This year, thanks to the changing of the system of the counseling process, there was a lot of delay in the starting of the post-graduation courses in general. In some cases, the residents joined in as late as July! Keeping this in mind, and the Delhi University rules, we really had to hurtle through the whole process of writing and submitting our theses. Now, whether the dates should have been pushed back and an exception made this year is a matter for an entirely different debate, but the truth remains that there was a lot of uncertainty and dithering in the minds of the residents prior to submission of their theses protocols. Which brings me to the next point of contention: should we have to pilot our studies before submitting the protocol?
Keeping in mind that the protocol is pretty much set in stone once it gets submitted and presented before the college authorities, I believe, in many ways, the protocol is of more importance than is accorded to it. It’s not like we can amend it every time we hit a hurdle. With some topics, especially with the ones from the socio-medical branches, it can be quite difficult to anticipate the possible hurdles, even by hardened researchers, and as newbie researchers, it is difficult for us to envision all the problems that we might possibly face in the process of executing our theses work. The best possible way to deal with this is when we do a short piloting of the study. This may be less important for the laboratory-based disciplines, like Pathology, Biochemistry, etc., but they do carry a significant amount of importance for the ones involved in clinical or community-based studies.
So, naturally, the question arises: should we be given the time and/or option to pilot our studies? And if so, then how do we frame the rules and guidelines to ensure that the student is not just abusing the longer time period given to him for developing a pilot study? As a resident struggling with a topic dealing with a marginalized population, shortage of time (owing to a prolonged leave due to poor health), multiple ethical, methodological and statistical complications, all I can say is that I would probably have been able to submit a more well-rounded protocol had I been able to pilot my protocol.