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 It will be in order to begin by defining a
research problem. Aresearch problem is not the same thing as a social problem.
A researchproblem is defined by intellectual curiosity while a social problem
isdefined by the values of a group. A situation may be problematic for onegroup
but it may not be so for another, depending on their differing valuesystems.
Increase in incidence of crime may be a problem for socialworkers, but it may
not be so for the underworld of criminals. For aresearcher, on the other hand,
it is not only the crime but also the lawabiding behaviour which constitutes a
problem. It is as important, andfrom an intellectual vantage point even more
important, to ask whypeople adhere to law abiding behaviour. In no sense is law
abidingbehaviour a social problem. But it may be an important research
problem.Thus a research problem is a cognitive phenomenon while a so£ialproblem
an evaluative one. This does not imply that a social problemcannot tum into a
research problem. A social problem may tum into aresearch problem once it is so
formulated by a researcher.What are ,some of the sources of finding a research
problem? Takinga cue from the existing practices, one can immediately mention
thefollowing:( I ) Research supervisor.(2) Research literature.(3) Research
funding agencies.It is well known that students desirous of pursuing research
for adegree generally leave it to the supervisor to find and suggest a
problemfor them. This is so partly because they do not want to strain theirmind
and partly because they begin with a sense of total dependenceon the
supervisor. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that mostresearch students
look up to the supervisor to get a research problemassigned to them. They seem
to have  hardly any interest of their
ownin the problem, let alone a sense of involvement in it. The students whocome
up with a research problem on their own are more of anexception than a rule.

The
research supervisors in tum draw upon the existing researchliterature for
searching a problem. Research books, research journalsand trend reports are
some of the more important components 0 fresearch literature which in one way
or another throw up researchproblems. From such literature one may get a clue
to an unexplored area,a hypothesis to test, or a new direction of inquiry. One
may as well adopta problem ill toto for investigation in a different society.
In fact, quite. a sizeable part of social science research in India is a result
of the studyof research problems borrowed from American and European
journals.That is the reason why it remains secondhand.A third source of problem
finding is the lists of research priorityareas drawn up by the research funding
agencies. The Indian Council ofSocial Science Research, for instance, has
identified subjects of researchpriority which will get funds on preferential
basis. At the time ofelections, similarly, special funds are earmarked by some
researchsponsoring organisations for election studies. There is no dearth
ofprofessional researchers who will quickly change their research interestsin
order to take advantage of such research funds.The above sources and practices
of problem finding are fairlywidespread. All of them are, however, external
sources. What they missin common is the importance of subjective factor in the
choice of aproblem. In each case the researcher tends to work on a problem
givenby others-a supervisor, or an author of a trend report, or an editor ofa
list of priority areas. The problem does not seem to come to him fromwithin.
His role is only that of a chooser out of a given number ofresearch
problems.This lack of subjective factor in identifying a problem is, in
ourconsidered opinion, at the root of much of the bogus research that wehave in
social sciences in India. It renders the research activity aritualistic
activity. How can one produce quality research unless theresearch problem has
sprung from within. There is a substantial differencebetween choosing a problem
out of a given list and identifying one outof one’s own suffering.Without
undermining the value of the existing sources and practicesof problem finding,
we should like to underline the centrality of thesubjective factor in identifying
a research problem. Our submission is that it will help improve the quality of
research if the researcher workson a problem identified out of a suffering
experience. Suffering, it willbe agreed, is the source of creative ideas, and
more so is intellectualsuffering. Intellectual suffering means a sense of deep
excitement aboutthe problem arising either out of one’s experience of having
livedthrough that problem in actual life or out of one’s empathetic
experienceof it. Such an experience turns into intellectual suffering the
moment onesuffers it at intellectual plane over and above the experimental
plane.

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Take,
for instance, apprenticeship in legal profession. A junior workingwith a senior
lawyer has to undergo certain experiences which are likelyto give him a
perceptive insight into the nature of junior-seniorrelationship. He knows it
better than anybody else where the shoepinches. If he is able to relive this
experience at intellectual level andwork on it, the output is likely to be
masterpiece. An outsider who hasnot had such an experience may, of course, get
an insight into it throughintellectual reach.but will have to struggle much
harder to reach anywhereclose to it. The point is not that without subjective
experience of theproblem creative research is impossible; the idea rather is
that theresearch is likely to gain in quality if the research problem is born
outof an inner experience, or at least out of one’s genuine
intellectualinvolvement in it.Having examined the sources, it will be pertinent
to note someguiding considerations in the choice of a research problem. The
firstsuch consideration which follows from the above is that a researchproblem
should be identified preferably out of one’s inner experiencewhich one is able
to suffer at intellectual plane.Another important consideration is that the
research problem selectedshould be empirical. In fact, scientific research by
its very definitionpresupposes choice of an empirical problem, and there being
muchscope for empirical research on social phenomena there is also a greatneed
for it. Such a need is even greater in the realm of legal studiesbecause legal
research has been dominated by interpretative studies.There are hardly any
empirical studies of legal phenomena in India, andwhatever few studies there
are, these have been made mostly by foreignscholars. The Indian law scholars,
with a few notable exceptions. havelargely been not only indifferent but even
hostile to the idea ofempiricalresearch. In view of this the importance of
selecting an empiricalproblem for research cannot be exphasised enough.Yet
another consideration to be kept in mind while selecting aresearch problem is
that of its theoretical potential and practical relevance.The problem selected
should be such that it has a potential to advanceour existing theoretical
knowledge, or else it has at least some practicalrelevance. It may be added
that this remains a common shortcoming ofmuch of the existing research, more so
of studies of doctoral level. Onthe theoretical front, they hardly seek to link
the data with any theoreticalstructure by way of revising or refining it, let
alone developing analtogether fresh theory. On the practical side, not much
research is beingundertaken on the problems conforming the nation. It is,
therefore, ofutmost importance to identify such a research problem as may
enableone to make a contribution either on theoretical or practical
front.preferably on both.

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