Research Methodology for Performing Arts
ISBN 9789395515870




Part 1

Research - Meaning and Definition

Search is to look for something specific over a period of time using a tool or method. The prefix ‘re’ suggests doing it once again. It means to relook or re-investigate.

It could mean an analysis of evidence.

It is an enquiry to know and discover new information.

It is to expand the field of knowledge.

It is defining problems and suggesting solutions

It is a critical examination of observed information.

According to the Webster International Dictionary, “research is a careful inquiry or examination in seeking facts or principles; diligent investigation in order to ascertain something”

According to the American sociologist Earl Robert Babbie, “Research is a systematic inquiry to describe, explain, predict and control the observed phenomenon. Research involves inductive and deductive methods.” (2011-Basics of Social Research

Research is a careful enquiry or examination in seeking facts or principles, a diligent investigation to ascertain something, says Clifford Woody. (1923- It is the process of arriving at dependable solution to the problems through the planned and systematic collection, analysis and interpretation of data.

A broad definition of research is given by Martyn Shuttleworth – “In the broadest sense of the word, the definition of research includes any gathering of data, information and facts for the advancement of knowledge.” (2008-

Another definition of research is given by Creswell who states that - “Research is a process of steps used to collect and analyse information to increase our understanding of a topic or issue” (2008). It consists of three steps: Pose a question, collect data to answer the question and present an answer to the question.

M. Stephenson and D. Slesinger defined research in the Encyclopaedia of Social Sciences as “The manipulation of things, concepts or symbols for the purpose of generalising to extend, correct or verify knowledge, whether that knowledge aids in construction of theory or the practice of an art”. (2008-

T.P. Ramachandran identifies four important aspects of research when he defines it as “A critical investigation into a chosen area within a familiar field, for the purpose of furthering the knowledge about the area selected.” (1984, p.2)

In Tamil, the text Tolkāppiyam uses the term ‘Aithal’ (2000, p.326) to suggest research. It means to weed out unnecessary information, collect relevant information and use what is good and pertinent to that individual for his work.


It is the systematic, theoretical analysis of the methods applied to a field of study.

The methods described in the methodology define the means or modes of data collection, or sometimes, how a specific result is to be calculated.

Research methodology

This is a science of studying how research is to be carried out. Essentially, the procedure by which researchers go about their work of describing, explaining and predicting phenomena is called research methodology. It is also defined as the study of methods by which knowledge is gained.

Reasons for Research

Why research?

Our country has always encouraged the quest for enquiry and many a text dealing with politics, philosophy, grammar, ethics and performing arts has been shown in a question-answer module to facilitate easy understanding thereby giving room for further interpretations from time to time. Traditional education in India has deep roots in the oral tradition as part of academic skills to be developed by students. However, after the basic training in a chosen field, the student has to implement that learning through understanding, analysis and application in the correct context.

Earlier, students were given course materials to prepare for an examination whereas, these days guidelines are given and the student has to prepare their own course material based upon the guidelines. The advantage is that the student will read extensively, searching and compiling from more than one source and will thereby be introduced to different styles of writing, approaches and perspectives adopted by them and progression of ideas utilized within.

Research is very integral to the growth and evolution of society. It is through research that we can restore the missing links that connect the past with the present thereby providing a base for the future. Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam’s research on karaṇas 1 link the age-old tradition of mārgī 2 to be used by dancers today and for generations to come.

It is through research that we are able to see the changes that impacted the different fields at different points of time. The same research can also point to how that particular field will evolve in the future. The present day mārgam 3 in the Bharatanāṭyam 4 repertoire had a different form and name. Research opens up the reasons for the changes resulting in its present structure, name and purpose.

Students who opt to research may do so for a number of reasons some of which are listed below

    a. To pursue education and get a Ph.D. in the chosen field.

    b. To be able to guide others in a similar manner.

    c. To explore areas that have potential and scope for research.

    d. To be able to offer solutions to existing problems.

    e. To service the community through findings in research.

    f. To be able to face challenges in their career through the study.

    g. To give oneself intellectual happiness and satisfaction.

Classification of Research

Research can be of different kinds in nature, approach and presentation.

History Based Research

This research could trace the evolution of a historical fact. It will analyze its origin, cause, growth and present condition to put forth the hypothesis of what will happen in the future. For e.g., the revolution in India called the Sepoy mutiny has been researched in this manner. In the performing arts, the methodology described in the Saṅgīta sārāmṛta 5 serves as a bridge between the previous tradition of aḍavu 6 training for dancers and the present one. The study of this text written during the period of the Marāṭhā7 rule of South India explains the importance of the history of the existing tradition among practitioners and the contribution towards the creation of the process as recorded in the text and is worthy of study.

Language and Literature Based Research

This form of research work could speak about two seemingly different languages that evolved at the same time. The research will include the political and the economic conditions that influenced the two and the reasons for both of them to having developed a distinct style of its own. The Rāmāyaṇa is written in different regional languages and is part of the literature of that area. The reasons for interpolations in the main story that forms an inherent part of the regional culture is possible with research based on the language and literature documented in that region.

Psychology Based Research

This kind of research will study human evolution and its development (the evolution of the mind). For example, criminal tendencies can be traced to some emotional need that remained unfulfilled in the individual that made him resort to crime. The study of nāyakās 8 or heroes pertaining to dance can take this approach in research. For instance, the character study of Duryodhana may need an understanding of his emotional needs as a child that remained unfulfilled and the constant comparison with Bhima and the rest of the Pandavas.

Sociology Based Research

Studies of periodical changes in society that result in conventions that become rituals and later impacts the culture of a society are examples of research done under this classification. The Mughal or Islamic influence in the terms coined for compositions in the Bharatanāṭyam repertoire can be studied from this angle.

Philosophy Based Research

Research that studies rituals in a society that later crystallise into a law trace the philosophical import that is the driving force behind these conventions. This change over a period of time and influences all the fields which is in close connection with it. The concept of Paramātmā 9, Jīvātmā 10 and the Guru while explaining the roles of Kṛṣṇa,11 Rādhā12 and Sakhī 13 can be understood through the study of philosophy in connection to the Aṣṭapadī 14.

Limitations of Research

The researcher has to make sure that the topic chosen, has the scope for being undertaken for research. For example, a researcher cannot choose a topic like “Structure and Description of a Mythical Dance Composition” based on only puranic 15 stories.

The researcher has to limit the work to a logical and practical timeframe. For example, the researcher cannot analyse all dance compositions over the centuries but limit it to a few or select all within a smaller specific period of time.

The researcher shall not be over ambitious to cover either large periods of time or presume to think that the work can hold good for all time to come. Thus the researcher cannot choose “The Evolution of Dance from Primitive Times till the Present Day” as the period is too vast to render the thesis vague.

The researcher must possess the discretion not to limit the chosen topic to a very short time or body of work. The study of the Pallavi 16 in a pada-varṇam for a doctoral thesis may be too limiting unless it is an exceptional one worthy of specific research.

Credibility and Qualities of Research

Any research work needs to have a system in place. It needs to include a definite style of writing, progression in thought and quotations in relevant areas. The quotations need to be acknowledged and checked if it is relevant to the progression of ideas in the mind of the researcher. There are unsaid rules to follow during the process of research some of which are listed below.

The researcher may accept his predecessor’s arguments during the course of his own work. Many dance practitioners working on the Nātyaśāstra acknowledge and accept Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam’s work on the karanas.

He may disagree with his predecessor’s argument and justify it.

The researcher may agree with his predecessor but may have a new perspective which is contradictory to the previous theory.

The researcher may find something absolutely novel and be able to prove it. For example, if the researcher finds evidences of similarities of a modern language in an ancient script, then the thesis must clarify it to dispel any doubts over it.

In the case of having two scholars with different views as predecessors, the researcher needs to apply a sense of reasoning and knowledge to decide who is right. A researcher may come across a view that karanas are frozen postures as described by one scholar, while Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam has said that it is a moment that is part of a movement etched on stone. If the researcher wants to state that it is a posture then he must go with the first predecessor. On the other hand, if he agrees with Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam then he must go with her view.

The researcher must have the ability to see the transition and the transformation. They could be in the concepts or theories. The concept that kauthuvam is a ritualistic composition adapted to the modern stage is to be understood before taking the topic for the doctoral thesis.

If the researcher is convinced with his opinion, he should hold on to it and be able to justify it.

The researcher must understand suitable areas to expand through appropriate justification and evidence. For e.g. The basic unit of Bharatanāṭyam ‘aḍavu’ can be treated through the eyes of the different dance schools or styles apart from its form and structure.

The researcher must have a sequential progression of ideas in the content of the work chosen.

The researcher needs to know to make references to interdisciplinary areas of study as part of the research. For e.g. -The study of ‘hastās’ will need the researcher to look into the allied fields of sculpture, painting and yoga.

The researcher must have the clarity to state the hypothesis and not confuse the reader with vague statements that do not have the backing of evidence.

Salient Features in Research

The thesis must contain details in a lucid style and this must be maintained in a flow of progression.

There must be brevity in stating the facts written in the thesis. The right words in the correct context must be used.

The thesis should be written in depth and with intensity and never superficially.

The facts should be in logical progression. If the research is about emotional variations in love, then the research cannot speak of the other 8 emotions and their varieties before stating the definition of emotion as quoted in the various texts.

The researcher must have the determination and clarity to state what he wants to establish as a concept. For example, if the researcher wants to state that dance is an off shoot of drama, he needs to support it with clarity in his justification.

The researcher must date the subject of study and the changes it underwent in chronological order during the course of time.

The researcher has to collect as much information as possible to support a particular argument which can be edited later. The research can be on aḍavus but the material collected must include all body divisions and movements mentioned in the various texts with their respective varieties and classifications.

The researcher must categorise and classify all the details that are collected. For example, if the researcher is working on costume and makeup then all the material has to be classified under fabric, jewellery, hairdo, make up, and accessories.

The researcher must begin with the problem in his thesis and state how to solve it.

The researcher must remember to state where the solution to the problem is given in the text of the thesis.

The researcher can put forth and highlight certain ideas to strengthen his argument as part of his contribution.

The researcher can use another person’s reference material to support his own argument. For example, a dance scholar can use the reference of his seniors who have either written a thesis or an article published or unpublished.

The researcher must remember to explain and expand the meanings of the technical terms that he has used; for e.g., the word ‘avatāra17 maybe unfamiliar to most but perhaps known to an Indian and this should be explained.

The researcher must take care to show the link between the ideas or the concepts that have been explained.

The researcher may come across two meanings for the same term. He must explain which one is being used by him in his theses. For example, the word Aḍi may mean step or strike in Tamil. The researcher has to decide which one he needs for his theses and state it.

The researcher needs to identify the reason for an argument and justify the argument. For example, he may come across a reference to state that the five elements can be seen in the Nataraja idol. If so, he needs to explain where each element is seen in the idol.

If there are two arguments, the researcher needs to select an appropriate one that will suit his thesis. For example, Karṇa18 and Arjuna19 are brave warriors in their own right. The researcher must choose one of them to support his thesis while justifying why the other is inferior to the person chosen.

If the researcher is able to explain an argument with a formula, then it should be stated that it is only for the thesis and not for anything else. For e.g., if the text Agattiyam 20 is referred by Adiyārkkuunallār 21 and the latter is referred by the scholar then, he cannot conclude the he referred to Agattiyam. However, if Adiyārkkuunallār referred to the text Agattiyam for a specific concept, and we referred to Adiyārkkuunallār for the same, we could infer that the methods used by us are a living tradition from the period of the Agattiyam for the specific concept that was mentioned.

The researcher must remember to eliminate any old theory that will not suit the theses.

The researcher can presume or predict if he foresees a change in the field chosen.

The researcher must remember to repeatedly point out the key statement that he has utilised in his thesis.

The researcher may come across a lot of information but he should condense it into a few lines as part of the thesis. However, if all the information that is gathered is relevant to the broad study it can be added to the appendix.

The researcher may identify a common problem with many variables for example if 2+2=4 then 2 apples + 2 apples = 4 apples or 2 cycles + 2 cycles = 4 cycles.

In a similar manner since 2+2=4 then 1+3=4, 3+1=4, 4+0=4 and 0+4=4. The is very useful in dance. In an ordinary ādi tālā kōrvai ,22 every student knows that one āvarttanā 23 or cycle has 32 mātrās 24. They can divide it in various combinations of 3+3 +3+3+3+3+7+7 all in one āvarttana. Similar patterns can be tried out.

The researcher must remember to give the explanation for any progression of idea. In the previous example while mentioning a certain pattern, the researcher must state why that pattern was chosen.

If there are two arguments for the same point then the researcher must choose to stick with one of them and justify it. For e.g., if the researcher wants to state that śṛṅgārarasa 25 is best described in padams 26 and in aṣṭapadīs, then he should stick with one that is relevant to his thesis.

In the course of the study if the researcher finds a solution to the problem, he should explain it with the right example. For e.g., aḍavus can be perfected with continuous practice. Here the researcher must draw up a list of aḍavus and its sequence to prove his point.

If the researcher comes across a new concept, it should be justified and relevant with proper evidence for example if the researcher states that the guthithu mettu aḍavu is useful for training the lower leg, it should be justified with a case study and with a corresponding doctors report.

If there is a doubt raised in the concept then it should be well justified with validity.

The researcher has to look at all concepts related to the topic but only speak of that which is applicable to the thesis.

1. Basic Part in dance according to the Nātyaśāstra
2. Common dance code in India
3. A set of compositions in Bharatanāṭyam
4. A classical dance style of Tamilnadu
5. A Sanskrit treatise by King Tulaja
6. The basic Part of Bharatanāṭyam
7. The dynasty of kings who ruled from Tanjore in the 17th century
8. Hero
9. Divine soul
10. Human soul
11. Hindu god
12. Paramour of Krishna
13. Companion
14. Musical poem by Jayadeva
15. Classic Indian Epics
16. The chorus in Indian Classical Music
17. Incarnation
18. A character in the Mahābhārata- the first born of Kuntī
19. The son of Indra and Kuntī
20. A Tamil text
21. Commentator of Silappadikāram
22. A combination of movement within a time cycle
23. One time cycle
24. microbeats
25. The sentiments of love
26. An expressional and slow composition in music and dance