Handouts in Philosophical Research

Research Writing Tips

 

 by

JEFFRY OCAY, PhD
Philosophy Department
KH-08 1/F Katipunan Hall
Silliman University, Dumaguete City
Negros Oriental, 6200 Philippines
Email: jeffry.v.ocay@gmail.com

 

 Chapter 1

 

INTRODUCTION

The main purpose of the “Introduction” is to provide the readers a description and context of the problem that the researcher wants to see addressed in the proposed research project. In other words, the “Introduction” provides an overview of the problem that the researcher is faced with. It includes the following key points: 1) Informing the readers about the reason why the problem is an urgent one, which makes the research worth doing (rationale of the study); 2) Introducing the works of other researchers and show what have been done so far in this field (theoretical background); 3) Stating the main questions of the research (statement of the problem); 4) Showing the importance and relevance, or even the possible contribution, of the proposed research project (significance of the study); 5) The extent and limits of the research (scope and limitation); 6) The techniques that the researcher will employ in gathering data for the proposed research project (research methodology); and 7) The list of terms that need further clarification in order to fully understand the terms and their context (definition of terms).

It must be noted that the topic or the “working title” serves as the main problem of the proposed research project. The list of questions found in the statement of the problem is simply a breakdown of the main problem captured in the working title.

 The working title of the proposed research project should capture the main problem that the researcher wants to see addressed at the end of the research. When identifying the main problem or the topic of the research, the researcher needs to identify the “mega trends” and “recent debates” in the chosen field and see if s/he could contribute in these trends and debates. This enables the researcher to position the originality of her research, thereby allowing her to carve her own niche in the chosen field.

 

Rationale of the Study

The rationale of the study should provide a brief explanation as to why your research is worth doing.  In other words, you have to justify the necessity of the research and its timeliness. It may be because your research may make a significant contribution to the body of already existing knowledge or even address some social problems.

It is a good idea to open the rationale of the study with a statement that captures the main goal of the proposed research project followed by the main argument or justification as to why the researcher wants to pursue the project. These two salient points of the rationale of the study are usually found in the opening paragraph. The following paragraphs should contain the specificity of the said main argument or justification. Please see attached samples for reference.

 

Review of Related Literature[1]

As we can see, in the rationale of the study, the researcher shall have argued that her research project is timely and necessary. In the review of related literature, the researcher needs to show that the study is indeed timely and necessary by citing several important recent researches that have contributed to clarifying the main issues of her research project. In doing so, however, the researcher has to show that although many scholars have already done excellent researches on “the same” topic, e.g., Habermas’s Theory of Communicative Action, hers is a unique one and, therefore, not a duplication of those previous researches.

In writing the review of related literature, the researcher should cite only those works or researches that have “direct” bearings on her proposed research project and, in doing so, should refrain from quoting lines/passages that are not directly aligned with the main argument of the research project. The researcher must be selective and economical―that is, she must be eclectic, so to speak―in making the review of related literature. Thus, the researcher should not say whatever she wants to say simply because it is nice. No matter how famous the scholar or the statement is, it should not be included if it does not directly align with the main argument.

Also, there should be a direct link between the rationale of the study and the review of related literature. As is well-known, one of the main functions of the review of related literature is to support the major claim/main argument that the researcher laid down in the rational of the study. And this can be done by citing related literature that help show how these pieces of literature differ from and contribute to your own work. In this way, again, the researcher will be able to show that her proposed research project is timely and necessary, and that it is not a duplication of what have been already done by famous scholars in the field.

 

Statement of the Problem

This section states the main questions that will guide the researcher in writing the body of the research. Usually, the number of questions corresponds to the number of chapters that the thesis/research may contain, excluding the introductory chapter. It must also address all the key concepts or “variables” found in the title.

 

Significance of the Study

It must be noted that the significance of the study is already implied in the rationale of the study. In fact, the significance of the study is also referred to as the “rationale”.[2] However, since most research formats (especially in the Philippine context) require the section on the significance of the study, then this section should be considered as an expansion of the main contribution of the proposed research project stated in the rationale of the study. Thus, the researcher may expand on the potential benefits and overall impact of the proposed research project. One way of doing this is to explain how the proposed research project may benefit a group of people, or how said proposed research project may contribute to the already existing body of knowledge.

 

Scope and Limitation

The scope of the study should mention the things that you are doing, those that are included in your research. The limitation, on the other hand, should mention those things that you did not include but are (directly) related to the topic under investigation. For example, if you are researching on one aspect of Foucault’s philosophy, say The Archaeology of Knowledge, then you may say, for example, : “The study will only focus on Foucault’s famous work The Archaeology of Knowledge and the way in which it contributes to shedding light on the role of discourse as an instrument of domination in the contemporary society. It will not touch on Foucault’s work on disciplinary power, although this is important in understanding holistically the dynamics of domination and resistance in the contemporary society.”

In other styles of research, such as the one we find in the social sciences, it is always a good idea to include the general purpose of the study, its subject matter, topics to be dealt with, and the like. But since (at least in this handout) the general purpose/main goal of the proposed research project is already stated in the rationale section, then the scope and limitation should directly deal with the specificity of the subject matter/topics under investigation.

If the researcher wishes to include the timeframe of the study, she should not mention the “lack of time” as limitation. It is also not a good idea to mention “language barrier” as a limitation. This is not the proper way to frame the scope and limitation of the study. Thus, this should be avoided at all costs.

 

Research Methodology

The research methodology refers to the techniques that the researcher will employ in gathering data for her proposed research project. But it must be noted that the research methodology is more of a manner in which the data are gathered. That is why it is not enough to say, for example, that the research will employ “critical hermeneutic approach”. Rather, the researcher should specifically mention the way in which such data are gathered using the critical hermeneutic approach. For example, the researcher may say:

I have primarily focused my research on the relevance of Michel Foucault’s notion of biopower to the Philippine society. In doing so, I will critically engage Foucault’s seminal work The History of Sexuality, vol. 1, 2, and 3, from a critical hermeneutic lens. Firstly, I will critically engage the text in order to uncover and understand the way in which Foucault exposes the anomalies of the modern society through a genealogical critique. This is very important because I need this strategy when I proceed to the analysis of the contemporary Philippine society from a Foucauldian angle. Secondly, ….”

 

 Definition of Terms

This section provides a definition of all the key (important) terms used in the study. The researcher should define only those terms peculiar to her study and therefore should not include too obvious terms. Thus, the “definition of terms” is a list of terms that need further clarification in order to fully understand the terms and their context. For example, in Russian history, the term “Iron Curtain” or, in philosophy, which is a highly jargonized discipline, the Foucualdian term “dispositif”, should be clearly defined.

 

Some important things to remember

 

1) Concerning block quotations: the passage should be at least 4 lines; otherwise, incorporate the passage quoted directly to the main text.

Example #1:

This movement is what Hegel famously calls Aufhebung or sublation: the perishing of the old and the birth of the new where the new however is just the actualization of the potentialities inherent in the old.  As Marcuse writes:

A given form of existence cannot unfold its content without perishing.  The new must be the actual negation of the old and not a mere correction or revision.  To be sure…the new must somehow have existed in the lap of the old.  But existed there only as potentiality, and its material realization was excluded by the prevailing form of being.[1]

The process of becoming explains what Hegel calls the transition from mere potentiality to actuality.  As Marcuse writes: “When something turns into its opposite, Hegel says, when it contradicts itself, it expresses its essence.”[2]

 

Example #2:

This movement is what Hegel famously calls Aufhebung or sublation: the perishing of the old and the birth of the new where the new however is just the actualization of the potentialities inherent in the old.  Marcuse writes: “To be sure…the new must somehow have existed in the lap of the old.  But existed there only as potentiality, and its material realization was excluded by the prevailing form of being.”[3]

 2) Margins: Top and bottom should be set to 1 inch; left margin, 1.5 inches; right margin, 1.25 inches.

3) Pagination: Page numbers must be removed from all chapter pages.

4) Footnotes: All footnotes must be indented.

For example:

­_____________

1Herbert Marcuse, Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory, Second Edition with Supplementary Chapter (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1941), 147.

5) Font size: Text, 12; footnote, 10.

6) Theme fonts: Times New Roman or Palatino Linotype are recommended. All other theme fonts are not proper for research papers.

7) Plagiarism: Plagiarism is an academic crime. What is plagiarism?

All of the following are considered plagiarism:

  • turning in someone else’s work as your own
  • copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
  • failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
  • giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
  • changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
  • copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not (see our section on “fair use” rules)

How to avoid plagiarism?

Most cases of plagiarism can be avoided, however, by citing sources. Simply acknowledging that certain material has been borrowed, and providing your audience with the information necessary to find that source, is usually enough to prevent plagiarism.

8) What does a research proposal contain?

– Title page

– Approval sheet

– Introduction (Rational of the Study, Theoretical Background, Statement of the   Problem, Significance of the Study, and Scope and Limitation, Research Methodology, Definition of Terms, Bibliography)

– Bibliography

9) What does a whole thesis contain?

– Title page

– Approval sheet

– Acknowledgment

– Abstract

– Table of Contents

– Introduction (Rational of the Study, Theoretical Background, Statement of the   Problem, Significance of the Study, and Scope and Limitation, Research Methodology, Definition of Terms, Bibliography)

– All chapters

– Summary, Conclusion, and Recommendations

– Bibliography

– Appendix [if the researcher(s) desires or if it is necessary to do so]

– Curriculum vitae

10) Always consult your thesis adviser.

11) AVOID PROCRASTINATION: Most scholars consider procrastination as the number one weakness of all researchers.

                [1] Herbert Marcuse, Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory, Second Edition with Supplementary Chapter (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1941), 147.

                [2] Ibid., 148.

                [3] Herbert Marcuse, Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory, Second Edition with Supplementary Chapter (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1941), 147.

 

 

  Referencing
(Turabian style is recommended)

 

Book with one author

 

Footnote

Jürgen Habermas, Toward a Rational Society, trans., Jeremy J. Shapiro (London: Heinemann Educational Book, 1971), 107.

Jay M. Bernstein, Recovering Ethical Life: Jürgen Habermas and the Future of Critical Theory (London and New York: Routledge, 1995), 144.

 

Note: From same source and page number, write

1Ibid.

 

Note: From same source but different page number, write

1Ibid., 145.

 

Note: Same source quoted but not following immediately from the main source, write

1Bernstein, Recovering Ethical Life, 146.

 

Bibliography

Habermas, Jurgen. Toward a Rational Society. Translated by Jeremy J. Shapiro. London: Heinemann Educational Book, 1971.

 Bernstein, Jay M. Recovering Ethical Life: Jürgen Habermas and the Future of Critical Theory. London and New York: Routledge, 1995.

 

  Book with two or three authors

Footnote

Jürgen Habermas and Jay M. Bernstein, Toward a Rational Society, trans., Jeremy J. Shapiro (London: Heinemann Educational Book, 1971), 107.

Jay M. Bernstein, Axel Honneth, and Ryan Malate, Recovering Ethical Life: Jürgen Habermas and the Future of Critical Theory (London and New York: Routledge, 1995), 144.

 

Bibliography

Habermas, Jürgen and Jay M. Bernstein. 1971. Toward a Rational Society. Translated byJeremy J. Shapiro (London: Heinemann Educational Book, 1971), 107.

 

Bernstein, Jay M., Axel Honneth, and Ryan Malate. Recovering Ethical Life: Jürgen Habermas and the Future of Critical Theory. London and New York: Routledge, 1995.

 

Book with four or more authors

 

 Footnote

Jay M. Bernstein, et al., Recovering Ethical Life: Jürgen Habermas and the Future of Critical Theory (London and New York: Routledge, 1995), 144.

 

 Bibliography

Bernstein, Jay M., Axel Honneth, Ryan Malate, and Ferdinand Mangibin. Recovering Ethical Life: Jürgen Habermas and the Future of Critical Theory. London and New York: Routledge, 1995.

 

  Chapter in a book

 

Footnote

Herbert Marcuse, “The Foundation of Historical Materialism”, in The Essential Marcuse. Selected Writings of Philosopher and Social Critique Herbert Marcuse, eds. Andrew Feenberg and William Leis (Boston: Beacon Press, 2007), 83.

 

Bibliography

Marcuse, Herbert. 2007. The Foundation of Historical Materialism, 109-132. In The Essential Marcuse. Selected Writings of Philosopher and Social Critique Herbert Marcuse, edited by Andrew Feenberg and William Leis. Boston: Beacon Press.

 

Journal article

Footnote

Mario Bunge, “Technology as Applied Science”, Technology and Culture, Vol. 7, No. 3 (Summer: 1966): 330.

Doreen G. Fernandez and Jose Rizal, “The Philippine Press System: 1811-1898”, Philippine Studies 37 (Second Quarter 1989): 320.

 

 Bibliography

Bunge, Mario. Technology as Applied Science. Technology and Culture, Vol. 7, No. 3, (Summer: 1966): 330-390.

Fernandez, Doreen G. and Jose Rizal. The Philippine Press System: 1811-1898. Philippine Studies 37 (Second Quarter 1989): 320-340.

 

Newspaper article

Footnote

Randy David, “Dangers on Absolute Reliance on Authority”, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 10 July 2003, E-3.

Kit Duval, “The Art of Sex”, Manila Bulletin, 10 July 2003, Arts section.

 

Bibliography

David, Randy. Dangers on Absolute Reliance on Authority. Philippine Daily Inquirer, July 2003, E-3.

Duval, Kit. The Art of Sex. Manila Bulletin, 10 July 2003, Arts section.

 

 Magazines

Footnote

Kurt Cobain, “The Man Who Sold the World”, New Yorker, 26 June 1999, 84.

 

Bibliography

Cobain, Kurt. The Man Who Sold the World. New Yorker, 26 June 1999.

 

 Online materials

 

Footnote

Armand Uy, “Feminism in the Philippines”, http://inventors.about.com/library/htm (accessed 11 September 2004).

 “Calculators”, http://inventors.about.com/library/htm (accessed 11 September 2004).

 

Bibliography

Uy, Armando. Feminism in the Philippine. http://inventors.about.com/library/htm (accessed 11 September 2004).

 Calculators. http://inventors.about.com/library/htm (accessed 11 September 2004).

 

For more on writing philosophical research, see Research Methodology, https://research-methodology.net/research-philosophy/. See also Web Center for Social Science Research https://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/philosophy.php and Philosophical Research Society https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/philosophical-research-society

 

For some philosophy thesis samples, visit the following:

William James’s Existential Pragmatism:On the Role of Religious Experience in Attaining a Meaningful Life:  http://philonotes.com/index.php/2017/12/09/undergraduate-philosophy-thesis-sample/

Technologies of the Self: An Exposé on Foucault’s Theory of Power:
http://philonotes.com/index.php/2017/12/10/undergraduate-philosophy-thesis/

 

9 thoughts on “Handouts in Philosophical Research”

    1. Thanks, Jay. Yes, I will upload them soon. By the way, please see other posts. I have uploaded 3 samples of the theses of my former students. I hope this helps. All the best!

    2. Thanks, Jay. Yes, I have. Please see other posts. I will upload more in the future. Please visit this site again. All the best, Jay.

  1. Hey, Jeffry. Thank you very much for this post. This is very helpful. I hope you upload more notes soon relating to critical theory.

    1. No worries, Loyd. Many thanks too for your kind and generous comments. Sure, I will upload more. Please visit this site regularly. I wish you all the best!

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