Generating Research Questions through Problematisation | Sunday Observer

Generating Research Questions through Problematisation

12 June, 2021

The fourth session of the ‘Writing Impactful Research Programme’ was held on May 13, 2020 on Generating research question from problematisation by Guest Speaker, Professor O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, India Abhishek Behl. Along with completing his second doctorate from IIT-Bombay more recently, he has built rich experience of teaching, research and consultancy.

He has taught subjects like Business Analytics, Marketing Analytics, Digital Marketing and Marketing Research at top Colleges in India and abroad. He has also served as a Senior Manager- Research at Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship, IIM Ahmedabad. His research is in the area of Business Analytics and Decision Sciences with a focus on gamification, stakeholder engagement, sustainability, and e-commerce start-ups.

Prof. Behl is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Global Information Management (ABDC:A) and Journal of Cases on Information Technology (ABDC:C). He also features on the Editorial Board of many journals like Journal of Global Marketing (ABDC: B); Journal of Electronic Commerce in Organization (ABDC: B); Young Consumer (ABDC:B). He regularly reviews articles for high impact journals like IJIM, JBR, AOR, JSR, JGIM, BIJ, and others. He has edited two books and is editing a couple of Special Issues in the journal of international repute and high impact factor. He has published in highly regarded journals like Annals of Operations Research; Journal of Business Research; International Journal of Information Management; Management Decision; Information Systems and e-Business Management; Benchmarking, and so on.

Prof. Behl’s session, “Generating research question from problematisation”was launched under the patronage of Dean, Faculty of Management Studies, Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka Prof. Athula Gnanapala and organizers of the webinar series, Senior Lecturer, Sabaragamuwa University/Brand Ambassador Emerald Publishing – South Asia Dr. Jayantha N. Dewasiri, Publishing Relationship Manager, Emerald Publishing Miss. Sangeeta Menon, College of Healthcare Management and Economics Gulf Medical University Prof. Sudhir Rana, GIFT University, Pakistan Prof. Kashif Saeed and Regional Marketing Manager, Emerald Publishing Miss. Disha Lakhanpal.

The session began with a welcome address by Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Management Studies, Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka Dr. R.S.S.W. Arachchi.

Dr. Behl’s started the session with “The Power of Questioning: What? Why? How?” emphasising that it is important to ask the right questions rather than seeking for answers for every question. He then spoke about how theory building is at the heart of researchers.

There are various myths for development of theory. Often people choose and select wrong theories because of unawareness of the right theory. Other reasons of selection of theory is because of its popularity.

Theory should not be selected based on its popularity rather than appropriateness. Using popularity as a tool to shortlist theory is a common mistake made by the researchers. The next myth is that researchers feel that they have read the entire literature or done enough literature theory before writing their research papers. In reality, he added, it is not and never possible. Then comes the issue of over reliance on published literature. Instead, the authors should refer to ‘experience’ and ‘observation’ as two more dimensions to reach to the research gaps. Thus, evidence-based research forms the essence of every research.

He further said that choice of theory comes with choice of assumptions. Unlike scientific theories, management theories need to have more assumptions that are often missed out by researchers while using these theories or making a selection in their research. The question ‘what to choose?’ and ‘how to choose?’, when it comes to understand theory, remains the most important aspect in doing theory focused research.

Dr. Behl explained that the most commonly used jargons by researchers when it comes to performing literature review and finding gaps are ‘Extend this literature’, ‘Address this gap in the literature’, ‘Call for empirical research’ and so on. Although these phrases are acceptable, they do not depict quality in the work of the researcher. High-quality impactful research should reflect the choices made by researchers in terms of their selection of theory and more importantly their assumptions behind it.

More often the researchers face the problem of under problematisation (Such ‘gap-spotting’ means that the assumptions underlying existing literature for the most part remain unchallenged in the formulation of research questions) or over problematisation (aim of these orientations is to disrupt rather than build upon and establish existing body of knowledge)

Talking about the critical piece in debate - Gap Spotting v/s Gap Filling, Dr. Behl mentioned that most studies do not explicitly discuss the importance and innovation in research gap spotting. While others are too much involved in gap spotting as a phenomenon that they miss out on discussing and exploring the right research question.

Further into the session, he discussed the three prominent ways that gap spotting can be done - confusion spotting, neglect spotting and application spotting. The research task, he added, is to provide an alternative perspective to further our understanding of the particular subject matter in question. While many of the studies reviewed emphasise one major way of constructing research questions, combinations of different gap-spotting ways are not uncommon.

What makes ‘Gap Spotting’ the obvious choice of researchers? It is safe, uncontroversial and safe. Research Institutions encourage gap-spotting. Contemporary journal formats encourage gap-spotting. It often makes sense to adopt gap-spotting. The alternative to gap-spotting – problematisation - is difficult.

Problematisation is first and foremost an “endeavour to know how and to what extent it might be possible to think differently, instead of what is already known”. Asking the right question involves - What types of assumptions are relevant to consider? How can these assumptions be identified, articulated and challenged in a way that is likely to lead to the development of an interesting theory?

At the end of the session, Dr. Behl discussed solutions and the way forward. He listed them as identifying a domain of literature for assumption challenging investigation, identifying and articulating assumptions underlying the chosen domain of literature, evaluating articulated assumptions, developing an alternative assumption ground and considering assumptions in relation to the audience.

For the Q & A session towards the end of the presentation, Dr. Behl was joined by program co-ordinators, Prof. Sudhir Rana, College of Healthcare Management and Economics, Gulf Medical University and Editor, South Asian Journal of Marketing (Emerald Publishing) and Miss Sangeeta Menon, Publishing Relationship Manager, Emerald - India. The 30-minute session was filled with queries from enthusiastic participants who had multiple questions for the guest speaker. The session was completed with the vote of thanks by Lecturer, Faculty of Management Studies, Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka Miss. Waruni Thiranagama,.

“Writing Impactful Research” is a Programme developed and implemented by the Research and Publication Unit of the Faculty of Management Studies, Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka (SUSL), in collaboration with the Emerald Publishing and College of Healthcare Management and Economics, Gulf Medical University, Ajman, UAE.


Miss. Sangeeta Menon
Publishing Relationship Manager
Emerald Publishing

Dr. Abhishek Behl,
O.P. Jindal Global University
Sonipat, India