Details of PH4203 (Spring 2017)

Level: 4 Type: Theory Credits: 3.0

Course CodeCourse NameInstructor(s)
PH4203 Research Methodology Soumitro Banerjee

This is a new course which encompasses the aspects of the erstwhile seminar course as well as addresses the need of the Research Methodology course for RS students as given in UGC guideline for PhD course work.


  • Attributes of science: Organization, crystallization and systematisation of knowledge; objectivity, impersonalism, abstractness in theory, practicality in application, reproducibility, universality, generalizability. Transpersonalization of experience -- collective and cumulative process; Organized skepticism.

  • How science developed:

    • Early (pre-Copernicus) period: Observation -- trial and error -- manipulation -- speculation; subjective approach; study and collection of facts; technology preceded theory. Greek science: Aristotle, Aristarcus, Archimedes, Euclid, Ptolemy. Indian tradition -- medicine, surgery, metallurgy, astronomy and mathematics.

    • Post-rennaissance period: Radical change in the method of organization of knowledge. Skepticism -- critical review of common sense construction of theory about a class of facts -- theory to invention and application. Examination of theories; As example, Galileo's approach in mechanics and astronomy are to be dealt in detail.

    • The development of the methods of science:

      • Francis Bacon (truth from fact, experiment-observation-inference, inductive approach)
      • Rene Descartes (science through reasoning -- mathematics called in. Deductive approach).

    • Post-Newton: Success in prediction and explanation of natural phenomena, science in control, industrial revolution, classical mechanics, determinism and mechanical materialism.

    • Organization of empirical observations into theory: Examples of Maxwell, Clausius, Carnot.

  • Logic. Necessity of logic as the training for scientific thinking; Aristotelian principles of thinking -- formal logic, syllogism. Logic and critical thinking: inductive and deductive. Logical and mathematical consistency.

  • Methodological aspects of modern science:

    1. Idealisation and abstraction in theory consistency test by mathematics
      Confirmation by experiments. Examples.
    2. Proposition of hypothesis null hypothesis design of experiment to test hypothesis construction of theory (with examples of the methods followed by Rutherford, Madam Curie, etc.).
    3. Experiment: General principles of planning, designing and executing experiments for testing hypotheses, and for obtaining fresh data about phenomena. Ensuring objectivity in experiments: Eliminating experimenter bias, experimental group and control group, single blind and double blind tests. Estimation of experimental error. Importance of reporting experiments with error bars. How to report experiments in a way meaningful to fellow scientists. Maintenance of research data, records, and notebooks.
    4. Thought experiments: What are thought experiments? Why are they necessary? How to ensure that the inference is correct? Examples
    5. Models: Construction of models why development of model is necessary in science; pitfalls of modelling; examples.
    6. Poppers falsifiability criterion in proposing a theory. With examples.
    7. Causality: What is causality? Tests of causal connection between events and phenomena.
    8. Statistical inference from experimental data: How to check that an observation is not due to random chance but due to an actual physical process; z-statistics and T-statistics, confidence intervals.
    9. The art of science communication: Structure of scientific papers, M.Sc. and Ph.D. theses, common mistakes, citation and referencing, examples of papers written by eminent scientists.
    10. Confutation of pseudo-sciences: Application of the scientific method to refute and expose various belief systems the cases of astrology, palmistry, gems, paraphychology, supernormal powers.
    11. Research misconduct: Fabrication, distortion, plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results. Examples from the history of science.


Course Credit Options

Sl. No.ProgrammeSemester NoCourse Choice
1 IP 2 Not Allowed
2 IP 4 Core
3 IP 6 Not Allowed
4 MR 2 Not Allowed
5 MR 4 Elective
6 MS 8 Core
7 RS 1 Core
8 RS 2 Core