Research Methodology for Performing Arts
ISBN 9789395515870




Part 3

General Problems in Research

There could be several factors that hinder the process of research. The main are:

Topic related problems; for e.g., the researcher may choose to work on a composition which is the topic itself. This may no longer be performed and therefore reconstruction will largely depend on description from literary texts, specific details related to it mentioned in other works and from the memory of senior practitioners of the art form. This may be inaccurate or their capability to do full justice to the composition may be limited due to their age.

Economics related to the topic. The researcher may not be able to afford the expenses incurred in field work and travel if the topic demands continuous travel and cataloging. This may hinder the work as the researcher may either not be able to afford it or may not have the stipend to cover the costs.

Authenticity of information either written or oral. Descendants and students may tend to be biased about their teacher or family member and the researcher will have to glean the truth from the information received.

Topics related to archaic language in treatises that may not have commentaries. Books are good resource material, especially old texts. But this in itself may pose to be a problem as it may be cryptic in nature and difficult to understand without commentaries.

Problem Identification

Any dissertation or thesis revolves around an answer to a question or questions posed about the topic. The main question is the problem and the solution for the same will necessarily form the hypothesis.

Let us look at how to identify the problem.

Is the problem closely related to your topic?

If the topic is about navarasā in Bharatanāṭyam, then factors that hinder the artiste in expressing it or identifying it can be termed as the problem.

If the problem has been identified earlier and worked upon, it must be ascertained whether the study was complete and accurate. However, the present research undertaken by the scholar must be different from the one attempted earlier even if it were inaccurate or incomplete. The researcher has the freedom to look at the topic from another perspective and add value to the research.

For e.g., someone could have worked upon navarasa in Bharatnāṭyam but the researcher can explore possibilities of a tenth rasa with adequate justification. References to the previous thesis can be made but the thesis will be novel as it mentions the tenth rasa in the context of modern day Bharatnāṭyam.

The inputs from the Guide will be extremely valuable as he/she will have to be knowledgeable about the problem and the subject matter. If the time needed to research the problem is not enough then the problem needs to be split and worked upon in parts or in two different theses.

Ancient theories revolved around 4 principles in identifying a problem.

Pratyakṣapramāṇam - This principle is based on what is seen evidently as a problem. In dance, when you see a person do nrttā 32 without araimandi 33 or aṅgaśuddham 34, we can see clearly how poor the nrttā is. Using this principle one can identify a problem as it is evident for all to see. For e.g., if the researcher is working on nrttā elements in a school, then the presence and absence of good body lines is for all to see.

Anumānapramāṇam - This is based on what you associate with upon seeing something. It is an assumption. When you see a dancer executing a complicated jāti with ease you assume that her sense of tālā and lāyā is very strong.

Upamānapramāṇam - This is to compare two different things to understand a theory, concept or fact. In dance we often show the moon to describe the quality of calmness in the hero although the moon and calmness are two different things.

A¯ptavākyam - This is when someone else vouches for a fact. In dance, very often we take it for granted that students of a particular school will necessary perform well. This can be told by someone and since the school has that kind of a reputation it will be believed.

During the British period, three significant other ways to comprehend a problem evolved.

What was practically understood by all generally was later compiled and structured into a formula to help us in the future while dealing with similar issues. For e.g., ‘all metals absorb heat’. In the context of Bharatanāṭyam, one may say all dancers need to know both nrttā and abhinayā.

Another method used in comprehension is to use two diametrically opposite things to understand a concept. For e.g., one cannot make dancers. One can only develop their capability to dance through training.

The third way is the comparative theory whereby two parallels are examined to create a formula. For e.g., the hand movements seen in sign language and the hastās 35 used in Bharatanāṭyam are seemingly similar but different.

Choice of Topic

The topic chosen must not be too wide in scope. For e.g., one cannot choose a topic like ‘Bharatanāṭyam and its influence in India and Overseas’. However, we cannot be confined to something too narrow like ‘Paraval aḍavu 36 and its Importance’.

One cannot choose a topic that has been handled by someone else who has got a degree for the same even if the topic was badly handled by that person.

One must be reasonable and practical in choosing a topic. One cannot choose a topic about references to Bharatanāṭyam dancers in Canada while working out of India.

The research scholar must choose a topic in which he or she has some expertise and not one where they have to acquire new skills.

The topic chosen must be worthwhile to the fraternity of people who know and use it. For e.g., there is no point in choosing a topic such as “The Relationships Among the Participants of Thematic Presentations”.

If the topic chosen is related to historical studies, then it is important to use records of the Archaeological Survey of India, Newspaper records and Museum records.

Once the topic is chosen it is important to keep four points in mind.


This will involve a method or an approach to go about the topic. This will necessitate reading of primary sources and secondary sources. One can read the primary sources in the beginning so the judgement is not coloured by the opinions of those who have worked on it or commented upon it. It is also possible to read various articles or commentaries which will serve as a secondary source and will strengthen the understanding before going on to the primary source.

Any book chosen by the researcher must be read with care. One will naturally take the latest edition of any book and make entries of the name, surname, publisher, author and the year of the last edition. However, care must be taken to note the year of the first edition as well to give an idea of the history of the book itself.

Every card one makes with the information, should have one or many entries pertaining to one idea. It is better to put material together under a specific idea rather than putting several ideas by the same author. This will facilitate the researcher when it comes to ‘Part’ writing. Therefore, one should use another card for another idea, even if it is from the same book. This will be useful in the next stages of analysis and sequencing of material collected.

One can use different coloured cards for the different Parts of the work to be researched. Alternatively, they can mark the number of the Part into which the notes must go into in Roman numerals on the left side of the card for easy reference.

It must be remembered that the researcher should note down all information and not rely purely on his memory. It will be strenuous and important details will be missed due to a lapse in memory. It is not advisable to depute someone to look for material or make notes on your behalf. It is a wrong practice and will not pay dividends.


This will eliminate the unnecessary information after analysis. One could have collected a lot of material but not all of it may be directly connected with the topic chosen. Hence analysis of the material is mandatory and this criticism will provide a strong base for the research work.

It is important for the researcher to develop the art of scanning contents, foreword, publishers note, bibliography and edition and take relevant information as notes. Sometimes the whole book is very important and the appendices, footnotes and references mentioned cannot be ignored.

Criticism can be both internal and external. Externally the researcher may have to validate if the sources especially primary sources really belong to that period. For e.g., a palm leaf manuscript of a 5th century treatise may not be written in the language of that period but in the language employed in the 16th century. This is a clean giveaway which should be checked and verified before using or quoting.

Internal criticism will involve the content of the text where its accuracy should be validated. For e.g., an account about an institution by a close associate may not be an objective appraisal always. Statements of bias should be discerned by the researcher appropriately.

Performing arts do depend on information from myths and purāṇās 37. It is important to understand symbolism in art as well as religious symbology. The researcher cannot be biased or sympathetic to any religious theory but must present objective appraisals of the same.

If the researcher wants to quote an author, the relevant lines can be taken as quotation. It is important to note the title of the book, name of the author, volume and page number and even if the quote is a textual passage or a footnote.

An entire passage may be quoted only if one needs it to support one’s views or in order to contradict it. Another reason to quote a passage is because it is so well written and cannot be said better.

In the performing arts much information is culled out of material gathered from non-literary sources like questionnaires and interviews. This forms data which is called oral history. There are some valid points to consider while collecting such data.

Responses must be collected from several people who have a common interest in the topic chosen.

The object of enquiry must be clearly mentioned in the questionnaire. For e.g., nāyikā explored through the mohamāna bhairavī varṇam 38. It will not suffice to say varṇam 39 or bhairavī varṇam as there are more than one in that category.

The questionnaire should ensure the responses will be confidential. This will strengthen the validity of research.

The questions framed should be direct, simple and not of a personal nature.

Questions must be in a logical order and not exhibit any repetitive quality.

There should not be leading or embarrassing questions. For e.g., “Is the abhinayā 40 of your dance style in any way superior or inferior to another school?”

The questionnaire should be completed within a set frame of time and not left to the choice of the person.

In spite of this, the responses may not be satisfactory if the responder doesn’t appreciate the reason for the enquiry, their ability to understand the question or their desire to be uninhibited and upfront with the answers.


Based on the material assimilated, the researcher will interpret the theories in the light of the information received without any alterations or distortions to suit their needs. Special care must be taken to stick to the true intent of the research, rather than the direction of third parties. Interpretation will recognise the problem pertaining to the thesis and ways to be adopted to solve them. To be able to see the problem itself is of great consequence. It is important to ask questions related to the problem which are precise and pointed. This will strengthen the hypothesis of the researcher.


Interpretation and synthesis go hand in hand and are interrelated. Synthesis will involve the method or organising the material towards the final thesis. This involves several steps.

A hypothesis is drawn based on the critically assimilated facts pertaining to the thesis.

The core of the thesis is introduced.

The list of source materials and critical evaluation of the same is outlined.

The entire mass of material is divided either chronologically or according to the idea or theme. There could be as many divisions or sub divisions as one deems fit, as long as it can be justified and validated.

The concluding Part will summarise the findings at every level of research and the researcher’s scholarship is put down in the proper perspective.


The style or manner in which the researcher puts forth the arguments and builds the Parts from the start to the finish is very important. Some may adopt a question-and-answer style whereas others may choose an explanatory or an argumentative style. However, it must be remembered that the style is subordinate to the substance of the thesis.

However style is very important, as it will reflect the manner in which the researcher went about the work- methodical, logical and whether it is presented in a simple yet elegant manner. A lot of importance should be given to diction, vocabulary and brevity. Care should be taken to ensure correct structure and syntax while writing the thesis. Praise and blame should be avoided and unnecessary bitterness and flowery language must not feature in the thesis. The thesis should state the idea or theme and never the person or persons.

While presenting the facts, it is documenting ideas and theories to validate or to refute something. This may at times be controversial to the researcher’s own ideology but must feature as backing the main body as references or footnotes. The purpose of the footnote is to show the source for the particular idea presented or to elaborate an idea which is related but may interfere with the flow of thought in the main body and hence will not feature there. The main body of the thesis should have double spacing while the footnotes must have only single spacing.


According to the Cambridge dictionary hypothesis is an idea or explanation for something that is based on known facts but has not yet been proved.

According to Kerlinger - “A hypothesis is a conjectural statement of the relationship between 2 or more variables.” (1986:17). Websters Third new International Dictionary (1976) defines hypothesis as – “a proposition, condition or principle which is assumed, perhaps without belief, in order to draw out its logical consequences and by this method to test its accord with facts which are known or may be determined.”

Hypothesis is a hunch or an assumption about a phenomenon or relationship that brings clarity and focus to it.

A hypothesis is a specific statement of prediction. It should be simple and clear. It must be capable of being verified and should be relevant to the study that the researcher is undertaking.

Importance of Hypothesis

The hypothesis provides focus for the study one is undertaking. It provides information about what kind of data one must collect. Based on the assumptions, it will strengthen the theories that have been postulated. That is what helps to determine what is true and what is false.

Since the hypothesis is specific, it will provide a good explanation for the outcome that is predicted. The hypothesis must be stated in advance even when the topic is proposed. This will mean that the researcher is fully aware of a possible result based on the extent of research done by him/her and previous researchers.

It is important for every thesis to be clear and simple to test. For e.g., if the researcher is proposing a new rasā 41 in addition to the nine featured in most texts, then it should be possible to test and see if the rasā is an independent one.

It is equally important to free the hypothesis from any personal bias. For e.g., the discovery of the tenth rasā cannot stem from your personal ability to demonstrate something new alone. It must hold relevance to all in general.

It is important to note that the hypothesis must neither be vague or superficial but must be the core of the topic chosen for research.

Quality of Hypothesis

Such a hypothesis that solves the problem must take into consideration some important issues like:

Is the problem closely associated to the topic chosen? If the dominance of bhayānaka rasā 42 is the problem chosen, then it is evident that this is a rasā well within the gamut of navarasās.

Has the problem been identified earlier? One needs to know if this problem was part of any previous research work.

Are there relevant books both as primary and secondary sources?

Does the guide have adequate knowledge about the subject and in particular about the problem to be solved?

Is the time given for completion of the thesis sufficient to do justice to the topic chosen?

Will the solution to the problem be a contribution to the field of Performing arts?

Research and Report Planning

After understanding the meaning, importance and significance of the hypothesis it is important to draw up the report on the course of work.

A preliminary outline of the topic is drawn indicating the area of study and the approach to be undertaken.

A list of possible source materials for the topic to be studied must be detailed.

A tentative plan of the thesis must be drawn up with details on time necessary for field work.

Research Planning

Research has to be carefully planned and it cannot be done at the last moment or even a couple of months ahead of submitting your work. Many research scholars work several years prior to the time when they register for the Ph.D. programme. They may start this research work even during their graduation and post-graduation periods where an idea could have crystallised in their mind and the knowledge gained through those programmes can spark off as a topic for their Ph.D. This is when they gather a lot of information not only through their academic study but by comparing it with parallel streams or inter-disciplinary streams that are connected to their topic.

All the information gathered should be recorded in a descriptive manner and for this the research scholar will benefit immensely by using record cards or source cards which can be used for gathering both the bibliographical details about the source as well as the contents from the source. These record cards are easy to handle and store as they are usually tougher than thin paper and it is easy to arrange and re-arrange them.

    a. The name of the author should feature exactly as it is printed in the source. If the source is authored by more than one person, the name of the first author followed by ‘et all’ can be used in place of the remaining authors. For e.g., Hala’s Sattasai by Peter Khoroche et all.

    b. In case the author has written under a pseudonym, that name should be written first followed by his true name which will be within square brackets.

    c. In case the name of the author is not known, the term ‘Anon’ can be used for it. Moreover, if the publication is anonymous with the name of the author then, the authors name should be mentioned as before but within square brackets.

    d. If the author is an institution then it must be written like this- “Anthara Centre for Performing arts - a course primer”.

    e. The title of the publication must be mentioned fully. For eg. Tolkappiyam in English by Dr. V. Murugan must be written as V. Murugan., Tolkappiyam in English, Institute of Asian Studies. If the source is an article from a collection or encyclopedia, the article title must be within quotes. If the authors are only editors then it should be mentioned too. For e.g., South India Heritage - An Introduction - Prema Kasturi and Chithra Madhavan, eds.

    f. It is also important to record if the work is the first, second or subsequent edition.

    g. We may use a particular volume from the many volumes of a publication. It should be mentioned as uppercase roman numerals to denote this. For e.g., Volume IV of the Music Academy Journal.

    h. In case of using sources from journal, newspapers or magazines one needs to record the author or body, the title of the article which must be within single quotation marks. However the quotations within must be written within double quotation marks.

    i. In the event that the researcher is using a manuscript, the name of the author should be recorded, the title must be recorded in inverted commas, the collection from which it is taken must be underlined and the number of the manuscript should be mentioned.

    j. If the researcher is mentioning some content from a text the page number must be mentioned. For e.g., Dances of India by Vivekananda Kendra Patrika-VolXno2 1981 p15. If there are many pages it can be recorded as pp15-19.

A dancer may get influenced by sculptures of temples, the musical compositions of certain composers or the tālā 43 structure written in some treatise. This will later grow into a proper and a structured format that leads into a study for their Ph.D. programme.

The Ph.D. programme itself lasts only for three to four years and this is the time when they have to collate the information, sequence it and separate the relevant from the irrelevant. The scholar must first choose the topic, discuss it with the guide and come to a conclusion as to whether it is appropriate to be given for the Ph.D. examination.

The scope of the chosen topic has to be discussed not only with the guide or the supervisor but with colleagues, experts in the field and practitioners who can contribute input into that area. This research scholar must definitely read a lot of material, both primary sources as well as secondary sources, and gather information even if it is remotely connected with the topic. These notes, interviews or recordings can all be compiled and segregated later but they must start with the collection. This may span over a broad framework rather than it narrowing down.

While taking notes, the notes that have been compiled can be written notes, they could be recordings of certain practitioners, there could be questionnaires, interviews conducted with different people, and there could even be case studies over a period of time that may prove useful at the end of the research.

During the first year it is important to take random study and random reading and make a lot of cross references connected to your research topic. When you collect all these materials, it is important to organise them under different headings - written matter, audio-video recorded matter, case studies, questionnaires, interviews and then even links to inter-disciplinary inputs that will help like web-pages, photographs or even documentaries. This will give an idea of how the thesis is shaping and the direction needed to arrive at a hypothesis and, therefore, come up with findings at the end of the research programme.

By the second year, it is important to separate the material into sections, start classifying what is relevant from the irrelevant, and write part by part, although not necessarily in order. All the parts can be simultaneously written, where you can keep adding points you come up with in the course of study and also reorganising the material and editing what is irrelevant to that part. When you come to the end of a part, it is important to understand that it leads on to the next part. The flow must be maintained so as to not confuse any reader and especially for the sake of establishing the hypothesis.

It is necessary that the third or the second part is the crux of your thesis which tells exactly what you have chosen to explain in the form of the ‘topic’. By this time, one should have written the first draft and should start to organize any audio and video components that are to accompany the dissertation. The sub-divisions for each of these parts must also be outlined by the second year so that there is a clear idea of the progress of the topic.

By the time it is the third year, the introduction and the conclusion should ideally be completed with the bibliography and the different inclusions incorporated in full swing. The research scholar must decide how many appendices he or she needs to attach to the main body of the thesis and it is also necessary to start to write and prepare a glossary for the terms that needs to be understood by any reader.

By the end of the third year, it will be time for a complete grammar check and all the necessary changes should be done before consultation with the guide once more just before the binding of the thesis. This will be the final draft and the pre-viva may also take place at this time. Although the synopsis is submitted ahead of time, usually in the first year, some universities expect you to submit it in the third year. The moment the thesis is completed and submitted, one should prepare for the viva voce.

32. An element in dance
33. Half squat in Bharatanāṭyam
34. Body line
35. A variety of the basic Part of dance
36. A type of aḍavu
37. A story based on religious Hindu belief
38. A musical composition which is the central piece of a Bharatanāṭyam repertoire
39. A musical composition which can be adapted to both classical Carnatic music and dance performance
40. Mode of communication
41. Aesthetic flavour
42. One subdivision of the Navarasās
43. Rhythmic Part of measure