Research: A core employability skill

S Maxwell Lyngdoh

“A research problem is not solved by apparatus; it is solved in a man’s head” – Charles F. Kettering

Knowledge is commonly described as a factual proposition in the mind of an individual. It can be acquired through various means, such as reading books and articles, listening to experts, watching documentaries or investigative shows, conducting scientific experiments, and interacting with other people, among others. Facts collected during research can be checked against other sources to ensure their truthfulness and accuracy. For non-professionals who value learning, doing research equips them with knowledge about the world and skills to help them survive and improve their lives. Among professionals and scribes, on the other hand, finding an interesting topic to discuss and/or to write about should go beyond personal experience.

Determining either what the general public may want to know or what researchers want others to realise or to think about can serve as a reason to do research. Yet, for those who like to learn, whether they are members of a research institution or not, conducting research is not just important—it’s imperative. Research is required not just for students and academicians but for all professionals and non-professionals alike. It is also important for budding and veteran writers, both offline and online.

1.    Becoming employable:

Research skills come in handy across a wide range of roles. Employers want to employ staff who have great research skills because they can come up with new ideas for better ways to run an organisation. They may research new products or ways of working or maybe looking at new projects the organisation could work on. Being able to carry out research skills into one’s career zone can widen the scope of performing better in the workplace.

Inculcating effective research skills in our students would also imply making them equipped with having other transferable skills, such as time management, communicating information, presenting information in a clear and simple way, taking initiative and lateral thinking. Researching might involve finding information from different sources, for example from online platforms, using critical thinking skills to analyse information and writing reports. Irrespective of the career one picks up, be it in financial companies, journalism, law, retail, digital marketing, online employment or NGOs, one needs to research to be able to enhance his or her career growth. For those looking for a job or seeking greener pastures, research is necessary. With thorough research, an individual can increase his or her chances of finding employment by scouring job-posting sites and find the right kind of opening, one is looking for. Research helps people nurture their potential and achieve goals by taking advantage of various opportunities. This can mean securing employment, being awarded scholarships or grants, securing project funding and/or initiating a business. It can also help inform them if the work opportunities are legitimate.

Research entails both reading and writing. These two literacy functions help maintain critical thinking and comprehension. Without these skills, research is far more difficult. These are the two important components that are missing from our youth in a big way. They are usually knowledgeable or are able to relate only to their specific subjects and area of interest. Their idea does not stretch beyond one’s domain, the reason being they don’t read and research on other topics and or issues. Besides these, listening and speaking are also integral to conducting research.

2.    National Education Policy 2020 on research:

National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has a separate chapter on Research as an important component for students across all fields. Interestingly, it stresses ‘multidisciplinary learning’ and interdisciplinary research which can facilitate better exposure to students during their course of study. Point 9.2. of the Policy states that ‘Some of the major problems currently faced by the higher education system in India include: lesser emphasis on research at most universities and colleges and lack of competitive peer-reviewed research funding across disciplines;’. While having acknowledged this aspect that research is not being given much importance in the country, the fact remains that in most higher education institutions (HEI), research is being taught only to postgraduate students and beyond. The percentage of institutions introducing research for undergraduate students is very limited.

In line with this, the policy includes key changes to the current system of operating. These include reaffirming the integrity of faculty and institutional leadership positions through merit appointments and career progression based on research as one of its criteria and establishment of a National Research Foundation to fund outstanding peer-reviewed research and to actively seed research in universities and colleges (Point 9.3. (e) & (f)). Point 10.3. has elaborately emphasised the role of HEI, in particular, to research to include multidisciplinary learning for undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, with high-quality teaching, research, and of course community engagement. To help build vibrant communities of scholars and peers, HEI should enable students to become well-rounded across disciplines and develop active research communities across disciplines including cross-disciplinary research (Point 10.1).

Fortunately, the NEP 2020 also acknowledges that as part of the holistic education, ‘students at all HEIs will be provided with opportunities for research internships with faculty and researchers at their own or other HEIs/research institutions, so that students may actively engage with the practical side of their learning and, as a by-product, further improve their employability. This means to suggest that the possible rejection of candidates by potential employers will be reduced if the HEIs are able to bridge the gap of making them equipped with basic research skills.

3.    Strategic approach to grassroots problems:

With a lot of employment opportunities laying stress on an in-depth understanding of any given issue, it has become almost inescapable for people from across works of life to not involve themselves in research. Professions related to climate justice, human rights, food sovereignty, resource rights, public administration and other emerging careers all require one to be involved in aspects of research in some way or the other. When it comes to human development subjects, such as education, public health and sanitation, women empowerment, infrastructure development, facilities for agriculture extension and research, availability of credit and employment opportunities, research still dominates as a valuable gateway to authenticate existing data for effective interventions. For those working in the field, grassroots approaches can best be understood by consulting and involving the local people in the identification of local needs, and conception, formulation and implementation of any development work. Better research will facilitate the necessary self-reliance and self-confidence needed among the rural people for accelerated development.

Grassroots research development includes a broad spectrum of activities that vary by institution, including funding opportunity identification and targeted dissemination; grant/contract proposal development; research team building; interaction with funding agencies and institutional research administration and leadership; interaction with institutional federal relations; and outreach activities and training. Research development also encompasses a set of strategic, proactive, catalytic, and capacity-building activities designed to facilitate individual faculty members, teams of researchers, and central research administrations in attracting extramural research funding, creating relationships, and developing and implementing strategies that increase institutional competitiveness

Interrogation of issues associated with rural places, rural communities, and rural geographical research has been a prominent component of the research undertaken by various governments to facilitate the manifestation of their existing traits and area of expertise which are bestowed in such areas ranging from natural richness, traditional practices and customs. A strategic approach to grassroots problems would analyse the purposes of conducting needs assessments, programme evaluations to help position and focus their efforts for best results, which then would be placed to policymakers and funders. Additionally, sharing findings, as a way of demonstrating the research effort is mutually beneficial.

While most kids know not to believe everything they read online, the majority also don’t take the time to fully evaluate their sources. Today’s students are used to information on demand, when they can’t find the answers to their questions after they have spent a few minutes poking around online, they may become frustrated. Post 2020, when all platforms of learning have gone online, the requirement for our youth to keep themselves abreast with the changing scenario is crucial. Having the ability to pay close attention to details is often an essential skill, for instance evaluating the information on the basis of validity and appropriateness of social and cultural context.

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