To supplement the growing industrial demand for multi-skilled personnel, more universities have started encouraging multidisciplinary research and courses. Multidisciplinary research or course is one that integrates two or more areas of specialisation. Such courses were rare before, but have picked up pace in recent years. This article enlists the conditions for conducting groundbreaking multidisciplinary research and making valuable contributions to solving real-world problems.
For higher educational institutions, the two biggest challenges are knowledge transfer and skill development. For multidisciplinary courses, demonstrating how two areas of knowledge can come together and be applied practically is challenging.
In response to such challenges, multidisciplinary researchers are creating groundbreaking theses and dissertations that are relevant in the real world and also contribute significantly academically. In this context “groundbreaking” refers to an offer that answers the research question and has some practical contribution to businesses. On the other hand, the university’s responsibility is to upskill students and enable them to conduct such groundbreaking multidisciplinary research.
Skills needed for multidisciplinary research
The problems and the issues in the modern world are more complex, which makes working in silos redundant. Complex problems like creating healthcare solutions require the collaboration of experts from different fields such as:
- Sharing key discipline aspects with collaborators: One of the key requirements of conducting multidisciplinary research is to identify potentially good collaborators. Even if the disciplines are completely unrelated, it helps to have an element of commonality.
- Communicate in layman’s language: The usage of unnecessary jargon and complex words prevents optimal communication between collaborators. It could also potentially result in deviation of the researchers from their goal. As the collaborators are from diverse backgrounds and geographies there is a need to develop the skill of communicating with a wider audience to enable the collaborators to understand the research goal and its findings.
- Selection of broader thinking instead of a narrow focus point: Multidisciplinary research is used for solving broader issues with a larger impact. Researchers therefore have a broad approach throughout the study.
- Open-mind-based approach: A multidisciplinary researcher must have an open mind and be considerate of the suggestions of the collaborators. This helps them align their goals fruitfully.
Steps to follow while conducting multidisciplinary research
- Step 1: Identify disciplines that intersect with each other by conducting a thorough review of literature, consulting with experts, and attending seminars or workshops on multidisciplinary research.
- Step 2: Select a transformative research problem which is common in interdisciplinary fields.
- Step 3: Conduct a literature review using academic databases, search engines, and library resources to define the themes or topics. Videos offer good advice on using literature review tools through different stages of the study. The goal should be to arrive at a reasonable yet crucial research problem by reviewing existing literature.
- Step 4: Develop a robust conceptual framework and methodology by integrating concepts from the chosen disciplines in visual form like a matrix or a flow diagram. They must show how the different disciplines intersect and connect to the main research problem. This will help define the research questions and hypotheses.
- Step 5: Consider the ethics in multidisciplinary research like informed consent, maintaining privacy and confidentiality standards. Be considerate of the norms, cultures, and traditions, cultures of different communities. Avoid disclosing information having a conflict of interest, addressing intellectual property licenses and rights, and facilitating open communication between different discipline team members.
Creative presentation of multidisciplinary findings
In such scenarios, visual representations using graphics, animations, 3D models, prototyping and multimedia representations help visualize the investigation from a rudimentary perspective. Many tools are available for developing visual representations to simplify complications such as mindmaps and Adobe Illustrator.
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