of Jins existed in the past. The Jins that have established the religious order and revived the Jain philosophy at various times in the history of mankind are known as Tirthankars. The ascetic sage, Rishabhadev was the first Tirthankar and Mahavir was the last Tirthankar of the spiritual lineage of the twenty-four Tirthankars in the current era.

Though it is widely believed that Vardhamana Mahavira (? 599 B.C. – 527 B.C.?) founded Jainism, the Jain tradition maintains that he was the 24thTirthankara of Jainism. Rishabhadeva was the first Tirthankara. Parshvanatha was the 23rd Tirthankara. Jainism, founded about the 6th century B.C by Vardhamana Mahavira, known either as Tirthankaras(Saviours) or as Jinas (Conquerors), rejects the idea of God as the creator of the world but teaches the perfectibility of humanity, to be accomplished through the strictly moral and ascetic life.

The two main sects of Jainism are:

(1)    Digambara

(2)     Shwetambara.

The Digambaras believe that a monk must give up all property including clothes and then only they get moksha. They also deny the right of women to moksha.

Jainism is both a philosophy and a religion. It is a heterodox philosophy in the sense that it does not uphold the authority of the Vedas.  It is atheist and does not accept the existence of God. Jainism rejects the concept of a Supreme Being or the Brahman as the creator of the world. The Tirthankaras are the liberated souls. The followers offer prayers to the Tirthankaras.

Jains believe in the philosophy of karma, reincarnation of worldly soul, hell and heaven as a punishment or reward for one’s deeds, and liberation (Nirvän or Moksha) of the self from life’s misery of birth and death in a way similar to the Hindu and Buddhist beliefs .The Jain philosophy believes that the universe and all its entities such as soul and matter are eternal (there is no beginning or end), no one has created them and no one can destroy them.

Jains do not believe that there is a supernatural power who does favor to us if we please him. Jains rely a great deal on self-efforts and self-initiative, for both – their worldly requirements and their salvation.

Jains believe that from eternity, the soul is bounded by karma and is ignorant of its true nature.  It is due to karma soul migrates from one life cycle to another and continues to attract new karma, and the ignorant soul continues to bind with new karma.

To overcome the sufferings, Jainism addresses the path of liberation in a rational way.   It states that the proper Knowledge of reality, when combined with right Faith and right Conduct leads the worldly soul to liberation (Moksha or Nirvän).

With regards to truth, the Jain philosophy firmly states that the whole truth cannot be observed from a single viewpoint.  To understand the true nature of reality, it is essential to acknowledge the multiple perspectives of each entity, situation or idea. This concept is called Anekäntväd.

The concept of universal interdependence underpins the Jain theory of knowledge, known as Anekäntaväd or the doctrine of many aspects. In this ever-changing universe an infinite number of viewpoints exist. These viewpoints depend on the time, place, circumstances, and nature of individuals. Anekäntaväd means acceptance of all viewpoints, which are positive in nature. This is known as non-absolutism.

Seven-valued logic,

As a consequence of their metaphysical liberalism, the Jain logicians developed a unique theory of seven-valued logic, according to which the three primary truth values are “true,” “false,” and “indefinite” and the other four values are “true and false,” “true and indefinite,” “false and indefinite,” and “true, false, and indefinite.” Every statement is regarded as having these seven values, considered from different standpoints.

This leads to the doctrine of Syädväd or relativity, which states that expression of truth is relative to different viewpoints (Nayas).  What is true from one point of view is open to question from another.  Absolute truth cannot be grasped from any particular viewpoint.  Absolute truth is the total sum of individual (partial) truths from many different viewpoints, even if they seem to contradict each other.

The ultimate goal of Jainism is for the soul to achieve liberation through understanding and realization. This is accomplished through the supreme ideals in the Jain religion of nonviolence, equal kindness, reverence for all forms of life, nonpossessiveness, and through the philosophy of non-absolutism (Anekäntväd).

In essence, Jainism addresses the true nature of reality.  Mahavir explained that all souls are equal in their potential for perfect knowledge, perfect vision, perfect conduct, unlimited energy and unobstructed bliss.

One can detach from karma and attain liberation by following the path of:

  • Right Faith (Samyak-darshan),
  • Right Knowledge (Samyak-jnän),
  • Right Conduct (Samyak-chäritra)

Jainism states that the universe is without a beginning or an end, and is everlasting and eternal.

Six fundamental entities (known as Dravya) constitute the universe.  Although all six entities are eternal, they continuously undergo countless changes (known as Paryäy). In these transformations nothing is lost or destroyed.

Lord Mahavir explained these phenomena in his Three Pronouncements known as Tripadi and proclaimed that Existence or Reality (also known as Sat) is a combination of appearance (Utpäda), disappearance (Vyaya), and persistence (Dhrauvya).

The Six Universal Substances or Entities (Dravyas) are as follows:

Jiva- The soul is the only living substance, which is consciousness and possesses knowledge. Similar to energy, the soul is invisible.  An infinite number of souls exist in the universe.  In its pure form each soul possesses infinite knowledge, infinite vision, perfect conduct, unobstructed bliss, and unlimited energy.

Pudgal- Matter is a nonliving substance, and possesses the characteristics such as touch, taste, smell, and color. Karma is considered matter in Jainism.  Extremely minute particles constitute karma.

Akash-The medium of motion helps the soul and matter to migrate from one place to another in the universe.

The space is divided into two parts.   Lokäkäsh, and Alokäkäsh.

Kal-Time measures the changes in soul and matter.  The wheel of time incessantly rolls on in a circular fashion.

The Doctrine of karma

The doctrine of karma occupies a significant position in Jain philosophy. It provides a rational explanation to the apparently inexplicable phenomena of birth and death, happiness and misery, inequalities in mental and physical attainments, and the existence of different species of living beings. It explains that the principle governing the successions of life is karma.

The seven or nine tattvas or fundamentals are the single most important subject of Jain philosophy. They deal with the theory of karma, which provides the basis for the path of liberation.

The Seven or Nine Tattvas (Fundamentals) are :

1)      Jiva

2)      Ajiva,

3)      Äsrava,

4)      Bandha

5)      Punya,

6)      Päpa,

7)      Samvara

8)      Nirjarä

9)       Moksha.

In Jainism, Ahimsä supersedes all concepts, ideologies, rules, customs and practices, traditional or modern, eastern or western, political or economical, self-centered or social.

Ahimsä (non-violence), Anekäntväd (multiplicity of views) and Aparigraha (non-possessiveness) are the cardinal principles of Jainism

.Aparigraha plays significant role in stopping the physical form of violence. And the proper application of Anekäntväd stops the violence of thoughts and speech. Anekäntväd is also called the intelligent expression of the Ahimsä. Non-violence in the center is guarded by truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy and non-possessiveness.

Jainism is the first religion that has made vegetarianism a fundamental necessity for transforming consciousness. And they are right. Killing just to eat makes your consciousness heavy, insensitive; and you need a very sensitive consciousness – very light, very loving, very compassionate. It is difficult for a non-vegetarian to be compassionate; and without being compassionate and loving you will be hindering your own progress.




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Causal-comparative Research

Dr. V.K. Maheshwari, Former Principal

K.L.D.A.V (P. G) College, Roorkee, India

Causal-comparative research is an attempt to identify a causative relationship between an independent variable and a dependent variable.The relationship between the independent variable and dependent variable is usually a suggested relationship (not proven) because you (the researcher) do not have complete control over the independent variable.

The Causal Comparative method seeks to establish causal relationships between events and circumstances. In other words, it finds out the causes of certain occurrences or non-occurrenceces. This is achieved by comparing the circumstances associated with observed effects and by noting  the factors present in the instances where a given effect occurs and where it does not occur. This method is based on Miill’s canon of agreement and disaggrement which states that caoses of given observed effect may be ascertained by noting elements which are invariably present when the result is present and which are invariably absent when the result is absent.

Causal-comparative research scrutinizes the relationship among variables in studies in which the independent variable has already occurred, thus making the study descriptive rather than experimental in nature. Because the independent variable (the variable for which the researcher wants to suggest causation) has already been completed (e.g., two reading methods used by a school ), the researcher has no control over it. That is, the researcher cannot assign subjects or teachers or determine the means of implementation or even verify proper implementation.

Sometimes the variable either cannot be manipulated (e.g., gender) or should not be manipulated (e.g., who smokes cigarettes or how many they smoke). Still, the relationship of the independent variable on one or more dependent variables is measured and implications of possible causation are used to draw conclusions about the results.

Also known as “ex post facto” research.  (Latin for “after the fact”) since both the effect and the alleged cause have already occurred and must be studied in retrospect  .In this type of research investigators attempt to determine the cause or consequences of differences that already exist between or among groups of individuals.

Used, particularly in the behavioral sciences. In education, because it is impossible, impracticable, or unthinkable to manipulate such variables as aptitude, intelligence, personality traits, cultural deprivation, teacher competence, and some variables that might present an unacceptable threat to human beings, this method will continue to be used.

Causal-Comparative Research Facts

  • Causal-Comparative Research is not manipulated by the researcher.
  • -Does not establish cause-effect relationships.
  • -Generally includes more than two groups and at least one dependent variable.
  • -Independent variable is causal-comparative studies is often referred to as the grouping variable.
  • -The independent variable has occurred or is already formed.

The Nature of Causal-Comparative Research

A common design in educational research studies,  Causal-comparative research, seeks to identify associations among variables. Relationships can be identified in causal-comparative study, but causation cannot be fully established.

Attempts to determine cause and effect. It is not as powerful as experimental designs  Causal-comparative research attempts to determine the cause or consequences of differences that already exist between or among groups of individuals.

Alleged cause and effect have already occurred and are being examined after the fact. The basic causal-comparative approach is to begin with a noted difference between two groups and then to look for possible causes for, or consequences of, this difference.

Used when independent variables cannot or should not be examined using controlled experiments.  When an experiment would take a considerable length of time and be quite costly to conduct, a causal-comparative study is sometimes used as an alternative.

Main purpose  of causal-comparative research:

  • Exploration of Effects
  • Exploration of Causes
  • Exploration of Consequences

Basic Characteristics of Causal-comparative research

In short it the basic Characteristics of Causal-comparative research can be concluded:

  • -Causal comparative research attempts to determine reasons, or causes, for the existing condition
  • Causal comparative studies are also called ex post facto because the investigator has no control over the exogenous variable. Whatever happened occurred before the researcher arrived.
  • -Causal-comparative research is sometimes treated as a type of descriptive research since it describes conditions that already exist.
  • -Causal-comparative studies attempt to identify cause-effect relationships; correlational studies do not
  • -Causal-comparative studies involve comparison, correlational studies involve relationship.
  • -Causal-comparative studies typically involve two (or more) groups and one independent variable, whereas correlational studies typically involve two or more variables and one group
  • -Causal-comparative studies typically involve two (or more) groups and one independent variable, whereas correlational studies typically involve two or more variables and one group
  • -In causal-comparative  the researcher attempts to determine the cause, or reason, for preexisting differences in groups of  individual.
  • Involves comparison of two or more groups on a single endogenous variables.
  • -Retrospective causal-comparative studies are far more common in educational research
  • -The basic approach is sometimes referred to as retrospective causal-comparative research (since it starts with effects and investigates causes)
  • -The basic approach is sometimes referred to as retrospective causal-comparative research (since it starts with effects and investigates causes)
  • -The basic causal-comparative approach involves starting with an effect and seeking possible causes.
  • The characteristic that differentiates these groups is the exogenous variable.
  • -The variation as prospective causal-comparative research (since it starts with causes and investigates effects)
  • We can never know with certainty that the two groups were exactly equal before the difference occurred.

Three important aspects of Causal Comparative method are:

1-      Gathering of data on factors invariably present in cases where the given result occurs and discarding of those elements which are not universally present

2-      2-Gathering the data on factors invariably present in cases where the given effect does not occur

3- 3 Comparing the two sets of data, or in effect, substracting one from the other to get at the causes responsible for the occurance or otherwise of the effect.

Examples of variables investigated in Causal-Comparative Research

  • -Ability variables (achievement)
  • -Family-related variables (SES)
  • -Organismic variables (age, ethnicity, sex)
  • -Personality variables (self-concept)
  • -School related variables (type of school, size of school)

Causal Comparative Research Procedure

Experimental, quasi-experimental, and causal-comparative research methods are frequently studied together because they all try to show cause and effect relationships among two or more variables. To conduct cause and effect research, one variable(s) is considered the causal or independent variable and

Causal comparative research attempts to attribute a change in the effect variable(s) when the causal variable(s) cannot be manipulated.

For example: if you wanted to study the effect of socioeconomic variables such as sex, race, ethnicity, or income on academic achievement, you might identify two existing groups of students: one group – high achievers; second group – low achievers. You then would study the differences of the two groups as related to socioeconomic variables that already occurred or exist as the reason for the difference in the achievement between the two groups. To establish a cause effect relationship in this type of research you have to build a strongly persuasive logical argument. Because it deals with variables that have already occurred or exist, causal-comparative research is also referred to as ex post facto research.

The most common statistical techniques used in causal comparative research are analysis of variance and t-tests wherein significant differences in the means of some measure (i.e. achievement) are compared between or among two or more groups.

Data Sources

  • Raw scores such as test scores
  • Measures such as grade point averages
  • Judgements, and other assessments made of the subjects involved

Research Tools

  • Standardized tests
  • Surveys
  • Structured interviews

Procedural Considerations

  • The most important procedural consideration in doing causal comparative research is to identify two or more groups which are demonstrably different in an educationally important way such as high academic achievement versus low academic achievement. An attempt is then made to identify the cause which resulted in the differences in the effect (i.e. academic achievement). The cause (i.e. race, sex, income, etc.) has already had its effect and cannot be manipulated, changed or altered. In selecting subjects for causal- comparative research, it is most important that they be identical as possible except for the difference (i.e. independent variable – race, sex, income) which may have caused the demonstrated effect (i.e. dependent variable – academic achievement)
  • Hypotheses are generally used
  • Statistics are extensively used in experimental research and include measures of spread or dispersion such as:
  • t-tests;
  • Chi-Square;
  • analysis of variance as well as measures of relationship such as
  • : Pearson Product-Moment Coefficient;
  • Spearman Rank Order Coefficient; Phi Correlation Coefficient; regression


  1. Statistics are extensively used in causal comparative research and include measures of relationship such as: Pearson Product-Moment Coefficient; Spearman Rank Order Coefficient; Phi Correlation Coefficient; Regression; as well as measures of spread or dispersion such as: t-tests; Chi-Square; Analysis of Variance.
  2. REPORT PRESENTATION Reports tend to rely on both quantitative and qualitative presentations. Statistical data is almost always provided and supports the overall argument which is used to establish the cause and effect relationship.

Report Presentation

  • Reports tend to rely on quantitative presentations
  • Statistical data is almost always provided and supports the overall cause-effect argument.


  • -Although the independent variable is not manipulated, there are control procedures that can be exercised to improve interpretation of results.

Design & Procedure

-The researcher selects two groups of participants, the experimental and control groups, but more accurately referred to as comparison groups.

-Groups may differ in two ways.

  • -One group possesses a characteristic that the other does not.
  • -Each group has the characteristic, but to differing degrees or amounts.

-Definition and selection of the comparison groups are very important parts of the causal-comparative procedure.

  • -The independent variable differentiating the groups must be clearly and operationally defined, since each group represents a different population.
  • -In causal-comparative research the random sample is selected from two already existing populations, not from a single population as in experimental research.
  • -As in experimental studies, the goal is to have groups that are as similar as possible on all relevant variables except the independent variable.

-The more similar the two groups are on such variables, the more homogeneous they are on everything but the independent variable.


-Lack of randomization, manipulation, and control are all sources of weakness in a causal-comparative study.

-Random assignment is probably the single best way to try to ensure equality of the groups.

-A problem is the possibility that the groups are different on some other important variable (e.g. gender, experience, or age) besides the identified independent variable.


  • -Matching is another control technique.
  • -If a researcher has identified a variable likely to influence performance on the dependent variable, the researcher may control for that variable by pair-wise matching of participants.
  • -For each participant in one group, the researcher finds a participant in the other group with the same or very similar score on the control variable.
  • -If a participant in either group does not have a suitable match, the participant is eliminated from the study.
  • -The resulting matched groups are identical or very similar with respect to the identified extraneous variable.
  • -The problem becomes serious when the researcher attempts to simultaneously match participants on two or more variables.


  • -To control extraneous variables, compare groups that are homogeneous with respect to the extraneous variable.
  • -This procedure may lower the number of participants and limits the generalizability of the findings.
  • -A similar but more satisfactory approach is to form subgroups within each group that represent all levels of the control variable.
  • -Each group might be divided into high, average, and low IQ subgroups.
  • -The existence of comparable subgroups in each group controls for IQ.
  • -In addition to controlling for the variable, this approach also permits the researcher to determine whether the independent variable affects the dependent variable differently at different levels of the control variable.
  • -The best approach is to build the control variable right into the research design and analyze the results in a statistical technique called factorial analysis of variance.
  • -A factorial analysis allows the researcher to determine the effect of the independent variable and the control variable on the dependent variable both separately and in combination.
  • -It permits determination of whether there is interaction between the independent variable and the control variable such that the independent variable operates differently at different levels of the control variable.


  • -Is used to adjust initial group differences on variables used in causal-comparative and experimental research studies.
  • -Analysis of covariance adjusts scores on a dependent variable for initial differences on some other variable related to performance on the dependent.
  • -Suppose we were doing a study to compare two methods, X and Y, of teaching fifth graders to solve math problems.
  • -Covariate analysis statistically adjusts the scores of method Y to remove the initial advantage so that the results at the end of the study can be fairly compared as if the two groups started equally.


  • -Analysis of data involves a variety of descriptive and inferential statistics.

-The most commonly used descriptive statistics are

(a)  the mean, which indicates the average performance of a group on some measure of a variable, and

(b)  the standard deviation, which indicates how spread out a set of scores is around the mean, that is, whether the scores are relatively homogeneous or heterogeneous around the mean.

-The most commonly used inferential statistics are

(a) the t test, used to determine whether the means of two groups are statistically different from one another;

(b) analysis of variance, used to determine if there is significant difference among the means of three or more groups; and

(c)  chi square, used to compare group frequencies, or to see if an event occurs more frequently in one group than another.

-Lack of randomization, manipulation, and control factors make it difficult to establish cause-effect relationships with any degree of confidence.

  • -However, reversed causality is more plausible and should be investigated.
  • -It is equally plausible that achievement affects self-concept, as it is that self-concept affects achievement.

-The way to determine the correct order of causality-which variable caused which- is to determine which one occurred first.

  • -The possibility of a third, common explanation in causal-comparative research is plausible in many situations.
  • -One way to control for a potential common cause is to equate groups on that variable.
  • -To investigate or control for alternative hypotheses , the researcher must be aware of them and must present evidence that they are not in fact the true explanation for the behavioral differences being investigated.

Types of Causal-Comparative Research Designs

There are two types of causal-comparative research designs:

Retrospective causal-comparative research

Retrospective causal-comparative research requires that a researcher begins investigating a particular question when the effects have already occurred and the researcher attempts to determine whether one variable may have influenced another variable.

Prospective causal-comparative research

Prospective causal-comparative research occurs when a researcher initiates a study a study begin with the causes and is determined to investigate the effects of a condition. By far, retrospective causal-comparative research designs are much more common than prospective causal-comparative designs….

Basic approach of causal- comparative research

The researcher observe that 2 groups differ on some variable (teaching style) and then attempt to find the reason for (or the results of) this difference. …

- Causal-comparative studies attempt to identify cause-effect relationships.

2- Causal-comparative studies typically Involve two (or more) groups and one independent variable

3- Causal-comparative studies involve comparision.

4-The basic causal-comparative approach involves starting with an effect and seeking possible causes ( retrospective).

5-Retospective causal – comparative studies are far more common in educational research.

Steps for conducting a Causal-comparative research

STEP ONE- Select a topic

For  determining the problem it is necessary for the researcher to focus on the problem that he or she needs to study. They not only need to find out a problem, they also need to determine, analyse and define the problem which they will be dealing with.

Topic studies with Causal-comparative designs typically catch a researcher’s attention based on experiences or situations that have occurred in the real world.

The first step in formulating a problem in causal-comparative research is usually to identify and define the particular phenomena of interest, and then to consider possible causes for, or consequences of, these phenomena.

There are no limits to the kinds of instruments that can be used in a causal-comparative study.

The basic causal-comparative design involves selecting two groups that differ on a particular variable of interest and then comparing them on another variable or variables.

STEP TWO -Review of literature

. Literature Review Before trying to predict the causal relationships, the researcher needs to study all the related or similar literature and relevant studies, which may help in further analysis, prediction and conclusion of the causal relationship between the variables under study.

Reviewing published literature on a specific topic of interest is specially important when conducting  Caucal-comparative research as such a review can assist a researcher in determining which extraneous variable  may exist in the situations that they are considering studying.

STEP THREE- Develop a Research hypothesis

The third step of the  research is to propose the possible solutions or alternatives that might have led to the effect. They need to list out the assumptions which will be the basis of the hypothesis and procedure of the research. Hypothesis developed for Causal-comparative research  to identify the independent and dependent variable Causal-comparative hypothesis should describe the expected impact of the independent variable on the dependent variable.

STEP FOUR-Select participants

The important thing in selecting a sample for a causal-comparative study is to define carefully the characteristic to be studied and then to select groups that differ in this characteristic.

In causal-comparative research participants are already organized in groups. The researcher selects two groups of participants the experimental and control groups but more accurately referred to as  comparison groups because one group does not possess a characteristics or experience possessed by the second group or the two groups differ in the amount the characteristics that they share. The independent variable they share. The independent variable differentiating the groups must be clearly and operationally defined, since each group represent a different variable.

STEP FIVE- Select instruments to measure  variables and collecting data

As all the types of qualitative research Causal-comparative research requires that researcher selects instruments that are reliable and allow researchers  to draw valid conclusions( Link to reliability and validity portion of site ) . They also need to select the scale or construct instrument for collecting the required information / data. After a researcher has selected a reliable and valid instrument, data for the study can be selected.

Causal Comparative: Data Collection

■ You select two groups that differ on the (exogenous) variable of interest.

■ Next, compare the two groups by looking at an endogenous variable that you think might be influenced by the exogenous variable.

■ Define clearly and operationally the exogenous variable.

■ Be sure the groups are similar on all other important variables.

Causal Comparative: Equating groups

■ Use subject matching

■ Use change scores; i.e., each subject as own control

■ Compare homogeneous groups

■ Use analysis of covariance

STEP SIX- Analyze and interpret results

Finally, the researcher needs to analyse, evaluate and interpret the information collected. It is on basis of this step only, the researcher selects the best possible alternative of causes which might have led the effect to occur

Typically in Causal-comparative studies data is reported as a mean or frequency for each group. Inferential statistics is than used to determine whether the mean “ for the groups are significantly differ from each other. Since Causal-comparative research can not definitively determine that one variable  has caused something to occur  Reacher should instead report the findings of Causal-comparative studies as a possible effect or possible cause of an event or occurrence.

Similarly, Jacobs et al. (1992: 81) also proposed that the following steps are involved in conducting an ex-post facto-research:

First Step: The first step should be to state the problem.

Second Step: Following this is the determination of the group to be investigated. Two groups of the population that differ with regard to the variable, should be selected in a proportional manner for the test sample.

Third step: The next step refers to the process of collection of data. Techniques like questionnaires, interviews, literature search etc. are used to collect the relevant information.

Fourth Step: The last step is the interpretation of the findings and the results. Based on the conclusions the hypothesis is either accepted or rejected. It must be remembered that eventhough the ex-post facto research is a valid method for collecting information regarding an event that had already occurred, this type of research has shortcomings, and that only partial control is possible.

Validity of the research

The researcher needs to validate the significance of their research. They need to be cautious regarding the extent to which their findings would be valid and significant and helpful in interpreting and drawing inferences from the obtained results.

Threats to Internal Validity in Causal-Comparative Research

Two weaknesses in causal-comparative research are lack of randomization and inability to manipulate an independent variable.

A major threat to the internal validity of a causal-comparative study is the possibility of a subject selection bias. The chief procedures that a researcher can use to reduce this threat include matching subjects on a related variable or creating homogeneous subgroups, and the technique of statistical matching.

Other threats to internal validity in causal-comparative studies include location, instrumentation, and loss of subjects. In addition, type 3 studies are subject to implementation, history, maturation, attitude of subjects, regression, and testing threats.

In short the Threats to Internal Validity in Causal-Comparative Research can be summerised as:

  • Creating or finding homogeneous subgroups would be another way to control for an extraneous variable
  • One way to control for an extraneous variable is to match subjects from the comparison groups on that variable
  • Subject Characteristics
  • The possibility exists that the groups are not equivalent on one or more important variables
  • The third way to control for an extraneous variable is to use the technique of statistical matching

Other Threats

  • Attitude
  • Data collector bias
  • History
  • Instrument decay
  • Instrumentation
  • Location
  • Loss of subjects
  • Maturation
  • Pre-test/treatment interaction effect
  • Regression

Evaluating Threats to Internal Validity in Causal-Comparative Studies

Involves three sets of steps as shown below:

– Step 1: What specific factors are known to affect the variable on which groups are being compared or may be logically be expected to affect this variable?

– Step 2: What is the likelihood of the comparison groups differing on each of these factors?

– Step 3: Evaluate the threats on the basis of how likely they are to have an effect and plan to control for them.

Data Analysis

1- In a Causal-Comparative Study, the first step is to construct frequency polygons.

2-Means and SD are usually calculated if the variable involved    are quantitative…

3- The most commonly  used inference test is a’ t’ test for differences between  means

Analysis of data also involve a variety of descriptive and inferential statistics

The mean-which indicates the average performance of a group

The most commonly used Descriptive statistics are or some measures of a variable.

The Standard Deviation, which indicates how spread out  a set of score is around the mean, that is whether the scores are relatively homogenous or heterogenous around the mean.

The most commonly used inferential statistics are;

The t test used to determine whether the means of two groups are statistically different from one another.

Analysis of variance, used to determine if there is significant difference among the means of three or more groups

Chi square, used to compare group frequencies or to see if an event occurs

Limitations of use

1-There must be a “pre existing” independent variable, like years of study, gender, age, etc

2-There must be active variable- variable which the research can manipulate ,like the length and number of study session.

3-Lack of randomization, manipulation and control factors make it difficult to establish cause-effect relationships with any degree of confidence.

Causal Comparative: Conclusions

■ Researchers often infer cause and effect relationships based on such studies.

■ Conditions necessary, but not necessarily sufficient, to infer a causal relationship:

• A statistical relationship exists that is unlikely attributable to chance variation

• You have reason to believe the supposed exogenous variable preceded the endogenous.

• You can, with some degree of certainty, rule out other possible explanations.

Comparison of Causal-comparative method and Experimental method

-Neither method provides researchers with true experimental data

  • -Causal comparative studies help to identify variables worthy of experimental investigation
  • -Causal-comparative and experimental research both attempt to establish cause-effect relationships and both involve comparisons.
  • -Ethical considerations often prevent manipulation of a variable that could be manipulated but should not be-If the nature of the independent variable is such that it may cause physical or mental harm to participants, the ethics of research dictate that it should not be manipulated
  • -Experimental research the independent variable is manipulated by the researcher, whereas in causal-comparative research, the groups are already formed and already different on the independent variable
  • -Experimental studies are costly in more ways than one and should only be conducted when there is good reason to believe the effort will be fruitful
  • -Experimental study the researcher selects a random sample and then randomly divides the sample into two or more groups-Groups are assigned to the treatments and the study is carried out
  • -Independent variables in causal-comparative cannot be manipulated, should not be manipulated, or simply are not manipulated but could be
  • -Individuals are not randomly assigned to treatment groups because they already were selected into groups before the research began
  • -Not possible to manipulate organismic variables such as age or gender
  • -Students with high anxiety could be compared  to students with low anxiety on attention span, or the difference in achievement between first graders who attended preschool and first graders who did not could be examined.

Despite many key advantages, causal comparative research does have some serious limitations that should also be kept in mind

-Both the independent and dependent variables would have already occurred, it would not be possible to determine which came first.-It would be possible that some third variable, such as parental attitude might be the main influence on self-concept and achievement.

  • -Causal-comparative studies do permit investigation of variables that cannot or should not be investigated experimentally, facilitate decision making, provide guidance for experimental studies, and are less costly on all dimensions.
  • -Caution must be applied in interpreting results
  • -Caution must be exercised in attributing cause-effect relationships based on causal-comparative research.
  • -In causal-comparative research the researcher cannot assign participants to treatment groups because they are already in those groups.
  • -Only in experimental research does the researcher randomly assign participants to treatment groups.
  • -Only in experimental research is the degree of control sufficient to establish cause-effect relationships.
  • -Since the independent variable has already occurred, the same kinds of controls cannot be exercised as in an experimental study
  • -The alleged cause of an observed effect may in fact be the effect itself, or there may be a third variable
  • -This conclusion would not be warranted because it is not possible to establish whether self-concept precedes achievement or vice versa.

Difference and Similarities in between Causal and Correlational Research

Causal-comparative research involves comparing (thus the “comparative” aspect) two groups in order to explain existing differences between them on some variable or variables of interest. Correlational research, on the other hand, does not look at differences between groups. Rather, it looks for relationships within a single group. This is a big difference…one is only entitled to conclude that a relationship of some sort exists, not that variable A caused some variation in variable B.In sum, causal-comparative research does allow one to make reasonable inferences about causation; correlational research does not.

Although some consider causal and correlational research as similar in nature, there exists a clear difference between these two types of research. Causal research is aimed at identifying the causal relationships among variables. Correlational research, on the other hand, is aimed at identifying whether an association exists or not.

Causal-comparative and correlational designs are similar as:

  • Neither is experimental
  • Neither involves manipulation of a treatment variable
  • Relationships are studied in both
  • Correlational:  focus on magnitude and direction of relationship
  • Causal-Comparative:  focus on difference between two groups
  • The basic similarity between causal-comparative and correlational studies is that both seek to explore relationships among variables.
  • When relationships are identified through causal-comparative research (or in correlational research), they often are studied at a later time by means of experimental research.
  • Both lack manipulation
  • Both require caution in interpreting results
  • Causation is difficult to infer
  • Both can support subsequent experimental research

The key difference between causal and correlational research is that while causal research can predict causality, correlational research cannot. Through this article let us examine the differences between causal and correlational research further.

Difference in meaning

The correlational research attempts to identify associations among variables.  The key difference between correlational research and causal research is that correlational research cannot predict causality, although it can identify associations. Another difference that can be highlighted between the two research methods is that in correlational research, the researcher does not attempt to manipulate the variables. He merely observes.

  • In terms of objective :Causal research aims at identifying causality among variables. This highlights that it allows the researcher to find the cause of a certain variable
  • In terms of Prediction: In causal research, the researcher usually measures the impact each variable has before predicting the causality. It is very important to pay attention to the variables because, in most cases, the lack of control over variables can lead to false predictions. This is why most researchers manipulate the research environment.  In the social sciences especially, it is very difficult to conduct causal research because the environment can consist of many variables that influence the causality that can go unnoticed. Now let us move on to correlational research.
  • In terms Definitions of Causal and Correlational Research: In Causal research aims at identifying causality among variables . In Correlational research attempts to identify associations among variables.
  • In terms of Nature: In causal research, the researcher identifies the cause and effect . In correlational research, the researcher identifies an association.
  • In terms of Manipulation: In causal research, the researcher manipulates the environment. In correlational research, the researcher does not manipulate the environment.
  • In terms of Causality: In Causal research can identify causality. In  Correlational research cannot identify causality among variables
  • In terms of  Subjects Subjects are notassigned to groups. Usually, there is only one group of subjects However, subjects are Randomly selected for participation. In Causal research subjects are not randomly assigned to control and experimental groups because it is logistically But, there are control & experimental groups in this type of design….just no random assignment.If possible, they should be randomly selected for participation.
  • In terms of Variables: An important difference between causal-comparative and correlational research is that causal-comparative studies involve two or more groups and one independent variable, while correlational studies involve two or more variables and one group.   In Correlational research Two variables (X and Y) are measured and the strength and direction of the relationship is determined. In Causal research: Subjects are in pre-formed groups. But, unlike correlational and differential research, an independent variable ismanipulated and the groups are measured& compared on a dependent variable .
  • In terms of  Statistics In Correlational research: Pearson product-moment, correlation (Pearson’s r. In  Causal research: Chi-square, t-test, ANOVA 
  • In terms Conclusions : In Correlational research: Variable X co-varies with variable Y (i.e., there is a relationship between the two variables.)Cause and effect cannot be proven.In Causal research: While we may be able to draw some causal conclusions, we can’t do it with as much confidence as if we had used a true experimental design.

Strengths and Limitations of Causal-comparative Research

No research can be perfect in itself. All methods have their strengths as well as weaknesses. The same is applicable in the case of ex-post factor research too. The strengths of the ex-post facto research are: It is considered as a very relevant method in those behavioural researches where the variables can not be manipulated or altered.

Causal-Comparative Research has its limitations which should be recognized:

1. The independent variables cannot be manipulated. Subjects cannot be randomly, or otherwise, assigned to treatment groups.

2. Causes are often multiple and complex rather than single and simple.

For these reasons scientists are reluctant to use the expression cause and effect in  studies in which the variables have not been carefully manipulated.

They prefer to observe that when variable A appears, variable B is consistently associated, possibly for reasons not completely understood or explained.

Strengths of Causal-comparative Research

Causal-compative Research It is less time consuming as well as economical. It gives a chance to the researcher to analyse on basis of his personal opinion and then come out with the best possible conclusion. The weaknesses as well as the limitations of the ex-post facto research are: As discussed earlier, in Causal-compative Research   research, the researcher can not manipulate the independent variables. The researcher can not randomly assign the subjects to different groups. The researcher may not be able to provide a reasonable explanation for the relationship between the independent and dependent variables under study.

While predicting the causal relationships between the variables, the researcher falls prey to the bias called the post hoc fallacy. The concept of post hoc fallacy says that, it is a tendency of human to arrive at conclusions or predictions when two factors go together, one is the cause and the other is the effect. Because delinquency and parenthood go together, we may come to a conclusion that delinquency is the effect and the parenthood is the cause, whereas in reality the peer group to which the child belongs may be the actual reason.

It can therefore be concluded that the ex-post facto research holds a very good position in the field of behavioural sciences. It is the only method which is retrospective in nature, that is, with the help of this method one can trace the history in order to analyse the cause/ reason/action from an effect/behaviour/ event that has already occurred. Although it is a very significant method, yet it has certain limitations as well . The researcher can not manipulate the cause in order to see the alterations on its effect. This again marks a question on the validity of the findings of the research. Equally the researcher can not randomly assign the subjects in to groups and has no control over the variables. Yet, it is one of the very useful methods as it has several implications in the field





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Literature Review in Behavioral Research


Dr. V.K. Maheshwari, Former Principal

K.L.D.A.V (P. G) College, Roorkee, India

Man is the only animal that can take advantage of the knowledge which has accumulated through the centuries. This fact is of particular importance in research, which operates as a continuous function of ever-closer approximation of the truth.The investigator can be sure that his problem does not exist in a vacuum, and that considerable work has already been done on topics which are directly related to his proposed investigation. The success of his efforts will depend in no small measure on the extent to which he capitalizes on the advances- both empirical and theoretical- made by previous researchers.

A literature review is an evaluative report of information found in the literature related to your selected area of study. The review should describe, summaries, evaluate and clarify this literature. It should give a theoretical base for the research and help you (the author) determine the nature of your research. Works which are irrelevant should be discarded and those which are peripheral should be looked at critically.

“In writing the literature review, the purpose is to convey to the reader what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. The literature review must be defined by a guiding concept (e.g. your research objective, the problem or issue you are discussing, or your argumentative thesis). It is not just a descriptive list of the material available, or a set of summaries.

Many students are instructed, as part of their research program, to perform a literature review, without always understanding what a literature review is.Most are aware that it is a process of gathering information from other sources and documenting it, but few have any idea of how to evaluate the information, or how to present it.

A literature review discusses published information in a particular subject area, and sometimes information in a particular subject area within a certain time period.

A review may be a self-contained unit — an end in itself — or a preface to and rationale for engaging in primary research. A review is a required part of grant and research proposals and often a chapter in theses and dissertations.

A literature review is a critical and in depth evaluation of previous research. It is a summary and synopsis of a particular area of research, allowing anybody reading the paper to establish why you are pursuing this particular research program. A good literature review expands upon the reasons behind selecting a particular research question.

A literature review is the effective evaluation of selected documents on a research topic. A review may form an essential part of the research process or may constitute a research project in itself.

A literature review surveys books, scholarly articles, and any other sources relevant to a particular issue, area of research, or theory, and by so doing, provides a description, summary, and critical evaluation of these works in relation to the research problem being investigated. Literature reviews are designed to provide an overview of sources you have explored while researching a particular topic and to demonstrate to your readers how your research fits within a larger field of study.

A literature review surveys scholarly articles, books, dissertations, conference proceedings and other resources which are relevant to a particular issue, area of research, or theory and provides context for a dissertation by identifying past research. Research tells a story and the existing literature helps us identify where we are in the story currently. It is up to those writing a dissertation to continue that story with new research and new perspectives but they must first be familiar with the story before they can move forward.

A literature review is:

  • An integrated synthesis drawing upon a select list of academic sources (mainly journal articles) with a strong relation to the topic in question. It is a paper that includes a description AND a critical evaluation of past research.
  • Focused on a particular question or area of research.
  • The literature review is not merely a list of every item and resource with any possible relation to your topic, no matter how tenuous. It focuses on those resources and materials that are directly relevant to the addressing of your topic, and as such, is highly selective.
  • The literature review is not a widespread, comprehensive list of all materials pertaining to a particular discipline or field of inquiry. Rather, it’s narrowly focused to concentrate only on truly relevant materials.
  • The literature review is not  summary of available materials without any critical description or component; or  an annotated bibliography.

The differences between an annotated bibliography and a literature review:

  • Differences in PURPOSE:
    • A literature review makes a case for further investigation and research, highlighting gaps in knowledge and asking questions that need to be answered for the betterment of the discipline; as such, its contents are selected to make the case.
    • An annotated bibliography is a list of what’s available in a given field, accompanied by a short description. While it may feature a critical component, the criticism is generally directed at the quality of the work, rather than at its value in answering a particular question or buttressing an argument
  • Differences in FORMAT:
    • A literature review is a prose document similar to a journal article or essay, not a list of citations and descriptions. It often has subsections that highlight themes within the literature review.
    • An annotated bibliography is simply that: a bibliography (a list of works or resources), accompanied by annotations. The annotations are usually short descriptions and a brief critical assessment of each work.

To avoid confusion, it should be clear that the literature review is not a chronological catalog of all of the sources, but an evaluation, integrating the previous research together, and also explaining how it integrates into the proposed research program. All sides of an argument must be clearly explained, to avoid bias, and areas of agreement and disagreement should be highlighted.

It is not a collection of quotes and paraphrasing from other sources. A good literature review should also have some evaluation of the quality and findings of the research.

A good literature review should avoid the temptation of impressing the importance of a particular research program. The fact that a researcher is undertaking the research program speaks for its importance, and an educated reader may well be insulted that they are not allowed to judge the importance for themselves. They want to be re-assured that it is a serious paper, not a pseudo-scientific sales advertisement.

Characteristics of Literature Review

A ‘good’ literature review…..

  • ….. has appropriate breadth and depth
  • ….. has clarity and conciseness
  • ….. is a critical evaluation
  • ….. is a synthesis of available research
  • ….. uses rigorous and consistent methods


A ‘poor’ literature review is…..

  • ….. confined to description
  • ….. confusing and longwinded
  • ….. constructed in an arbitrary way
  • ….. narrow and shallow
  • … annotated bibliography

Purposes of a Literature Review

Every piece of ongoing research needs to be connected with the work already done, to attain an overall relevance and purpose. The review of literature thus becomes a link between the research proposed and the studies already done. It tells the reader about aspects that have been already established or concluded by other authors, and also gives a chance to the reader to appreciate the evidence that has already been collected by previous research, and thus projects the current research work in the proper perspective.

Review of existing literature related to the research is an important part of any research paper, and essential to put the research work in overall perspective, connect it with earlier research work and build upon the collective intelligence and wisdom already accumulated by earlier researchers. It significantly enhances the value of any research paper.

Literature reviews provide you with a handy guide to a particular topic. If you have limited time to conduct research, literature reviews can give you an overview or act as a stepping stone. For professionals, they are useful reports that keep them up to date with what is current in the field. For scholars, the depth and breadth of the literature review emphasizes the credibility of the writer in his or her field. Literature reviews also provide a solid background for a research paper’s investigation. Comprehensive knowledge of the literature of the field is essential to most research papers.

Doing a careful and thorough literature review is essential when you write about research at any level. It is basic homework that is assumed to have been done vigilantly, and a given fact in all research papers. By providing one, usually offered in your introduction before you reach your thesis statement, you are telling your reader that you have not neglected the basics of research.

It not only surveys what research has been done in the past on your topic, but it also appraises, encapsulates, compares and contrasts, and correlates various scholarly books, research articles, and other relevant sources that are directly related to your current research. Given the fundamental nature of providing one, your research paper will be not considered seriously if it is lacking one at the beginning of your paper.

A literature review helps you create a sense of rapport with your audience or readers so they can trust that you have done your homework. As a result, they can give you credit for your due diligence: you have done your fact-finding and fact-checking mission, one of the initial steps of any research writing.

As a student, you may not be an expert in a given field; however, by listing a thorough review in your research paper, you are telling the audience, in essence, that you know what you are talking about. As a result, the more books, articles, and other sources you can list in the literature review, the more trustworthy your scholarship and expertise will be. Depending on the nature of your research paper, each entry can be long or short. For example, if you are writing a doctoral dissertation or master’s thesis, the entries can be longer than the ones in a term paper. The key is to stick to the gist of the sources as you synthesize the source in the review: its thesis, research methods, findings, issues, and further discussions mentioned in the source.

It Helps You Avoid Incidental Plagiarism. Imagine this scenario. You have written a research paper, an original paper in your area of specialization, without a literature review. When you are about to publish the paper, you soon learn that someone has already published a paper on a topic very similar to yours. Of course, you have not plagiarized anything from that publication; however, if and when you publish your work, people will be suspicious of your authenticity. They will ask further about the significance of repeating similar research. In short, you could have utilized the time, money, and other resources you have wasted on your research on something else. Had you prepared a literature review at the onset of your research, you could have easily avoided such mishap. During the compilation of your review, you could have noticed how someone else has done similar research on your topic. By knowing this fact, you can tailor or tweak your own research in such a way that it is not a mere rehashing of someone else’s original or old idea.

It sharpens your research focus. As you assemble outside sources, you will condense, evaluate, synthesize, and paraphrase the gist of outside sources in your own words. Through this process of winnowing, you will be able to place the relevance of your research in the larger context of what others researchers have already done on your topic in the past .

The literature review will help you compare and contrast what you are doing in the historical context of the research as well as how your research is different or original from what others have done, helping you rationalize why you need to do this particular research ,

Perhaps you are using a new or different research method which has not been available before, allowing you to collect the data more accurately or conduct an experiment that is more precise and exact thanks to many innovations of modern technology. Thus, it is essential in helping you shape and guide your research in the direction you may not have thought of by offering insights and different perspectives on the research topic.

Structure of a Literature Review

Generally, a literature review consists of the aim, body, conclusion and references. In some scenarios, a literature review may be integrated into a research proposal. If this is the case, the sections of hypotheses and methods will be included. The sections of aim, hypothesis, and method should be approximately 10% of the length of the literature review.

Aim: The objective of the study; a short explanation of the study being undertaken

Body: Provide a critical review of the context of the research or project topic; an evaluation and analysis on existing knowledge; the outline of theoretical framework; any areas of controversy; limitations of literatures; reasons and purpose of the study being undertaken

Hypothesis: Assumptions or theories that are going to be tested (This section is for the case when a literature review is integrated into a research proposal)

Method: Approaches for data collection and analysis (This section is for the case when a literature review is integrated into a research proposal)

Conclusion: A short paragraph to conclude some key points and arguments

The structure of a literature review should include the following:

  • An overview of the subject, issue, or theory under consideration, along with the objectives of the literature review,
  • Division of works under review into themes or categories [e.g. works that support a particular position, those against, and those offering alternative approaches entirely],
  • An explanation of how each work is similar to and how it varies from the others,
  • Conclusions as to which pieces are best considered in their argument, are most convincing of their opinions, and make the greatest contribution to the understanding and development of their area of research.

Fields of Knowledge for Literature Review

It is important to think of knowledge in a given field as consisting of three layers.

  • First, there are the primary studies that researchers conduct and publish.
  • Second, are the reviews of those studies that summarize and offer new interpretations built from and often extending beyond the primary studies.
  • Third, there are the perceptions, conclusions, opinion, and interpretations that are shared informally that become part of the lore of field.

In composing a literature review, it is important to note that it is often this third layer of knowledge that is cited as “true” even though it often has only a loose relationship to the primary studies and secondary literature reviews. Given this, while literature reviews are designed to provide an overview and synthesis of pertinent sources you have explored, there are a number of approaches you could adopt depending upon the type of analysis underpinning your study.

The evaluation of each Literature Review should consider:

Methodology – were the techniques used to identify, gather, and analyze the data appropriate to addressing the research problem? Was the sample size appropriate? Were the results effectively interpreted and reported?

Objectivity – is the author’s perspective even-handed or prejudicial? Is contrary data considered or is certain pertinent information ignored to prove the author’s point?

Persuasiveness – which of the author’s theses are most convincing or least convincing?

Provenance — what are the author’s credentials? Are the author’s arguments supported by evidence [e.g. primary historical material, case studies, narratives, statistics, recent scientific findings]?

Value — are the author’s arguments and conclusions convincing? Does the work ultimately contribute in any significant way to an understanding of the subject?

Development of the Literature Review

Development of the Literature Review can be done in four Stages

1.  Problem formulation — which topic or field is being examined and what are its component issues?

2.  Literature search — finding materials relevant to the subject being explored.

3.  Data evaluation – determining which literature makes a significant contribution to the understanding of the topic.

4.  Analysis and interpretation – discussing the findings and conclusions of pertinent literature.

Consider the following issues before writing the literature review:

Find Models

Use the exercise of reviewing the literature to examine how authors in your discipline or area of interest have composed their literature review sections. Read them to get a sense of the types of themes you might want to look for in your own research or to identify ways to organize your final review. The bibliography or reference section of sources you’ve already read are also excellent entry points into your own research.

Narrow the Topic

The narrower your topic, the easier it will be to limit the number of sources you need to read in order to obtain a good survey of relevant resources. Your professor will probably not expect you to read everything that’s available about the topic, but you’ll make your job easier if you first limit scope of the research problem. A good strategy is to begin by searching the HOMER catalog for books about the topic and review the table of contents for chapters that focuses on specific issues. You can also review the indexes of books to find references to specific issues that can serve as the focus of your research.

Consider Whether Your Sources are Current

Some disciplines require that you use information that is as current as possible. This is particularly true in disciplines in medicine and the sciences where research conducted becomes obsolete very quickly as new discoveries are made. However, when writing a review in the social sciences, a survey of the history of the literature may be required. In other words, a complete understanding the research problem requires you to deliberately examine how knowledge and perspectives have changed over time. Sort through other current bibliographies or literature reviews in the field to get a sense of what your discipline expects. You can also use this method to explore what is considered by scholars to be a “hot topic” and what is not.

Ways to Organize  Literature Review

Chronology of Events- If your review follows the chronological method, you could write about the materials according to when they were published. This approach should only be followed if a clear path of research building on previous research can be identified and that these trends follow a clear chronological order of development.

By Publication

Order your sources by publication chronology, then, only if the order demonstrates a more important trend

Thematic [“conceptual categories”]

Thematic reviews of literature are organized around a topic or issue, rather than the progression of time. However, progression of time may still be an important factor in a thematic review


A methodological approach focuses on the methods utilized by the researcher. A methodological scope will influence either the types of documents in the review or the way in which these documents are discussed.

Other Sections of Your Literature Review

Once you’ve decided on the organizational method for your literature review, the sections you need to include in the paper should be easy to figure out because they arise from your organizational strategy. In other words, a chronological review would have subsections for each vital time period; a thematic review would have subtopics based upon factors that relate to the theme or issue. However, sometimes you may need to add additional sections that are necessary for your study, but do not fit in the organizational strategy of the body. What other sections you include in the body is up to you but include only what is necessary for the reader to locate your study within the larger scholarship framework.

Here are examples of  sections you may need to include depending on the type of review you write:

  • Current Situation: information necessary to understand the topic or focus of the literature review.
  • History: the chronological progression of the field, the literature, or an idea that is necessary to understand the literature review, if the body of the literature review is not already a chronology.
  • Questions for Further Research: What questions about the field has the review sparked? How will you further your research as a result of the review?
  • Selection Methods: the criteria you used to select (and perhaps exclude) sources in your literature review. For instance, you might explain that your review includes only peer-reviewed articles and journals.
  • Standards: the way in which you present your information.


An annotated bibliography on Writing Skills containing book reviews, articles and other sites can be found at:

Types of Literature Reviews

Few important types of Literature Review are

Types of Literature Reviews



|                            |                           |                                     |                                  |                      |

Historical Review

Theoretical Review

Argumentative Review

Integrative Review

Methodological Review

Systematic Review

Historical Review

Few things rest in isolation from historical precedent. Historical literature reviews focus on examining research throughout a period of time, often starting with the first time an issue, concept, theory, phenomena emerged in the literature, then tracing its evolution within the scholarship of a discipline. The purpose is to place research in a historical context to show familiarity with state-of-the-art developments and to identify the likely directions for future research.

Theoretical Review

The purpose of this form is to examine the corpus of theory that has accumulated in regard to an issue, concept, theory, phenomena. The theoretical literature review helps to establish what theories already exist, the relationships between them, to what degree the existing theories have been investigated, and to develop new hypotheses to be tested. Often this form is used to help establish a lack of appropriate theories or reveal that current theories are inadequate for explaining new or emerging research problems. The unit of analysis can focus on a theoretical concept or a whole theory or framework.

Argumentative Review

This form examines literature selectively in order to support or refute an argument, deeply imbedded assumption, or philosophical problem already established in the literature. The purpose is to develop a body of literature that establishes a contrarian viewpoint. Given the value-laden nature of some social science research [e.g., educational reform; immigration control], argumentative approaches to analyzing the literature can be a legitimate and important form of discourse. However, note that they can also introduce problems of bias when they are used to make summary claims of the sort found in systematic reviews [see below].

Integrative Review

Considered a form of research that reviews, critiques, and synthesizes representative literature on a topic in an integrated way such that new frameworks and perspectives on the topic are generated. The body of literature includes all studies that address related or identical hypotheses or research problems. A well-done integrative review meets the same standards as primary research in regard to clarity, rigor, and replication. This is the most common form of review in the social sciences.

Methodological Review

A review does not always focus on what someone said [findings], but how they came about saying what they say [method of analysis]. Reviewing methods of analysis provides a framework of understanding at different levels [i.e. those of theory, substantive fields, research approaches, and data collection and analysis techniques], how researchers draw upon a wide variety of knowledge ranging from the conceptual level to practical documents for use in fieldwork in the areas of ontological and epistemological consideration, quantitative and qualitative integration, sampling, interviewing, data collection, and data analysis.

Systematic Review

This form consists of an overview of existing evidence pertinent to a clearly formulated research question, which uses pre-specified and standardized methods to identify and critically appraise relevant research, and to collect, report, and analyze data from the studies that are included in the review. The goal is to deliberately document, critically evaluate, and summarize scientifically all of the research about a clearly defined research problem. Typically it focuses on a very specific empirical question, often posed in a cause-and-effect form.

Writing  Literature Review

Tips on Writing (Hart 1998)

  • Consistent Grammar- Use sentences and paragraphs with appropriate use of commas, colours and semi-colours. Incorrect use of punctuation can affect the meaning.          
  • Paragraphs- Group sentences that express and develop one aspect of your topic. Use a new paragraph for another aspect or another topic.       
  • Sentences-Express one idea in a sentence. Ensure that all your sentences have a subject, verb and object.           
  • Transition Words- Use words that link paragraphs and which show contrast and development to your argument e.g. ‘hence’, ‘therefore’, ‘but’, ‘thus’, ‘as a result’, ‘in contrast’.


  • Insufficient information
  • Irrelevant material
  • Limited range
  • Omission of contrasting view
  • Omission of recent work
  • Vagueness due to too much or inappropriate generalisations

Once you’ve settled on how to organize your literature review, you’re ready to write each section. When writing your review, keep in mind these issues.

Find a Focus

A literature review, like a term paper, is usually organized around ideas, not the sources themselves as an annotated bibliography would be organized. This means that you will not just simply list your sources and go into detail about each one of them, one at a time. No. As you read widely but selectively in your topic area, consider instead what themes or issues connect your sources together

Consider readers expectations

A literature review may not have a traditional thesis statement (one that makes an argument), but you do need to tell readers what to expect. Try writing a simple statement that lets the reader know what is your main organizing principle

Be Selective

Select only the most important points in each source to highlight in the review. The type of information you choose to mention should relate directly to the research problem, whether it is thematic, methodological, or chronological. Related items that provide additional information but that are not key to understanding the research problem can be included in a list of further readings.

Use Evidence

A literature review section is, in this sense, just like any other academic research paper. Your interpretation of the available sources must be backed up with evidence [citations] that demonstrates that what you are saying is valid.

Keep Your Own Voice

While the literature review presents others’ ideas, your voice [the writer's] should remain front and center. Weave references to other sources into what you are writing but maintain your own voice by starting and ending the paragraph with your own ideas and wording.

Use Quotes Sparingly

Some short quotes are okay if you want to emphasize a point, or if what an author stated cannot be easily paraphrased. Sometimes you may need to quote certain terminology that was coined by the author, not common knowledge, or taken directly from the study. Do not use extensive quotes as a substitute for your own summary and interpretation of the literature.

Use Caution When Paraphrasing

When paraphrasing a source that is not your own, be sure to represent the author’s information or opinions accurately and in your own words. Even when paraphrasing an author’s work, you still must provide a citation to that work.

Summarize and Synthesize

Remember to summarize and synthesize your sources within each thematic paragraph as well as throughout the review. Recapitulate important features of a research study, but then synthesize it by rephrasing the study’s significance and relating it to your own work.

General Suggestions for writing Literature Review

Writing the introduction

In the introduction, you should:

  • Define or identify the general topic, issue, or area of concern, thus providing an appropriate context for reviewing the literature.
  • Establish the writer’s reason (point of view) for reviewing the literature; explain the criteria to be used in analyzing and comparing literature and the organization of the review (sequence); and, when necessary, state why certain literature is or is not included (scope).
  • Point out overall trends in what has been published about the topic; or conflicts in theory, methodology, evidence, and conclusions; or gaps in research and scholarship; or a single problem or new perspective of immediate interest.

Writing the body

In the body, you should:

  • Group research studies and other types of literature (reviews, theoretical articles, case studies, etc.) according to common denominators such as qualitative versus quantitative approaches, conclusions of authors, specific purpose or objective, chronology, etc.
  • Provide the reader with strong “umbrella” sentences at beginnings of paragraphs, “signposts” throughout, and brief “so what” summary sentences at intermediate points in the review to aid in understanding comparisons and analyses.
  • Summarize individual studies or articles with as much or as little detail as each merits according to its comparative importance in the literature, remembering that space (length) denotes significance.

Writing the conclusion

In the conclusion, you should:

  • Conclude by providing some insight into the relationship between the central topic of the literature review and a larger area of study such as a discipline, a scientific endeavor, or a profession.
  • Evaluate the current “state of the art” for the body of knowledge reviewed, pointing out major methodological flaws or gaps in research, inconsistencies in theory and findings, and areas or issues pertinent to future study.
  • Summarize major contributions of significant studies and articles to the body of knowledge under review, maintaining the focus established in the introduction.

These are the most common mistakes made in reviewing social science research literature.

  • Does not describe the search procedures that were used in identifying the literature to review;
  • Only includes research that validates assumptions and does not consider contrary findings and alternative interpretations found in the literature.
  • Relies exclusively on secondary analytical sources rather than including relevant primary research studies or data;
  • Reports isolated statistical results rather than synthesizing them in chi-squared or meta-analytic methods; and,
  • Sources in your literature review do not clearly relate to the research problem;
  • Uncritically accepts another researcher’s findings and interpretations as valid, rather than examining critically all aspects of the research design and analysis;
  • You do not take sufficient time to define and identify the most relevant sources to use in the literature review related to the research problem;

Tips for Conducting a Literature Review

  • As a general rule, certainly for a longer review, each paragraph should address one point, and present and evaluate all of the evidence, from all of the differing points of view.
  • Evaluating the credibility of sources is one of the most difficult aspects, especially with the ease of finding information on the internet.
  • The only real way to evaluate is through experience, but there are a few tricks for evaluating information quickly, yet accurately.
  • There is such a thing as ‘too much information,’ and Google does not distinguish or judge the quality of results, only how search engine friendly a paper is. This is why it is still good practice to begin research in an academic library. Any journals found there can be regarded as safe and credible
  • It is very difficult to judge the credibility of an online paper. The main thing is to structure the internet research as if it were on paper. Bookmark papers, which may be relevant, in one folder and make another subfolder for a ‘shortlist.’
  • The easiest way is to scan the work, using the abstract and introduction as guides. This helps to eliminate the non-relevant work and also some of the lower quality research. If it sets off alarm bells, there may be something wrong, and the paper is probably of a low quality.
  • Be very careful not to fall into the trap of rejecting research just because it conflicts with your hypothesis. Failure to do this will completely invalidate the literature review and potentially undermine the research project. Any research that may be relevant should be moved to the shortlist folder.
  • Critically evaluate the paper and decide if the research is sufficient quality. Think about it this way: The temptation is to try to include as many sources as possible, because it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that a long bibliography equates to a good paper. A smaller number of quality sources is far preferable than a long list of irrelevance.
  • Check into the credentials of any source upon which you rely heavily for the literature review. The reputation of the University or organization is a factor, as is the experience of the researcher. If their name keeps cropping up, and they have written many papers, the source is usually OK.
  • Look for agreements. Good research should have been replicated by other independent researchers, with similar results, showing that the information is usually fairly safe to use.
  • Conducting a good literature review is a matter of experience, and even the best scientists have fallen into the trap of using poor evidence. This is not a problem, and is part of the scientific process; if a research program is well constructed, it will not affect the results.

How to design a good Literature Review Assessment?

  • Decide the length of a literature review .
  • Ensure clear assessment criteria and marking scheme, including grammar, spellings and other issues are provided to the students
  • Ensure students understand the meaning of plagiarism and how to reference a piece of
  • Ensure the students know the primary objective of literature review
  • Ensure the students understand that a literature review is not simply a summary
  • Literature reviews require practice; it is recommended that teachers provide the opportunities. Students may begin with small literature reviews on a narrower topic and build from it. Providing examples will be helpful.
  • Teachers have to decide if they would assess the quality of the resources/literatures chosen by students for the literature review

Steps in reviewing the literature

Reviewing the literature is an important part of the research process. Systematic steps to follow when evaluating the literature include critiquing the following: title, abstract, problem, purpose, theoretical or conceptual framework or model, implications for nursing, review of literature, hypotheses or research questions, variables, instruments, subjects, ethical concerns, research designs, results, conclusions, recommendations, and future studies.

Writing a literature review is often the most daunting part of writing an article, book, thesis, or dissertation. “The literature” seems (and often is) massive. Here is an efficient and effective way of writing a literature review.

1. Choose a topic. Define your research question.

Your literature review should be guided by a central research question.  Remember, it is not a collection of loosely related studies in a field but instead represents background and research developments related to a specific research question, interpreted and analyzed by you in a synthesized way.


  • Begin writing down terms that are related to your question. These will be useful for searches later.
  • If you have the opportunity, discuss your topic with your professor.
  • Make sure your research question is not too broad or too narrow.  Is it manageable?

2. Decide on the scope of your review.

How many studies do you need to look at? How comprehensive should it be? How many years should it cover?

Tip:      This may depend on your assignment.  How many sources does the assignment require?

3. Select the databases you will use to conduct your searches.

Make a list of the databases you will search.  Remember to include comprehensive databases      Where to find databases:

Databases categorized by discipline

Librarians create research guides for all of the disciplines on campus! Take advantage of their expertise and see what discipline-specific search strategies they recommend!

4. Conduct your searches and find the literature. Keep track of your searches!

  • Ask your professor or a scholar in the field if you are missing any key works in the field.
  • Review the abstracts of research studies carefully. This will save you time.
  • Use the bibliographies and references of research studies you find to locate others.
  • Write down the searches you conduct in each database so that you may duplicate them if you need to later .

5. Review the literature.

Some questions to help you analyze the research:

  • What was the research question of the study you are reviewing? What were the authors trying to discover?
  • Was the research funded by a source that could influence the findings?
  • What were the research methodologies? Analyze its literature review, the samples and variables used, the results, and the conclusions. Does the research seem to be complete? Could it have been conducted more soundly? What further questions does it raise?
  • If there are conflicting studies, why do you think that is?
  • How are the authors viewed in the field? Has this study been cited?; if so, how has it been analyzed?


  • Again, review the abstracts carefully.
  • Keep careful notes so that you may track your thought processes during the research process.

It is not necessary that a research paper only reviews that work which has led to established norms and principles. The literature that deserves to be included in the review may include opposing conclusions, parallel thinking or even work that was done primarily for other purposes, but which throws light or provide useful insights to the current research area.

Key outcomes of Conducting a Literature Review

While there might be many reasons for conducting a literature review, following are four key outcomes of doing the review.

  • Assessment of the current state of research on a topic. This is probably the most obvious value of the literature review. Once a researcher has determined an area to work with for a research project, a search of relevant information sources will help determine what is already known about the topic and how extensively the topic has already been researched.
  • Identification of the experts on a particular topic. One of the additional benefits derived from doing the literature review is that it will quickly reveal which researchers have written the most on a particular topic and are, therefore, probably the experts on the topic. Someone who has written twenty articles on a topic or on related topics is more than likely more knowledgeable than someone who has written a single article. This same writer will likely turn up as a reference in most of the other articles written on the same topic. From the number of articles written by the author and the number of times the writer has been cited by other authors, a researcher will be able to assume that the particular author is an expert in the area and, thus, a key resource for consultation in the current research to be undertaken.
  • Identification of key questions about a topic that need further research. In many cases a researcher may discover new angles that need further exploration by reviewing what has already been written on a topic. For example, research may suggest that listening to music while studying might lead to better retention of ideas, but the research might not have assessed whether a particular style of music is more beneficial than another. A researcher who is interested in pursuing this topic would then do well to follow up existing studies with a new study, based on previous research, that tries to identify which styles of music are most beneficial to retention.
  • Determination of methodologies used in past studies of the same or similar topics. It is often useful to review the types of studies that previous researchers have launched as a means of determining what approaches might be of most benefit in further developing a topic. By the same token, a review of previously conducted studies might lend itself to researchers determining a new angle for approaching research.

Advantages of Literature Reviews

  • Literature Reviews assess different cognitive levels and  enhance analytical skills through identifying differences in previous work and their work
  • Literature Reviews encourage deep learning, and provide an efficient way to assess students on their knowledge and understanding of a particular topic.
  • Literature Reviews give a conceptual framework for research or project planning because students can have a clear idea of what has already been done in the field. This helps students build up new research topics on the basis of existing literatures
  • Time and cost efficient to look for resources (e.g. through the online database)
  • With proper supervision and practices, some graduate attributes such as project management and life-long learning can be learnt and assessed.

Disadvantages of Literature Reviews

  • It is time consuming for the teachers to correct and provide feedback.
  • Literature reviews require good supervision from teachers particularly for students who are inexperienced in this type of assessment.
  • Sometimes, students may not have access to certain information. They may spend unnecessary time and resources on searching for the reviews.

Upon completion of the literature review, a researcher should have a solid foundation of knowledge in the area and a good feel for the direction any new research should take. Should any additional questions arise during the course of the research, the researcher will know which experts to consult in order to quickly clear up those questions








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Rating Scales in Behavioral Research

Dr. V.K. Maheshwari, Former Principal

K.L.D.A.V (P. G) College, Roorkee, India

Surveys are consistently used to measure quality. For example, surveys might be used to gauge customer perception of product quality or quality performance in service delivery.

Statisticians have generally grouped data collected from these surveys into a hierarchy of four levels of measurement:

1.            Nominal data: The weakest level of measurement representing categories without numerical representation.

2.            Ordinal data: Data in which an ordering or ranking of responses is possible but no measure of distance is possible.

3.            Interval data: Generally integer data in which ordering and distance measurement are possible.

4.            Ratio data: Data in which meaningful ordering, distance, decimals and fractions between variables are possible.

Data analyses using nominal, interval and ratio data are generally straightforward and transparent. Analyses of ordinal data, particularly as it relates to Likert or other scales in surveys, are not. This is not a new issue. The adequacy of treating ordinal data as interval data continues to be controversial in survey analyses in a variety of applied fields.1,2

An underlying reason for analyzing ordinal data as interval data might be the contention that parametric statistical tests (based on the central limit theorem) are more powerful than nonparametric alternatives. Also, conclusions and interpretations of parametric tests might be considered easier to interpret and provide more information than nonparametric alternatives.

However, treating ordinal data as interval (or even ratio) data without examining the values of the dataset and the objectives of the analysis can both mislead and misrepresent the findings of a survey. To examine the appropriate analyses of scalar data and when its preferable to treat ordinal data as interval data, we will concentrate on Likert scales.

What is a rating scale?

A rating scale is a tool used for assessing the performance of tasks, skill levels, procedures, processes, qualities, quantities, or end products, such as reports, drawings, and computer programs. These are judged at a defined level within a stated range. Rating scales are similar to checklists except that they indicate the degree of accomplishment rather than just yes or no.

Rating scales list performance statements in one column and the range of accomplishment in descriptive words, with or without numbers, in other columns. These other columns form “the scale” and can indicate a range of achievement, such as from poor to excellent, never to always, beginning to exemplary, or strongly disagree to strongly agree.

What’s the definition of Likert scale?

According to Wikipedia: “A rating scale is a set of categories designed to elicit information about a quantitative or a qualitative attribute. In the social sciences, common examples are the Likert scale and 1-10 rating scales in which a person selects the number which is considered to reflect the perceived quality of a product.”

Rating scales are used quite frequently in survey research and there are many different kinds of rating scales. A typical rating scale asks subjects to choose one response category from several arranged in hierarchical order. Either each response category is labeled or else only the two endpoints of the scale are “anchored.

By definition Rating scales are survey questions that offer a range of answer options — from one extreme attitude to another, like “extremely likely” to “not at all likely.” Typically, they include a moderate or neutral midpoint.

Likert scales (named after their creator, American social scientist Rensis Likert) are quite popular because they are one of the most reliable ways to measure opinions, perceptions, and behaviors.

Compared to binary questions, which give you only two answer options, Likert-type questions will get you more granular feedback about whether your product was just “good enough” or (hopefully) “excellent.” They can help decide whether a recent company outing left employees feeling “very satisfied,” “somewhat dissatisfied,” or maybe just neutral.

This method will let you uncover degrees of opinion that could make a real difference in understanding the feedback you’re getting. And it can also pinpoint the areas where you might want to improve your service or product.

Characteristics of rating scales

Rating scales should:

•             have criteria for success based on expected outcomes

•             have clearly defined, detailed statements

This gives more reliable results.

For assessing end products, it can sometimes help to have a set of photographs

or real samples that show the different levels of achievement. Students can

visually compare their work to the standards provided.

•             have statements that are chunked into logical sections or flow sequentially

•             include clear wording with numbers when a number scale is used

As an example, when the performance statement describes a behaviour or quality,

1 = poor through to 5 = excellent is better than 1 = lowest through to 5 = highest

or simply 1 through 5.

The range of numbers should be the same for all rows within a section (such as

all being from 1 to 5).

The range of numbers should always increase or always decrease. For example, if

the last number is the highest achievement in one section, the last number should

be the highest achievement in the other sections.

•             have specific, clearly distinguishable terms

Using good then excellent is better than good then very good because it is

hard to distinguish between good and very good. Some terms, such as often or

sometimes, are less clear than numbers, such as 80% of the time.

  • be reviewed by other instructors
  • be short enough to be practical
  • have space for other information such as the student’s name, date, course, examiner, and overall result
  • highlight critical tasks or skills
  • indicate levels of success required before proceeding further, if applicable
  • sometimes have a column or space for providing additional feedback

Basic goals for Scale points and their labels

Survey data are only as good as the questions asked and the way we ask them. To that end, let’s talk rating scales.

To get started, let’s outline five basic goals for scale points and their labels:

  • It should be easy to interpret the meaning of each scale point
  • Responses to the scale should be reliable, meaning that if we asked the same question again, each respondent should provide the same answer
  • The meaning scale points should be interpreted identically by all respondents
  • The scale should include enough points to differentiate respondents from one another as much as validly possible
  • The scale’s points should map as closely as possible to the underlying idea (construct) of the scale

Number of Scale point to be included

The number of scale points depends on what sort of question you’re asking. If you’re dealing with an idea or construct that ranges from positive to negative – think satisfaction levels – (these are known as bi-polar constructs) then you’re going to want a 7-point scale that includes a middle or neutral point. In practice, this means the response options for a satisfaction question should look like this:

Scale Point 1

If you’re dealing with an idea or construct that ranges from zero to positive – think effectiveness – (these are known as unipolar constructs) then you’ll go with a 5-point scale. The response options for this kind of question would look like this:

Scale Point 2

Since it doesn’t make sense to have negative effectiveness, this kind of five-point scale is the best practice.

Always measure bipolar constructs with bipolar scales and unipolar constructs with unipolar scales.

In short, the goal is to make sure respondents can answer in a way that allows them to differentiate themselves as much as is validly possible without providing so many points that the measure becomes noisy or unreliable. Even on an 11-point (0-10) scale respondents start to have difficulty reliably placing themselves– 3 isn’t so different from 4 and 6 isn’t so different from 7.

Middle Alternative

There is a general complain that including middle alternatives basically allows respondents to avoid taking a position. Some even mistakenly assume that midpoint responses are disguised “Don’t knows” or that respondents are satisficing when they provide midpoint responses.

However, research suggests that midpoint responses don’t necessarily mean that respondents don’t know or are avoiding making a choice. In fact, research indicates that if respondents that select the midpoint were forced to choose a side, they would not necessarily answer the question in the same way as other respondents that opted to choose a side.

This suggests that middle alternatives should be provided and that they may be validly and reliably chosen by respondents. Forcing respondents to take a side may introduce unwanted variance or bias to the data.

Labeling Response options

Some people prefer to only label the end-points. Others will also label the midpoint. Some people label with words and others label numerically. What’s right?

The most accurate surveys will have a clear and specific label that indicates exactly what each point means. Going back to the goals of scale points and their labels, we want all respondents to easily interpret the meaning of each scale point and for there to be no room for different interpretations between respondents. Labels are key to avoiding ambiguity and respondent confusion.

This means that partially labeled scales may not perform as well as a fully labeled scale and that numbers should only be used for scales collecting numeric data (not rating scales).

Common Rating Scales

One of the most frequent mistakes  when reviewing questionnaires are poorly written scales. Novice survey authors often create their own scale rather than using the appropriate common scale. It’s hard to write a good scale; instead by better off rewording  question slightly  use one of the following.

  • Acceptability Not at all acceptable, Slightly acceptable, Moderately acceptable, Very acceptable, Completely acceptable
  • Agreement Completely disagree, Disagree, Somewhat disagree, Neither agree nor disagree, Somewhat agree, Agree, Completely agree
  • Appropriateness Absolutely inappropriate, Inappropriate, Slightly inappropriate, Neutral, Slightly appropriate, Appropriate, Absolutely appropriate
  • Awareness Not at all aware, Slightly aware, Moderately aware, Very aware, Extremely aware
  • Beliefs Not at all true of what I believe, Slightly true of what I believe, Moderately true of what I believe, Very true of what I believe, Completely true of what I believe
  • Concern Not at all concerned, Slightly concerned, Moderately concerned, Very concerned, Extremely concerned
  • Familiarity Not at all familiar, Slightly familiar, Moderately familiar, Very familiar, Extremely familiar
  • Frequency Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Often, Always
  • Importance Not at all important, Slightly important, Moderately important, Very important, Extremely important
  • Influence Not at all influential, Slightly influential, Moderately influential, Very influential, Extremely influential
  • Likelihood Not at all likely, Slightly likely, Moderately likely, Very likely, Completely likely
  • Priority Not a priority, Low priority, Medium priority, High priority, Essential
  • Probability Not at all probable, Slightly probable, Moderately probable, Very probable, Completely probable
  • Quality Very poor, Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent
  • Reflect Me Not at all true of me, Slightly true of me, Moderately true of me, Very true of me, Completely true of me
  • Satisfaction (bipolar) Completely dissatisfied, Mostly dissatisfied, Somewhat dissatisfied, Neither satisfied or dissatisfied, Somewhat satisfied, Mostly satisfied, Completely satisfied
  • Satisfaction (unipolar) Not at all satisfied, Slightly satisfied, Moderately satisfied, Very satisfied, Completely satisfied


This list follows Krosnick’s advice to use 5-point unipolar scales and 7-point bipolar scales.


Types of rating scales

Some time more than one rating scale question is required to measure an attitude or perception due to the requirement for statistical comparisons between the categories in the polytomous Rasch model for ordered categories. In terms of Classical test theory, more than one question is required to obtain an index of internal reliability such as Cronbach’s alpha, which is a basic criterion for assessing the effectiveness of a rating scale and, more generally, a psychometric instrument.

All rating scales can be classified into one or two of three types:

  1. numeric rating scale
  2. graphic rating scale
  3. Descriptive graphic rating scale

Considerations for numeric rating scales

If you assign numbers to each column for marks, consider the following:

•             What should the first number be? If 0, does the student deserve 0%? If 1, does the student deserve 20% (assuming 5 is the top mark) even if he/she has done extremely poorly?

•             What should the second number be? If 2 (assuming 5 is the top mark), does the person really deserve a failing mark (40%)? This would mean that the first two or three columns represent different degrees of failure.

•             Consider variations in the value of each column. Assuming 5 is the top mark, the columns could be valued at 0, 2.5, 3, 4, and 5.

•             Consider the weighting for each row. For example, for rating a student’s report, should the introduction, main body, and summary be proportionally rated the same? Perhaps, the main body should be valued at five times the amount of the introduction and summary. A multiplier or weight can be put in another column for calculating a total mark in the last column.

Consider having students create the rating scale. This can get them to think deeply about the content.

Graphic Rating Scale

Graphic Rating Scale is a type of performance appraisal method. In this method traits or behaviours that are important for effective performance are listed out and each personis rated against these traits.

The method is easy to understand and is user friendly.Standardization of the comparison criteria’s Behaviours are quantified making appraisal system easier

Ratings are usually on a scale of 1-5, 1 being Non-existent, 2 being Average, 3 being Good, 4 being Very Good and 5 being Excellent.

Characteristics of a good Graphic Rating scale are:

• Performance evaluation measures against which an employee has to be rated must be well defined.

• Scales should be behaviorally based.

• Ambiguous behaviors definitions, such as loyalty, honesty etc. should be avoided

• Ratings should be relevant to the behaGraphic Rating Scale

Graphic Rating Scale is a type of performance appraisal method. In this method traits or behaviours that are important for effective performance are listed out and each personis rated against these traits.

The method is easy to understand and is user friendly.Standardization of the comparison criteria’s Behaviours are quantified making appraisal system easier

Ratings are usually on a scale of 1-5, 1 being Non-existent, 2 being Average, 3 being Good, 4 being Very Good and 5 being Excellent.

Characteristics of a good Graphic Rating scale are:

• Performance evaluation measures against which an employee has to be rated must be well defined.

• Scales should be behaviorally based.

• Ambiguous behaviors definitions, such as loyalty, honesty etc. should be avoided

• Ratings should be relevant to the behavior being measured.

But in this scale, rating behaviors may or may not be accurate as the perception of behaviors might vary with judges. Rating against labels like excellent and poor is difficult at times even tricky as the scale does not exemplify the ideal behaviors required for a achieving a rating. Perception error like Halo effect, Recency effect, stereotyping etc. can cause incorrect rating. behavior being measured.

But in this scale ,rating behaviors may or may not be accurate as the perception of behaviors might vary with judges. Rating against labels like excellent and poor is difficult at times even tricky as the scale does not exemplify the ideal behaviours required for a achieving a rating. Perception error like Halo effect, Recency effect, stereotyping etc. can cause incorrect rating.


Some data are measured at the ordinal level. Numbers indicate the relative position of items, but not the magnitude of difference. Attitude and opinion scales are usually ordinal; one example is a Likert response scale

Some data are measured at the interval level. Numbers indicate the magnitude of difference between items, but there is no absolute zero point. A good example is a Fahrenheit/Celsius temperature scale where the differences between numbers matter, but placement of zero does not.

Some data are measured at the ratio level. Numbers indicate magnitude of difference and there is a fixed zero point. Ratios can be calculated. Examples include age, income, price, costs, sales revenue, sales volume and market share.

Likert scales are a common ratings format for surveys. Respondents rank quality from high to low or best to worst using five or seven levels.

The Likert Scale

A Likert scale (pronounced /ˈlɪkərt/, also /ˈlaɪkərt/) is a psychometric scale commonly used in questionnaires, and is the most widely used scale in survey research, such that the term is often used interchangeably with rating scale even though the two are not synonymous. When responding to a Likert questionnaire item, respondents specify their level of agreement to a statement. The scale is named after its inventor, psychologist Rensis Likert.

Rensis Likert, the developer of the scale, pronounced his name ‘lick-urt’ with a short “i” sound. It has been claimed that Likert’s name “is among the most mispronounced in [the] field.” Although many people use the long “i” variant (‘lie-kurt’), those who attempt to stay true to Dr. Likert’s pronunciation use the short “i” pronunciation (‘lick-urt’).

Sample question presented using a five-point Likert item

An important distinction must be made between a Likert scale and a Likert item. The Likert scale is the sum of responses on several Likert items. Because Likert items are often accompanied by a visual analog scale (e.g., a horizontal line, on which a subject indicates his or her response by circling or checking tick-marks), the items are sometimes called scales themselves. This is the source of much confusion; it is better, therefore, to reserve the term Likert scale to apply to the summated scale, and Likert item to refer to an individual item.

A Likert item is simply a statement which the respondent is asked to evaluate according to any kind of subjective or objective criteria; generally the level of agreement or disagreement is measured. Often five ordered response levels are used, although many psychometricians advocate using seven or nine levels; a recent empirical study found that a 5- or 7- point scale may produce slightly higher mean scores relative to the highest possible attainable score, compared to those produced from a 10-point scale, and this difference was statistically significant. In terms of the other data characteristics, there was very little difference among the scale formats in terms of variation about the mean, skewness or kurtosis.

The format of a typical five-level Likert item is:

1. Strongly disagree

2. Disagree

3. Neither agree nor disagree

4. Agree

5. Strongly agree

Likert scaling is a bipolar scaling method, measuring either positive or negative response to a statement. Sometimes a four-point scale is used; this is a forced choice method[citation needed] since the middle option of “Neither agree nor disagree” is not available.

Likert scales may be subject to distortion from several causes. Respondents may avoid using extreme response categories (central tendency bias); agree with statements as presented (acquiescence bias); or try to portray themselves or their organization in a more favorable light (social desirability bias). Designing a scale with balanced keying (an equal number of positive and negative statements) can obviate the problem of acquiescence bias, since acquiescence on positively keyed items will balance acquiescence on negatively keyed items, but central tendency and social desirability are somewhat more problematic.


How to write Likert scale survey questions

Be accurate. Likert-type questions must be phrased correctly in order to avoid confusion and increase their effectiveness. If you ask about satisfaction with the service at a restaurant, do you mean the service from valets, the waiters, or the host? All of the above? Are you asking whether the customer was satisfied with the speed of service, the courteousness of the attendants, or the quality of the food and drinks? The more specific you are, the better your data will be.

Be careful with adjectives. When you’re using words to ask about concepts in your survey, you need to be sure people will understand exactly what you mean. Your response options need to include descriptive words that are easily understandable. There should be no confusion about which grade is higher or bigger than the next: Is “pretty much” more than “quite a bit”? It’s advisable to start from the extremes (“extremely,” “not at all”,) set the midpoint of your scale to represent moderation (“moderately,”) or neutrality (“neither agree nor disagree,”) and then use very clear terms–“very,” “slightly”–for the rest of the options.

Bipolar or unipolar? Do you want a question where attitudes can fall on two sides of neutrality–“love” vs. “hate”– or one where the range of possible answers goes from “none” to the maximum? The latter, a unipolar scale, is preferable in most cases. For example, it’s better to use a scale that ranges from “extremely brave” to “not at all brave,” rather than a scale that ranges from “extremely brave” to “extremely shy.” Unipolar scales are just easier for people to think about, and you can be sure that one end is the exact opposite of the other, which makes it methodologically more sound as well.

Better to ask. Statements carry an implicit risk: Most people will tend to agree rather than disagree with them because humans are mostly nice and respectful. (This phenomenon is called acquiescence response bias.) It’s more effective, then, to ask a question than to make a statement.

5 extra tips on how to use Likert scales

  1. Keep it labeled. Numbered scales that only use numbers instead of words as response options may give survey respondents trouble, since they might not know which end of the range is positive or negative.
  2. Keep it odd. Scales with an odd number of values will have a midpoint. How many options should you give people? Respondents have difficulty defining their point of view on a scale greater than seven. If you provide more than seven response choices, people are likely to start picking an answer randomly, which can make your data meaningless. Our methodologists recommend five scale points for a unipolar scale, and seven scale points if you need to use a bipolar scale.
  3. Keep it continuous. Response options in a scale should be equally spaced from each other. This can be tricky when using word labels instead of numbers, so make sure you know what your words mean.
  4. Keep it inclusive. Scales should span the entire range of responses. If a question asks how quick your waiter was and the answers range from “extremely quick” to “moderately quick,” respondents who think the waiter was slow won’t know what answer to choose.
  5. Keep it logical. Add skip logic to save your survey takers some time. For example, let’s say you want to ask how much your patron enjoyed your restaurant, but you only want more details if they were unhappy with something. Use question logic so that only those who are unhappy skip to a question asking for improvement suggestions.

You have probably known Likert-scale questions for a long time, even if you didn’t know their unique name. Now you also know how to create effective ones that can bring a greater degree of nuance to the key questions in your surveys.

Basics of Likert Scales

Likert scales were developed in 1932 as the familiar five-point bipolar response that most people are familiar with today.3 These scales range from a group of categories—least to most—asking people to indicate how much they agree or disagree, approve or disapprove, or believe to be true or false. There’s really no wrong way to build a Likert scale. The most important consideration is to include at least five response categories. Some examples of category groups appear in Table 1.


The ends of the scale often are increased to create a seven-point scale by adding “very” to the respective top and bottom of the five-point scales. The seven-point scale has been shown to reach the upper limits of the scale’s reliability.4 As a general rule, Likert and others recommend that it is best to use as wide a scale as possible. You can always collapse the responses into condensed categories, if appropriate, for analysis.

With that in mind, scales are sometimes truncated to an even number of categories (typically four) to eliminate the “neutral” option in a “forced choice” survey scale. Rensis Likert’s original paper clearly identifies there might be an underlying continuous variable whose value characterizes the respondents’ opinions or attitudes and this underlying variable is interval level, at best.5

Analysis, Generalization to Continuous Indexes

As a general rule, mean and standard deviation are invalid parameters for descriptive statistics whenever data are on ordinal scales, as are any parametric analyses based on the normal distribution. Nonparametric procedures—based on the rank, median or range—are appropriate for analyzing these data, as are distribution free methods such as tabulations, frequencies, contingency tables and chi-squared statistics.

Kruskall-Wallis models can provide the same type of results as an analysis of variance, but based on the ranks and not the means of the responses. Given these scales are representative of an underlying continuous measure, one recommendation is to analyze them as interval data as a pilot prior to gathering the continuous measure.

Table 2 includes an example of misleading conclusions, showing the results from the annual Alfred P. Sloan Foundation survey of the quality and extent of online learning in the United States. Respondents used a Likert scale to evaluate the quality of online learning compared to face-to-face learning.


While 60%-plus of the respondents perceived online learning as equal to or better than face-to-face, there is a persistent minority that perceived online learning as at least somewhat inferior. If these data were analyzed using means, with a scale from 1 to 5 from inferior to superior, this separation would be lost, giving means of 2.7, 2.6 and 2.7 for these three years, respectively. This would indicate a slightly lower than average agreement rather than the actual distribution of the responses.

A more extreme example would be to place all the respondents at the extremes of the scale, yielding a mean of “same” but a completely different interpretation from the ac-tual responses.

Under what circumstances might Likert scales be used with interval procedures? Suppose the rank data included a survey of income measuring $0, $25,000, $50,000, $75,000 or $100,000 exactly, and these were measured as “low,” “medium” and “high.”

The “intervalness” here is an attribute of the data, not of the labels. Also, the scale item should be at least five and preferably seven categories.

Another example of analyzing Likert scales as interval values is when the sets of Likert items can be combined to form indexes. However, there is a strong caveat to this approach: Most researchers insist such combinations of scales pass the Cronbach’s alpha or the Kappa test of intercorrelation and validity.

Also, the combination of scales to form an interval level index assumes this combination forms an underlying characteristic or variable.

Steps to Developing a Likert Scale

1.            Define the focus: what is it you are trying to measure? Your topic should be one-dimensional. For example “Customer Service” or “This Website.”

2.            Generate the Likert Scale items. The items should be able to be rated on some kind of scale. The image at the top of this page has some suggestions. For example, polite/rude could be rated as “very polite”, “polite”, “not polite” or “very impolite.” Politeness could also be rated on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is not polite at all and 10 is extremely polite.

3.            Rate the Likert Scale items. You want to be sure your focus is good, so pick a team of people to go through the items in step 2 above and rate them as favorable/neutral/unfavorable to your focus. Weed out the items that are mostly seen as unfavorable.

4.            Administer your Likert Scale test.

Hypothesis Tests on Likert Scales

If you known that you’re going to be performing analysis on Likert scale data, it’s easier to tailor your questions in the development stage, rather than to collect your data and then make a decision about analysis. What analysis you run depends on the format of your questionnaire.

There is some disagreement in education and research about whether you should run parametric tests like the t-test or non-parametric hypothesis tests like the Mann-Whitney on Likert-scale data. Winter and Dodou(2010) researched this issue, with the following results:

“In conclusion, the t test and [Mann-Whitney] generally have equivalent power, except for skewed, peaked, or multimodal distributions for which strong power differences between the two tests occurred. The Type I error rate of both methods was never more than 3% above the nominal rate of 5%, even not when sample sizes were highly unequal.”

In other words, there seems to be no real difference between the results for parametric and non-parametric tests, except for skewed, peaked, or multimodal distributions. Which avenue you take is up to you, your department, and perhaps the journal you are submitting to (if any). The most important step at the decision stage is deciding if you want to treat your data as ordinal or interval data.

General guidelines:

•             For a series of individual questions with Likert responses, treat the data as ordinal variables.

•             For a series of Likert questions that together describe a single construct (personality trait or attitude), treat the data as interval variables.

Two Options

Most Likert scales are classified as ordinal variables. If you are 100% sure that the distance between variables is constant, then they can be treated as interval variables for testing purposes. In most cases, your data will be ordinal, as it’s impossible to tell the difference between, say, “strongly agree” and “agree” vs. “agree” and “neutral.”

Ordinal Scale Data

With most variable types (interval, ratio, nominal), you can find the mean. This is not true for Likert scale data. The mean in a Likert scale can’t be found because you don’t know the “distance” between the data items. In other words, while you can find an average of 1,2, and 3, you can’t find an average of “agree”, “disagree”, and “neutral.”

“The average of ‘fair’ and ‘good’ is not ‘fair‐and‐a‐half’; which is true even when one assigns integers to represent ‘fair’ and ‘good’!” – Susan Jamieson paraphrasing Kuzon Jr et al. (Jamieson, 2004)

Statistics Choices

Statistics you can use are:

•             The mode: the most common response.

•             The median: the “middle” response when all items are placed in order.

•             The range and interquartile range: to show variability.

•             A bar chart or frequency table: to show a table of results. Do not make a histogram, as the data is not continuous.

Hypothesis Testing

In hypothesis testing for Likert scales, the independent variable represents the groups and the dependent variable represents the construct you are measuring. For example, if you survey nursing students to measure their level of compassion, the independent variable is the groups of nursing students and the dependent variable is the level of compassion.

Types of test you can run:

•             Kruskal Wallis: determines if the median for two groups is different.

•             Mann Whitney U Test: determines if the medians for two groups are different. Simple to evaluate single Likert scale questions, but suffers from several forms of bias, including central tendency bias, acquiescence bias and social desirability bias. In addition, validity is usually hard to demonstrate.

More Options for Two Categories

If you combine your responses into two categories, for example, agree and disagree, more test options open up to you.

•             Chi-square: The test is designed for multinomial experiments, where the outcomes are counts placed into categories.

•             McNemar test: Tests if responses to categories are the same for two groups/conditions.

•             Cochran’s Q test: An extension of McNemar that tests if responses to categories are the same for three or moregroups/conditions.

•             Friedman Test: for finding differences in treatments across multiple attempts.

Measures of Association

Sometimes you want to know if a one group of people has a different response (higher or lower) from another group of people to a certain Likert scale item. To answer this question, you would use a measure of association instead of a test for differences (like those listed above).

If your groups are ordinal (i.e. ordered) in some way, like age-groups, you can use:

•             Kendall’s tau coefficient or variants of tau (e.g., gamma coefficient; Somers’ D).

•             Spearman rank correlation.

If your groups aren’t ordinal, then use one of these:

•             Phi coefficient.

•             Contingency coefficient.

•             Cramer’s V.

Interval Scale Data

Statistics that are suitable for interval scale Likert data:

•             Mean.

•             Standard deviation.

Hypothesis Tests suitable for interval scale Likert data:

•             T-test.

•             ANOVA.

•             Regression analysis (either ordered logistic regression or multinomial logistic regression). If you can combine your dependent variables into two responses (e.g. agree or disagree), run binary logistic regression.

Scoring and analysis

After the questionnaire is completed, each item may be analyzed separately or in some cases item responses may be summed to create a score for a group of items. Hence, Likert scales are often called summative scales.

Whether individual Likert items can be considered as interval-level data, or whether they should be considered merely ordered-categorical data is the subject of disagreement. Many regard such items only as ordinal data, because, especially when using only five levels, one cannot assume that respondents perceive all pairs of adjacent levels as equidistant. On the other hand, often (as in the example above) the wording of response levels clearly implies a symmetry of response levels about a middle category; at the very least, such an item would fall between ordinal- and interval-level measurement; to treat it as merely ordinal would lose information. Further, if the item is accompanied by a visual analog scale, where equal spacing of response levels is clearly indicated, the argument for treating it as interval-level data is even stronger.

When treated as ordinal data, Likert responses can be collated into bar charts, central tendency summarised by the median or the mode (but some would say not the mean), dispersion summarised by the range across quartiles (but some would say not the standard deviation), or analyzed using non-parametric tests, e.g. chi-square test, Mann–Whitney test, Wilcoxon signed-rank test, or Kruskal–Wallis test. Parametric analysis of ordinary averages of Likert scale data is also justifiable by the Central Limit Theorem, although some would disagree that ordinary averages should be used for Likert scale data.

Responses to several Likert questions may be summed, providing that all questions use the same Likert scale and that the scale is a defendable approximation to an interval scale, in which case they may be treated as interval data measuring a latent variable. If the summed responses fulfill these assumptions, parametric statistical tests such as the analysis of variance can be applied. These can be applied only when more than 5 Likert questions are summed.

Data from Likert scales are sometimes reduced to the nominal level by combining all agree and disagree responses into two categories of “accept” and “reject”. The chi-square, Cochran Q, or McNemar test are common statistical procedures used after this transformation.

Consensus based assessment (CBA) can be used to create an objective standard for Likert scales in domains where no generally accepted standard or objective standard exists. Consensus based assessment (CBA) can be used to refine or even validate generally accepted standards.

Level of measurement

The five response categories are often believed to represent an Interval level of measurement. But this can only be the case if the intervals between the scale points correspond to empirical observations in a metric sense. In fact, there may also appear phenomena which even question the ordinal scale level. For example, in a set of items A,B,C rated with a Likert scale circular relations like A>B, B>C and C>A can appear. This violates the axiom of transitivity for the ordinal scale.

Rasch model

Likert scale data can, in principle, be used as a basis for obtaining interval level estimates on a continuum by applying the polytomous Rasch model, when data can be obtained that fit this model. In addition, the polytomous Rasch model permits testing of the hypothesis that the statements reflect increasing levels of an attitude or trait, as intended. For example, application of the model often indicates that the neutral category does not represent a level of attitude or trait between the disagree and agree categories.

Again, not every set of Likert scaled items can be used for Rasch measurement. The data has to be thoroughly checked to fulfill the strict formal axioms of the model.

The Likert scale is commonly used in survey research. It is often used to measure respondents’ attitudes by asking the extent to which they agree or disagree with a particular question or statement. A typical scale might be “strongly agree, agree, not sure/undecided, disagree, strongly disagree.” On the surface, survey data using the Likert scale may seem easy to analyze, but there are important issues for a data analyst to consider.

General Instructions

1. Get your data ready for analysis by coding the responses. For example, let’s say you have a survey that asks respondents whether they agree or disagree with a set of positions in a political party’s platform. Each position is one survey question, and the scale uses the following responses: Strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, strongly disagree. In this example, we’ll code the responses accordingly: Strongly disagree = 1, disagree = 2, neutral = 3, agree = 4, strongly agree = 5.

2. Remember to differentiate between ordinal and interval data, as the two types require different analytical approaches. If the data are ordinal, we can say that one score is higher than another. We cannot say how much higher, as we can with interval data, which tell you the distance between two points. Here is the pitfall with the Likert scale: many researchers will treat it as an interval scale. This assumes that the differences between each response are equal in distance. The truth is that the Likert scale does not tell us that. In our example here, it only tells us that the people with higher-numbered responses are more in agreement with the party’s positions than those with the lower-numbered responses.

3. Begin analyzing your Likert scale data with descriptive statistics. Although it may be tempting, resist the urge to take the numeric responses and compute a mean. Adding a response of “strongly agree”  to two responses of “disagree”  would give us a mean of 4, but what is the significance of that number? Fortunately, there are other measures of central tendency we can use besides the mean. With Likert scale data, the best measure to use is the mode, or the most frequent response. This makes the survey results much easier for the analyst (not to mention the audience for your presentation or report) to interpret. You also can display the distribution of responses (percentages that agree, disagree, etc.) in a graphic, such as a bar chart, with one bar for each response category.

4. Proceed next to inferential techniques, which test hypotheses posed by researchers. There are many approaches available, and the best one depends on the nature of your study and the questions you are trying to answer. A popular approach is to analyze responses using analysis of variance techniques, such as the Mann Whitney or Kruskal Wallis test. Suppose in our example we wanted to analyze responses to questions on foreign policy positions with ethnicity as the independent variable. Let’s say our data includes responses from Anglo, African-American, and Hispanic respondents, so we could analyze responses among the three groups of respondents using the Kruskal Wallis test of variance.

5. Simplify your survey data further by combining the four response categories (e.g., strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree) into two nominal categories, such as agree/disagree, accept/reject, etc.). This offers other analysis possibilities. The chi square test is one approach for analyzing the data in this way.


Considerations for numeric rating scales

If you assign numbers to each column for marks, consider the following:

• What should the first number be? If 0, does the student deserve 0%? If 1, does the student deserve 20% (assuming 5 is the top mark) even if he/she has done extremely poorly?

• What should the second number be? If 2 (assuming 5 is the top mark), does the person really deserve a failing mark (40%)? This would mean that the first two or three columns represent different degrees of failure.

• Consider variations in the value of each column. Assuming 5 is the top mark, the columns could be valued at 0, 2.5, 3, 4, and 5.

• Consider the weighting for each row. For example, for rating a student’s report, should the introduction, main body, and summary be proportionally rated the same? Perhaps, the main body should be valued at five times the amount of the introduction and summary. A multiplier or weight can be put in another column for calculating a total mark in the last column.

Consider having students create the rating scale. This can get them to think deeply about the content.

Rating scale example   : Practicum performance assessment

Expected learning outcome: The student will demonstrate professionalism and high-quality work during the practicum.

Criteria for success: A maximum of one item is rated as “Needs improvement” in each section.


Performance area Needs improvement Average Above average Comments
-A. Attitude        
• Punctual        
• Respectful of equipment        
• Uses supplies conscientiously        
B. Quality of work done        
• …        


Above average = Performance is above the expectations stated in the outcomes.

Average = Performance meets the expectations stated in the outcomes.

Needs improvement = Performance does not meet the expectations stated in the

Rating scale example : Written report assessment

Expected learning outcome: The student will write a report that recommends one piece of equipment over another based on the pros and cons of each.

Criteria for success: All items must be rated as “Weak” or above.


Report Unacceptable










Weight Score
Introduction       1      
Main Body       5      
Summary       1      


Easy Ways to Calculate Rating Scales!

Whether you’re creating a personality quiz, rating scales (aka Likert sales) are one of the best methods for collecting a broad range of opinions and behaviors.

In Cognito Forms, you can easily add either a predefined (Satisfied/Unsatisfied, Agree/Disagree, etc.) or completely custom rating scale to your form. Every question in a rating scale has an internal numerical value based on the number of rating options; for example, on a Good/Poor rating scale, Very Poor has a value of 1, while Very Good has a value of 5. You can reference these values to calculate scores, percentages, and more!

1. Total score

The easiest way to calculate a rating scale is to simply add up the total score. To do this, start by adding a Calculation field to your form, and make sure that it’s set to internal view only.


Next, target your individual rating scale questions by entering the name of your rating scale, the rating scale question, and “_Rating”:

=RatingScale.Question1_Rating + RatingScale.Question2_Rating + RatingScale.Question3_Rating

And that’s it! Now, the value of each question will be summed up:


If you want to display the total to your users, just insert the Calculation field into your form’s confirmation message or confirmation email using the Insert Field option:


2. Weighted score

Calculating a total score is simple enough, but there are a ton of other functions you can perform using rating scale values. For example, divide the rating scale total by the number of questions to calculate the average:

=(RatingScale.Question1_Rating + RatingScale.Question2_Rating + RatingScale.Question3_Rating) / 3

Or, if you have multiple rating scales, you can average each one and add them together:

=((RatingScale.Question1_Rating + RatingScale.Question2_Rating + RatingScale.Question3_Rating) / 3) + ((RatingScale2.Question1_Rating + RatingScale2.Question2_Rating + RatingScale2.Question3_Rating) / 3)

If you want the average of one rating scale to weigh more than another, just multiply each rating scale average by the percentage that it’s worth (in this case, 40%):

=(((RatingScale.Question1_Rating + RatingScale.Question2_Rating + RatingScale.Question3_Rating) / 3) *.4)

3. Percentages

Rather than displaying a total in points, you could also calculate a total percentage. To do this, add a Calculation field to your form, and set it to the Percent type. Next, write an expression that calculates the average of the rating scale divided by the number of possible options. For example, if your rating scale has three questions, and five options to choose from:

=((RatingScale.Question1_Rating + RatingScale.Question2_Rating + RatingScale.Question3_Rating) / 3) /5

Now, the total percentage will be calculated based on a 100 point scale:


Checklist for developing a rating scale

In developing your rating scale, use the following checklist.In developing a rating scale:

  • Arrange the skills in a logical order, if you can.
  • Ask for feedback from other instructors before using it with students.
  • Clearly describe each skill.
  • Determine the scale to use (words or words with numbers) to represent the levels of success.
  • Highlight the critical steps, checkpoints, or indicators of success.
  • List the categories of performance to be assessed, as needed
  • Review the learning outcome and associated criteria for success.
  • Review the rating scale for details and clarity. Format the scale.
  • Write a description for the meaning of each point on the scale, as needed.
  • Write clear instructions for the observer.

The Likert Scale: Advantages and Disadvantages

The Likert Scale is an ordinal psychometric measurement of attitudes, beliefs and opinions. In each question, a statement is presented in which a respondent must indicate a degree of agreement or disagreement in a multiple choice type format.


The advantageous side of the Likert Scale is that they are the most universal method for survey collection, therefore they are easily understood. The responses are easily quantifiable and subjective to computation of some mathematical analysis. Since it does not require the participant to provide a simple and concrete yes or no answer, it does not force the participant to take a stand on a particular topic, but allows them to respond in a degree of agreement; this makes question answering easier on the respondent. Also, the responses presented accommodate neutral or undecided feelings of participants. These responses are very easy to code when accumulating data since a single number represents the participant’s response. Likert surveys are also quick, efficient and inexpensive methods for data collection. They have high versatility and can be sent out through mail, over the internet, or given in person.


Attitudes of the population for one particular item in reality exist on a vast, multi-dimensional continuum. However, the Likert Scale is uni-dimensional and only gives 5-7 options of choice, and the space between each choice cannot possibly be equidistant. Therefore, it fails to measure the true attitudes of respondents. Also, it is not unlikely that peoples’ answers will be influences by previous questions, or will heavily concentrate on one response side (agree/disagree). Frequently, people avoid choosing the “extremes” options on the scale, because of the negative implications involved with “extremists”, even if an extreme choice would be the most accurate.

Critical Evaluation

Likert Scales have the advantage that they do not expect a simple yes / no answer from the respondent, but rather allow for degrees of opinion, and even no opinion at all.  Therefore quantitative data is obtained, which means that the data can be analyzed with relative ease.

However, like all surveys, the validity of Likert Scale attitude measurement can be compromised due social desirability.  This means that individuals may lie to put themselves in a positive light.

Offering anonymity on self-administered questionnaires should further reduce social pressure, and thus may likewise reduce social desirability bias.  Paulhus (1984) found that more desirable personality characteristics were reported when people were asked to write their names, addresses and telephone numbers on their questionnaire than when they told not to put identifying information on the questionnaire.

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Experimental Research in Education


Dr. V.K. Maheshwari, Former Principal

K.L.D.A.V (P. G) College, Roorkee, India

Experimental research is a method used by researchers through manipulating one variable and control the rest of the variables. The process, treatment and program in this type of research are also introduced and the conclusion is observed.

Commonly used in sciences such as sociology, psychology, physics, chemistry, biology and medicine, experimental research is a collection of research designs which make use of manipulation and controlled testing in order to understand casual processes. To determine the effect on a dependent variable, one or more variables need to be manipulated.

The experimental Research is a systematic and scientific approach to research in which the researcher manipulates one or more variables, and controls and measures any change in other variables

The aim of experimental research is to predict phenomenons. In most cases, an experiment is constructed so that some kinds of causation can be explained. Experimental research is helpful for society as it helps improve everyday life.

Experimental research describes the process that a researcher undergoes of controlling certain variables and manipulating others to observe if the results of the experiment reflect that the manipulations directly caused the particular outcome.

Experimental researchers test an idea (or practice or procedure) to determine its effect on an outcome. Researchers decide on an idea with which to “experiment,” assign individuals to experience it (and have some individuals experience something different), and then determine whether those who experienced the idea or practice performed better on some outcome than those who did not experience it.

Experimental research is used where:

  • time priority in a causal relationship.
  • consistency in a causal relationship.
  • magnitude of the correlation is great.

Key Characteristics of Experimental Research

Today, several key characteristics help us understand and read experimental research.

  • Experimental researchers randomly assign participants to groups or other units.
  • They provide control over extraneous variables to isolate the effects of the independent variable on the outcomes.
  • They physically manipulate the treatment conditions for one or more groups.
  • They then measure the outcomes for the groups to determine if the experimental treatment had a different effect than the non-experimental treatment.
  • This is accomplished by statistically comparing the groups.
  • Overall, they design an experiment to reduce the threats to internal validity and external validity.

Unique Features of Experimental Method

“The best method — indeed the only fully compelling method — of establishing causation is to conduct a carefully designed experiment in which the effects of possible lurking variables are controlled. To experiment means to actively change x and to observe the response in y” .

“The experimental method is the only method of research that can truly test hypotheses concerning cause-and-effect relationships. It represents the most valid approach to the solution of educational problems, both practical and theoretical, and to the advancement of education as a science .

  • After treatment, performance of subjects (dependent variable) in both groups is compared.Bottom of Form
  • Empirical observations based on experiments provide the strongest argument for cause-effect relationships.
  • Extraneous variables are controlled by 3 & 4 and other procedures if needed.
  • Problem statement ⇒ theory ⇒ constructs ⇒ operational definitions ⇒ variables ⇒ hypotheses.
  • Random assignment of subjects to treatment and control (comparison) groups (insures equivalency of groups; ie., unknown variables that may influence outcome are equally distributed across groups.
  • Random sampling of subjects from population (insures sample is representative of population).
  • The investigator manipulates a variable directly (the independent variable).
  • The research question (hypothesis) is often stated as the alternative hypothesis to the null hypothesis, that is used to interpret differences in the empirical data.

Key Components of Experimental Research Design

The Manipulation of Predictor Variables

In an experiment, the researcher manipulates the factor that is hypothesized to affect the outcome of interest. The factor that is being manipulated is typically referred to as the treatment or intervention. The researcher may manipulate whether research subjects receive a treatment

Random Assignment

  • Study participants are randomly assigned to different treatment groups
  • All participants have the same chance of being in a given condition

Random assignment neutralizes factors other than the independent and dependent variables, making it possible to directly infer cause and effect

Random Sampling

Traditionally, experimental researchers have used convenience sampling to select study participants. However, as research methods have become more rigorous, and the problems with generalizing from a convenience sample to the larger population have become more apparent, experimental researchers are increasingly turning to random sampling. In experimental policy research studies, participants are often randomly selected from program administrative databases and randomly assigned to the control or treatment groups.

Validity of Results

The two types of validity of experiments are internal and external. It is often difficult to achieve both in social science research experiments.

Internal Validity

  • When an experiment is internally valid, we are certain that the independent variable (e.g., child care subsidies) caused the outcome of the study (e.g., maternal employment)
  • When subjects are randomly assigned to treatment or control groups, we can assume that the independent variable caused the observed outcomes because the two groups should not have differed from one another at the start of the experiment
  • Since research subjects were randomly assigned to the treatment  and control groups, the two groups should not have differed at the outset of the study.

One potential threat to internal validity in experiments occurs when participants either drop out of the study or refuse to participate in the study. If particular types of individuals drop out or refuse to participate more often than individuals with other characteristics, this is called differential attrition.

External Validity

  • External validity is also of particular concern in social science experiments
  • It can be very difficult to generalize experimental results to groups that were not included in the study
  • Studies that randomly select participants from the most diverse and representative populations are more likely to have external validity
  • The use of random sampling techniques makes it easier to generalize the results of studies to other groups

Ethical Issues in Experimental Research

Ethical issues in conducting experiments relate to withholding the experimental treatment from some individuals who might benefit from receiving it, the disadvantages that might accrue from randomly assigning individuals to groups. This assignment overlooks the potential need of some individuals for beneficial treatment. Ethical issues also arise as to when to conclude an experiment, whether the experiment will provide the best answers to a problem, and considerations about the stakes involved in conducting the experiment.

It is particularly important in experimental research to follow ethical guidelines

The basic ethical principles:

  • Respect for persons — requires that research subjects are not coerced into participating in a study and requires the protection of research subjects who have diminished autonomy
  • Beneficence — requires that experiments do not harm research subjects, and that researchers minimize the risks for subjects while maximizing the benefits for them.

Validity Threats in Experimental Research

By validity “threat,” we mean only that a factor has the potential to bias results.In 1963, Campbell and Stanley identified different classes of such threats.

  • Instrumentation. Inconsistent use is made of testing instruments or testing conditions, or the pre-test and post- test are uneven in difficulty, suggesting a gain or decline in performance that is not real.
  • Testing. Exposure to a pre-test or intervening assessment influences performance on a post-test.
  • History. This validity threat is present when events, other than the treatments, occurring during the experimental period can influence results.
  • Maturation. During the experimental period, physical or psychological changes take place within the subjects.
  • Selection. There is a systematic difference in subjects’ abilities or characteristics between the treatment groups being compared.
  • Diffusion of Treatments. The implementation of a particular treatment influences subjects in the comparison treatment
  • Experimental Mortality. The loss of subjects from one or more treatments during the period of the study may bias the results.

In many instances, validity threats cannot be avoided. The presence of a validity threat should not be taken to mean that experimental findings are inaccurate or misleading. Knowing about validity threats gives the experimenter a framework for evaluating the particular situation and making a judgment about its severity. Such knowledge may also permit actions to be taken to limit the influences of the validity threat in question.

Planning a Comparative Experiment in Educational Settings

Educational researchers in many disciplines are faced with the task of exploring how students learn and are correspondingly addressing the issue of how to best help students do so. Often, educational researchers are interested in determining the effectiveness of some technology or pedagogical technique for use in the classroom. Their ability to do so depends on the quality of the research methodologies used to investigate these treatments.


Types of experimental research designs
There are three basic types of experimental research designs . These include

1)      True experimental designs

2)      Pre-experimental designs,

3)      Quasi-experimental designs.

The degree to which the researcher assigns subjects to conditions and groups distinguishes the type of experimental design.

True Experimental Designs

True experimental designs are characterized by the random selection of participants and the random assignment of the participants to groups in the study. The researcher also has complete control over the extraneous variables. Therefore, it can be confidently determined that that effect on the dependent variable is directly due to the manipulation of the independent variable. For these reasons, true experimental designs are often considered the best type of research design.

A true experiment is thought to be the most accurate experimental research design. A true experiment is a type of experimental design and is thought to be the most accurate type of experimental research. This is because a true experiment supports or refutes a hypothesis using statistical analysis. A true experiment is also thought to be the only experimental design that can establish cause and effect relationships.

types of true experimental designs

There are several types of true experimental designs and they are as follows:

One-shot case study design

A single group is studied at a single point in time after some treatment that is presumed to have caused change. The carefully studied single instance is compared to general expectations of what the case would have looked like had the treatment not occurred and to other events casually observed. No control or comparison group is employed.

Static-group comparison

A group that has experienced some treatment is compared with one that has not. Observed differences between the two groups are assumed to be a result of the treatment.

Post-test Only Design – This type of design has two randomly assigned groups: an experimental group and a control group. Neither group is pretested before the implementation of the treatment. The treatment is applied to the experimental group and the post-test is carried out on both groups to assess the effect of the treatment or manipulation. This type of design is common when it is not possible to pretest the subjects.

Pretest-Post-test Only Design -

The subjects are again randomly assigned to either the experimental or the control group. Both groups are pretested for the independent variable. The experimental group receives the treatment and both groups are post-tested to examine the effects of manipulating the independent variable on the dependent variable.

One-group pretest-posttest design

A single case is observed at two time points, one before the treatment and one after the treatment. Changes in the outcome of interest are presumed to be the result of the intervention or treatment. No control or comparison group is employed.

Solomon Four Group Design – Subjects are randomly assigned into one of four groups. There are two experimental groups and two control groups. Only two groups are pretested. One pretested group and one unprotested group receive the treatment. All four groups will receive the post-test. The effects of the dependent variable originally observed are then compared to the effects of the independent variable on the dependent variable as seen in the post-test results. This method is really a combination of the previous two methods and is used to eliminate potential sources of error.

Factorial Design

The researcher manipulates two or more independent variables (factors) simultaneously to observe their effects on the dependent variable. This design allows for the testing of two or more hypotheses in a single project.

Randomized Block Design

This design is used when there are inherent differences between subjects and possible differences in experimental conditions. If there are a large number of experimental groups, the randomized block design may be used to bring some homogeneity to each group.

Crossover Design (also known as Repeat Measures Design)

Subjects in this design are exposed to more than one treatment and the subjects are randomly assigned to different orders of the treatment. The groups compared have an equal distribution of characteristics and there is a high level of similarity among subjects that are exposed to different conditions. Crossover designs are excellent research tools, however, there is some concern that the response to the second treatment or condition will be influenced by their experience with the first treatment. In this type of design, the subjects serve as their own control groups.

Criteria of true experiment

True experimental design employ both a control group and a means to measure the change that occurs in both groups.  In this sense, we attempt to control for all confounding variables, or at least consider their impact, while attempting to determine if the treatment is what truly caused the change.  The true experiment is often thought of as the only research method that can adequately measure the cause and effect relationship.

There are three criteria that must be met in a true experiment

  1. Control group and experimental group
  2. Researcher-manipulated variable
  3. Random assignment

Control Group and Experimental Group

True experiments must have a control group, which is a group of research participants that resemble the experimental group but do not receive the experimental treatment. The control group provides a reliable baseline data to which you can compare the experimental results.

The experimental group is the group of research participants who receive the experimental treatment. True experiments must have at least one control group and one experimental group, though it is possible to have more than one experimental group.

Researcher-Manipulated Variable

In true experiments, the researcher has to change or manipulate the variable that is hypothesized to affect the outcome variable that is being studied. The variable that the researcher has control over is called the independent variable. The independent variable is also called the predictor variable because it is the presumed cause of the differences in the outcome variable.

The outcome or effect that the research is studying is called the dependent variable. The dependent variable is also called the outcome variable because it is the outcome that the research is studying. The researcher does not manipulate the dependent variable.

Random Assignment

Research participants have to be randomly assigned to the sample groups. In other words, each research participant must have an equal chance of being assigned to each sample group. Random assignment is useful in that it assures that the differences in the groups are due to chance. Research participants have to be randomly assigned to either the control or experimental group.

Elements of true experimental research

Once the design has been determined, there are four elements of true experimental research that must be considered:

Manipulation: The researcher will purposefully change or manipulate the independent variable, which is the treatment or condition that will be applied to the experimental groups. It is important to establish clear procedural guidelines for application of the treatment to promote consistency and ensure that the manipulation itself does affect the dependent variable.

  • Control: Control is used to prevent the influence of outside factors (extraneous variables) from influencing the outcome of the study. This ensures that outcome is caused by the manipulation of the independent variable. Therefore, a critical piece of experimental design is keeping all other potential variables constant.
  • Random Assignment: A key feature of true experimental design is the random assignment of subjects into groups. Participants should have an equal chance of being assigned into any group in the experiment. This further ensures that the outcome of the study is due to the manipulation of the independent variable and is not influenced by the composition of the test groups. Subjects can be randomly assigned in many ways, some of which are relatively easy, including flipping a coin, drawing names, using a random table, or utilizing a computer assisted random sequencing.
  • Random selection: In addition to randomly assigning the test subjects in groups, it is also important to randomly select the test subjects from a larger target audience. This ensures that the sample population provides an accurate cross-sectional representation of the larger population including different socioeconomic backgrounds, races, intelligence levels, and so forth.

Pre-experimental Design

Pre-experimental design is a research format in which some basic experimental attributes are used while some are not. This factor causes an experiment to not qualify as truly experimental. This type of design is commonly used as a cost effective way to conduct exploratory research.

Pre-experimental designs are so named because they follow basic experimental steps but fail to include a control group.  In other words, a single group is often studied but no comparison between an equivalent non-treatment group is made

Pre-experiments are the simplest form of research design. In a pre-experiment either a single group or multiple groups are observed subsequent to some agent or treatment presumed to cause change.

Types of Pre-Experimental Design

  • One-shot case study design
  • One-group pretest-posttest design
  • Static-group comparison

One-shot case study design

A single group is studied at a single point in time after some treatment that is presumed to have caused change. The carefully studied single instance is compared to general expectations of what the case would have looked like had the treatment not occurred and to other events casually observed. No control or comparison group is employed.

In one-shot case study we expose a group to a treatment X and measure the outcome Y. It lacks a pre-test Y and a control group. It has no basis for comparing groups, or pre- and post-tests

Used to measure an outcome after an intervention is implemented; often to measure use of a new program or service

  • One group receives the intervention
  • Data gathered at one time point after the intervention
  • Design weakness: does not prove there is a cause and effect relationship between the intervention and outcomes -

One-group pretest-posttest design

A single case is observed at two time points, one before the treatment and one after the treatment. Changes in the outcome of interest are presumed to be the result of the intervention or treatment. No control or comparison group is employed.

In one-group pre-test/post-test design we include the measurement of Y before and after treatment X. It has no control group, so no group comparisons

  • Used to measure change in an outcome before and after an intervention is implemented
  • One group receives the intervention
  • Data gathered at 2+ time points
  • Design weakness: shows that change occurred, but does not account for an event, maturation, or altered survey methods that could occur between Static group comparison
  • Used to measure an outcome after an intervention is implemented ◦

Static-group comparison

In static-group comparison we have experimental and control group, but no pre-test. It allows for comparisons among groups, but no pre- and post-tests.

A group that has experienced some treatment is compared with one that has not. Observed differences between the two groups are assumed to be a result of the treatment.

Two non-randomly assigned groups, one that received the intervention and one that did not (control)

  • Data gathered at one time point after the intervention
  • Design weakness: shows that change occurred, but participant selection could result in groups that differ on relevant variables

Validity of Results in Pre-experimental designs

An important drawback of pre-experimental designs is that they are subject to numerous threats to their validity. Consequently, it is often difficult or impossible to dismiss rival hypotheses or explanations.

One reason that it is often difficult to assess the validity of studies that employ a pre-experimental design is that they often do not include any control or comparison group. Without something to compare it to, it is difficult to assess the significance of an observed change in the case.

Even when pre-experimental designs identify a comparison group, it is still difficult to dismiss rival hypotheses for the observed change. This is because there is no formal way to determine whether the two groups would have been the same if it had not been for the treatment. If the treatment group and the comparison group differ after the treatment, this might be a reflection of differences in the initial recruitment to the groups or differential mortality in the experiment.

Advantages in Pre-experimental designs

  • Apply only in situations in which it is impossible to manipulate more than one condition.
  • Are useful in the applied field, emerges as a response to the problems of experimentation in education.
  • As exploratory approaches, pre-experiments can be a cost-effective way to discern whether a potential explanation is worthy of further investigation
  • Do not control the internal validity, so are not very useful in the scientific construction.
  • Meet the minimum condition of an experiment.
  • The results are always debatable.

Disadvantages in Pre-experimental designs

Pre-experiments offer few advantages since it is often difficult or impossible to rule out alternative explanations. The nearly insurmountable threats to their validity are clearly the most important disadvantage of pre-experimental research designs.

Because of strict conditions and control the experimenter can set up the experiment again and repeat or ‘check’ their results. Replication is very important as when similar results are obtained this gives greater confidence in the results.

  • Control over extraneous variables is usually greater than in other research methods.
  • Experimental design involves manipulating the independent variable to observe the effect on the dependent variable. This makes it possible to determine a cause and effect relationship.
  • Quantitative observational designs allow variables to be investigated that would be unethical, impossible or too costly under an experimental design.
  • Cannot infer such a strong cause and effect relationship because there is or greater chance of other variables affecting the results. This is due to the lack of random assignment to groups.
  • Cannot replicate the findings as the same situation will not occur naturally again.
  • Experimental situation may not relate to the real world. Some kinds of behaviour can only be observed in a naturalistic setting.
  • It may be unethical or impossible to randomly assign people to groups
  • Observer bias may influence the results.
  • Quantitative Observational does not allow generalisation of findings to the general population.
  • Elimination of extraneous variables is not always possible.

Quasi-experimental designs

Quasi-experimental designs help researchers test for causal relationships in a variety of situations where the classical design is difficult or inappropriate. They are called quasi because they are variations of the classical experimental design. In general, the researcher has less control over the independent variable than in the classical design.

Main points of Quasi-experimental research designs

Quasi-experimental research designs, like experimental designs, test causal hypotheses.

  • A quasi-experimental design by definition lacks random assignment.
  • Quasi-experimental designs identify a comparison group that is as similar as possible to the
  • treatment group in terms of baseline (pre-intervention) characteristics.
  • There are different techniques for creating a valid comparison group such as regression
  • discontinuity design (RDD) and propensity score matching (PSM).

Types of Quasi-Experimental Designs

1. Two-Group Posttest-Only Design

a. This is identical to the static group comparison, with one exception: The groups are randomly assigned. It has  all the parts of the classical design except a pretest. The random assignment reduces the chance that the groups differed before the treatment, but without a pretest, a researcher cannot be as certain that the groups began the same on the dependent variable.

2. Interrupted Time Series

a. In an interrupted time series design, a researcher uses one group and makes multiple pretest measures before and after the treatment.

3. Equivalent Time Series

a. An equivalent time series is another one-group design that extends over a time period. Instead of one treatment, it has a pretest, then a treatment and posttest, then treatment and posttest, then treatment and posttest, and so on.

Other Quasi-Experimental Designs

There are many different types of quasi-experimental designs that have a variety of applications in specific contexts

The Proxy Pretest Design

The proxy pretest design looks like a standard pre-post design. But there’s an important difference. The pretest in this design is collected after the program is given. The recollection proxy pretest would be a sensible way to assess participants’ perceived gain or change.

The Separate Pre-Post Samples Design

The basic idea in this design (and its variations) is that the people you use for the pretest are not the same as the people you use for the posttest

The Double Pretest Design

The Double Pretest is a very strong quasi-experimental design with respect to internal validity. Why? Recall that the

The double pretest design includes two measures prior to the program.. Therefore, this design explicitly controls for selection-maturation threats. The design is also sometimes referred to as a “dry run” quasi-experimental design because the double pretests simulate what would happen in the null case.

The Switching Replications Design

The Switching Replications quasi-experimental design is also very strong with respect to internal validity. The design has two groups and three waves of measurement. In the first phase of the design, both groups are pretests, one is given the program and both are posttested. In the second phase of the design, the original comparison group is given the program while the original program group serves as the “control

The Nonequivalent Dependent Variables (NEDV) Design

The Nonequivalent Dependent Variables (NEDV) Design is a deceptive one. In its simple form, it is an extremely weak design with respect to internal validity. But in its pattern matching variations, it opens the door to an entirely different approach to causal assessment that is extremely powerful.

The idea in this design is that you have a program designed to change a specific outcome.

The Pattern Matching NEDV Design. Although the two-variable NEDV design is quite weak, we can make it considerably stronger by adding multiple outcome variables. In this variation, we need many outcome variables and a theory that tells how affected (from most to least) each variable will be by the program.

Depending on the circumstances, the Pattern Matching NEDV design can be quite strong with respect to internal validity. In general, the design is stronger if you have a larger set of variables and you find that your expectation pattern matches well with the observed results

The Regression Point Displacement (RPD) Design

The RPD design attempts to enhance the single program unit situation by comparing the performance on that single unit with the performance of a large set of comparison units. In community research, we would compare the pre-post results for the intervention community with a large set of other communities.

Advantages in Quasi-experimental designs

  • Since quasi-experimental designs are used when randomization is impractical and/or unethical, they are typically easier to set up than true experimental designs, which require[random assignment of subjects.
  • Additionally, utilizing quasi-experimental designs minimizes threats to ecological validity as natural environments do not suffer the same problems of artificiality as compared to a well-controlled laboratory setting.
  • Since quasi-experiments are natural experiments, findings in one may be applied to other subjects and settings, allowing for some generalizations to be made about population.
  • This experimentation method is efficient in longitudinal research that involves longer time periods which can be followed up in different environments.
  • The idea of having any manipulations the experimenter so chooses. In natural experiments, the researchers have to let manipulations occur on their own and have no control over them whatsoever.
  • Using self selected groups in quasi experiments also takes away to chance of ethical, conditional, etc. concerns while conducting the study.
  • As exploratory approaches, pre-experiments can be a cost-effective way to discern whether a potential explanation is worthy of further investigation.

Disadvantages of quasi-experimental designs

  • Quasi-experimental estimates of impact are subject to contamination by confounding variables.
  • The lack of random assignment in the quasi-experimental design method may allow studies to be more feasible, but this also poses many challenges for the investigator in terms of internal validity. This deficiency in randomization makes it harder to rule out confounding variables and introduces new threats to internal validity.
  • Because randomization is absent, some knowledge about the data can be approximated, but conclusions of causal relationships are difficult to determine due to a variety of extraneous and confounding variables that exist in a social environment.
  • Moreover, even if these threats to internal validity are assessed, causation still cannot be fully established because the experimenter does not have total control over extraneous variables
  • The study groups may provide weaker evidence because of the lack of randomness. Randomness brings a lot of useful information to a study because it broadens results and therefore gives a better representation of the population as a whole.
  • Using unequal groups can also be a threat to internal validity.
  • If groups are not equal, which is sometimes the case in quasi experiments, then the experimenter might not be positive what the causes are for the results.

Experimental Research in Educational Technology

Here is a sequence of logical steps for planning and conducting research

Step 1. Select a Topic. This step is self-explanatory and usually not a problem, except for those who are “required” to do research  as opposed to initiating it on their own. The step simply involves identifying a general area that is of personal interest and then narrowing the focus to a researchable problem

Step 2. Identify the Research Problem. Given the general topic area, what specific problems are of interest? In many cases, the researcher already knows the problems. In others, a trip to the library to read background literature and examine previous studies is probably needed. A key concern is the importance of the problem to the field. Conducting research requires too much time and effort to be examining trivial questions that do not expand existing knowledge.

Step 3. Conduct a Literature Search. With the research topic and problem identified, it is now time to conduct a more intensive literature search. Of importance is determining what relevant studies have been performed; the designs, instruments, and procedures employed in those studies; and, most critically, the findings. Based on the review, direction will be provided for (a) how to extend or complement the existing literature base, (b) possible research orientations to use, and (c) specific research questions to address.

Step 4. State the Research Questions (or Hypotheses). This step is probably the most critical part of the planning process. Once stated, the research questions or hypotheses provide the basis for planning all other parts of the study: design, materials, and data analysis. In particular, this step will guide the researcher’s decision as to whether an experimental design or some other orientation is the best choice.

Step 5. Determine the Research Design. The next consideration is whether an experimental design is feasible. If not, the researcher will need to consider alternative approaches, recognizing that the original research question may not be answerable as a result.

Step 6. Determine Methods. Methods of the study include (a) subjects, (b) materials and data collection instruments, and (c) procedures. In determining these components, the researcher must continually use the research questions and/or hypotheses as reference points. A good place to start is with subjects or participants. What kind and how many participants does the research design require?

Next consider materials and instrumentation. When the needed resources are not obvious, a good strategy is to construct a listing of data collection instruments needed to answer each question (e.g., attitude survey, achievement test, observation form).

An experiment does not require having access to instruments that are already developed. Particularly in research with new technologies, the creation of novel measures of affect or performance may be implied. From an efficiency standpoint, however, the researcher’s first step should be to conduct a thorough search of existing instruments to determine if any can be used in their original form or adapted to present needs. If none is found, it would usually be far more advisable to construct a new instrument rather than “force fit” an existing one. New instruments will need to be pilot tested and validated. Standard test and measurement texts provide useful guidance for this requirement The experimental procedure, then, will be dictated by the research questions and the available resources. Piloting the methodology is essential to ensure that materials and methods work as planned.

Step 7. Determine Data Analysis Techniques.

Whereas statistical analysis procedures vary widely in complexity, the appropriate options for a particular experiment will be defined by two factors: the research questions and the type of data

Reporting and Publishing Experimental Studies

Obviously, for experimental studies to have impact on theory and practice in educational technology, their findings need to be disseminated to the field.

Introduction. The introduction to reports of experimental studies accomplishes several functions: (a) identifying the general area of the problem , (b) creating a rationale to learn more about the problem , (c) reviewing relevant literature, and (d) stating the specific purposes of the study. Hypotheses and/or research questions should directly follow from the preceding discussion and generally be stated explicitly, even though they may be obvious from the

literature review. In basic research experiments, usage of hypotheses is usually expected, as a theory or principle is typically being tested. In applied research experiments, hypotheses would be used where there is a logical or empirical basis for expecting a certain result

Method. The Method section of an experiment describes the participants or subjects, materials, and procedures. The usual convention is to start with subjects (or participants) by clearly describing the population concerned (e.g., age or grade level, background) and the sampling procedure. In reading about an experiment, it is extremely important to know if subjects were randomly assigned to treatments or if intact groups were employed. It is also important to know if participation was voluntary or required and whether the level of performance on the experimental task was consequential to the subjects. Learner motivation and task investment are critical in educational technology research, because such variables are likely to impact directly on subjects’ usage of media attributes and instructional strategies

Results. This major section describes the analyses and the findings. Typically, it should be organized such that the most important dependent measures are reported first. Tables and/or figures should be used judiciously to supplement (not repeat) the text. Statistical significance vs. practical importance. Traditionally, researchers followed the convention of determining the “importance” of findings based on statistical significance. Simply put, if the experimental group’s mean of 85% on the post test was found to be significantly higher (say, at p < .01) than the control group’s mean of 80%, then the “effect” was regarded as having theoretical or practical value. If the result was not significant (i.e., the null hypothesis could not be rejected), the effect was dismissed as not reliable or important.

In recent years, however, considerable attention has been given to the benefits of distinguishing between “statistical significance” and “practical importance” . Statistical significance indicates whether an effect can be considered attributable to factors other than chance. But a significant effect does not necessary mean a “large” effect.

Discussion. To conclude the report, the discussion section explains and interprets the findings relative to the hypotheses or research questions, previous studies, and relevant theory and practice. Where appropriate, weaknesses in procedures that may have impacted results should be identified. Other conventional features of a discussion may include suggestions for further research and conclusions regarding the research hypotheses/ questions. For educational technology experiments, drawing implications for practice in the area concerned is highly desirable.

Advantages of Experimental Research

1. Variables Are Controlled
With experimental research groups, the people conducting the research have a very high level of control over their variables. By isolating and determining what they are looking for, they have a great advantage in finding accurate results, this provides more valid and accurate results. This research aids in controlling independent variables for the experiments aim to remove extraneous and unwanted variables. The control over the irrelevant variables is higher as compared to other research types or methods.

2. Determine Cause and Effect
The experimental design of this type of research includes manipulating independent variables to easily determine the cause and effect relationship.This is highly valuable for any type of research being done.

3. Easily Replicated
In many cases multiple studies must be performed to gain truly accurate results and draw valid conclusions. Experimental research designs can easily be done again and again, and since all control over the variables is had, you can make it nearly identical to the ones before it. There is a very wide variety of this type of research. Each can provide different benefits, depending on what is being explored. The investigator has the ability to tailor make the experiment for their own unique situation, while still remaining in the validity of the experimental research design.

4. Best Results
Having control over the entire experiment and being able to provide in depth analysis of the hypothesis and data collected, makes experimental research one of the best options. The conclusions that are met are deemed highly valid, and on top of everything, the experiment can be done again and again to prove validity. Due to the control set up by experimenter and the strict conditions, better results can be achieved. Better results that have been obtained can also give researcher greater confidence regarding the results.

5. Can Span Across Nearly All Fields Of Research
Another great benefit of this type of research design is that it can be used in many different types of situations. Just like pharmaceutical companies can utilize it, so can teachers who want to test a new method of teaching. It is a basic, but efficient type of research.

6. Clear Cut Conclusions
Since there is such a high level of control, and only one specific variable is being tested at a time, the results are much more relevant than some other forms of research. You can clearly see the success, failure, of effects when analyzing the data collected.
7.Greater transfer ability

gaining insights to instruction methods, performing experiments and combining methods for rigidity, determining the best for the population and providing greater transferability.

Limitations in Experimental Design

Failure to do Experiment
One of the disadvantages of experimental research is that you cannot do experiments at times because you cannot manipulate independent variables either due to ethical or practical reasons. Taking for instance a situation wherein you are enthusiastic about the effects of an individual’s culture or the tendency of helping strangers, you cannot do the experiment. The reason for this is simply because you are not capable of manipulating the individual’s culture.

External Validity

A limitation of both experiments and well-identified quasi-experiments is whether the estimated impact would be similar if the program were replicated in another location, at a different time, or targeting a different group of students. Researchers often do little or nothing to address this point and should likely do more

Another limitation of experiments is that they are generally best at uncovering partial equilibrium effects. The impacts can be quite different when parents, teachers, and students have a chance to optimize their behavior in light of the program.

Hawthorne Effects

Another limitation of experiments is that it is possible that the experience of being observed may change one’s behavior—so-called Hawthorne effects. For example, participants may exert extra effort because they know their outcomes will be measured. As a result, it may be this extra effort and not the underlying program being studied that affects student outcomes.


Experimental evaluations can be expensive to implement well. Researchers must collect a wide variety of mediating and outcome variables . It is sometimes expensive to follow the control group, which may become geographically dispersed over time or may be less likely to cooperate in the research process. The costs of experts’ time and incentives for participants also threaten to add up quickly. Given a tight budget constraint, sometimes the best approach may be to run a relatively small experimental study.

Violations of Experimental Assumptions

Another limitation of experiments is that it is perhaps too easy to mine the data. If one slices and dices the data in enough ways, there is a good chance that some spurious results will emerge. This is a great temptation to researchers, especially if they are facing pressure from funders who have a stake in the results. Here, too, there are ways to minimize the problem.

Subject to Human Error

Researchers are human too and they can commit mistakes. However, whether the error was made by machine or man, one thing remains certain: it will affect the results of a study.

Other issues cited as disadvantages include personal biases, unreliable samples, results that can only be applied in one situation and the difficulty in measuring the human experience.

Experimental designs are frequently contrived scenarios that do not often mimic the things that happen in real world. The degree on which results can be generalized all over situations and real world applications are limited.

Can Create Artificial Situations
Experimental research also means controlling irrelevant variables on certain occasions. As such, this creates a situation that is somewhat artificial.By having such deep control over the variables being tested, it is very possible that the data can be skewed or corrupted to fit whatever outcome the researcher needs. This is especially true if it is being done for a business or market study.

Can take an Extensive Amount of Time
With experimental testing individual experiments have to be done in order to fully research each variable. This can cause the testing to take a very long amount of time and use a large amount of resources and finances. These costs could transfer onto the company, which could inflate costs for consumers

Participants can be influenced by environment
Those who participate in trials may be influenced by the environment around them. As such, they might give answers not based on how they truly feel but on what they think the researcher wants to hear. Rather than thinking through what they feel and think about a subject, a participant may just go along with what they believe the researcher is trying to achieve.

Manipulation of variables isn’t seen as completely objective
Experimental research mainly involves the manipulation of variables, a practice that isn’t seen as being objective. As mentioned earlier, researchers are actively trying to influence variable so that they can observe the consequences

Limited Behaviors
When people are part of an experiment, especially one where variables are controlled so precisely, the subjects of the experiment may not give the most accurate reactions. Their normal behaviors are limited because of the experiment environment.

It’s Impossible to control  it all
While the majority of the variables in an experimental research design are controlled by the researchers, it is absolutely impossible to control each and every one. Things from mood, events that happened in the subject’s earlier day, and many other things can affect the outcome and results of the experiment.

In short it can be said that When a researcher decides on a topic of interest, they try to define the research problem, which really helps as it makes the research area narrower thus they are able to study it more appropriately. Once the research problem is defined, a researcher formulates a research hypothesis which is then tested against the null hypothesis.

Experimental research is guided by educated guesses that guess the result of the experiment. An experiment is conducted to give evidence to this experimental hypothesis. Experimental research,although very demanding of time and resources, often produces the soundest evidence concerning hypothesized cause-effect relationships.





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