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Tips/suggestions for research project (Japan studies)

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Hi everyone,
I open this thread in search for help regarding the research project, I'm planning to apply for mext but despite the time going on I feel I'm already stuck. I've been reading books for months but I can't come up with any good idea.
My main concerns in particular are: is it really necessary for the research project to be UTTERLY new?
Is that referred to Western studies as well as Japanese ones? Finding good topics is already hard if considering only Western studies but near impossible when those of Japan are included as well... I find this to be particularly true for Japanese studies research students.
Another point: is better to bet on a large topic of research or on a smaller one? For example, one of the topics I've been giving some thought to is oral literature, what would be an ideal "range" for the research? A single period, author etc.?

Anyone who struggled with the same issues?
 
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is it really necessary for the research project to be UTTERLY new?
This question makes me wonder whether you even understand what research is about. "New" means something that has not been researched before. Not much else. What do you think it means?

is better to bet on a large topic of research or on a smaller one?
How much time do you have to work on it? A PhD takes 3-5 years, and a master's degree is usually 2 years. Take a year off each of those just for the period of time in which you do nothing except write it, and you can see how much time you have to do literature searches for background and methods, conduct surveys, analyze data, etc.
 
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Hi everyone,
I open this thread in search for help regarding the research project, I'm planning to apply for mext but despite the time going on I feel I'm already stuck. I've been reading books for months but I can't come up with any good idea.
My main concerns in particular are: is it really necessary for the research project to be UTTERLY new?
Is that referred to Western studies as well as Japanese ones? Finding good topics is already hard if considering only Western studies but near impossible when those of Japan are included as well... I find this to be particularly true for Japanese studies research students.
Another point: is better to bet on a large topic of research or on a smaller one? For example, one of the topics I've been giving some thought to is oral literature, what would be an ideal "range" for the research? A single period, author etc.?

Anyone who struggled with the same issues?
Hey!

Well I am happy you are going to apply to the MEXT. The research proposal should something specific and completable within the 3 years or 4 year of your scholarship. MEXT wants applicants who will go to graduate school after the first year research period is over. However, there is no guarantee that you will get into a graduate program for some schools (such as Tokyo University).

For this case you should design a research proposal that is possible to complete within 3 to 4 years but can still produce something within 1 year (in case you don't get into a graduate program). I applied to University of tokyo through the University recommended scholarship so my research proposal was tailored to what the todai asked for, so it may differ from what you can do.

I first had a paragraph explaining my motivation for going to japan, the university, and the research with reference with to my past research experience.

Next I went deep into the topic of research I wanted to study. I explained the material I was studying. I gave reference to other pieces of literature. I mentioned past work that I already completed on the topic. Finally, I wrote a clear and distinct research schedule with milestones for each semester.

You topic of research isn't something you can just make out of the blue. It should come natural. If you read a piece of literature, you can think what happens if you change the scope of previously done experiments, or change the parameters. Another idea, more recommended, is to find a professor that is willing to accept you in his/her lab. Realistically you won't be doing anything you wrote in your research proposal. Most of the time, you will just get into a lab and do research that you advising professor is curious about. For this reason, choose a lab and professor very wisely. If you can get accepted into their lab, then you can use a research topic that they propose. It is also good in the eyes of the MEXT committee because they know that you are willing to take initiative and they don't need to worry about you not getting into a lab later.
 
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This question makes me wonder whether you even understand what research is about. "New" means something that has not been researched before. Not much else. What do you think it means?.
Well, that question is related to the second one concerning both Japan and the West.
For example: if I research about a topic already analysed in Japan but not found in any Western book, that topic is new to the West but not for Japan so I thought that a good reason to engage in such a topic would be to "enlarge" knowledge outside Japan on that specific argument.
I was just wondering if such a reason was enough to consider a research topic good under Mext's point of view but according to what you say I guess that's not the case.

@Lawrence thank you!
Your research proposal was in Japanese studies as well?
You topic of research isn't something you can just make out of the blue. It should come natural.
Yeah I know :(
I think my chances of writing a good research proposal are very low at this point. I've been reading books about a specific topic but it didn't go as I expected and I still haven't a clear idea about a detailed plain of research.

May I ask you more about how to find a professor willing to accept me in his lab? How to search?
During the last few months I searched courses related to my research field of study using online syllabus database but I have no idea about how find that kind of information.

Also, you said you won a scholarship recommended by a university, do you think it's easier than embassy recommended scholarship?
 
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Well, that question is related to the second one concerning both Japan and the West.
For example: if I research about a topic already analysed in Japan but not found in any Western book, that topic is new to the West but not for Japan so I thought that a good reason to engage in such a topic would be to "enlarge" knowledge outside Japan on that specific argument.
I was just wondering if such a reason was enough to consider a research topic good under Mext's point of view but according to what you say I guess that's not the case.

@Lawrence thank you!
Your research proposal was in Japanese studies as well?

Yeah I know :(
I think my chances of writing a good research proposal are very low at this point. I've been reading books about a specific topic but it didn't go as I expected and I still haven't a clear idea about a detailed plain of research.

May I ask you more about how to find a professor willing to accept me in his lab? How to search?
During the last few months I searched courses related to my research field of study using online syllabus database but I have no idea about how find that kind of information.

Also, you said you won a scholarship recommended by a university, do you think it's easier than embassy recommended scholarship?
Sorry my major is in engineering. Perhaps you can find a professor in your current university that is willing to accept you into their research? Thinking about topics may require some practice and working a lab may help.

I found my professor by going to the University of Tokyo website for the school that I was applying to, and there was a faculty profile page. They mentioned each professor's research interests. I narrowed down which research interests aligned with mine, and my experience. Then I went to the professor's website and read some of their publications so I could get a better idea of the research they are working on. Finally after reading a few of their publications that I liked, I emailed the professor I most wanted to work with and he interviewed me.

The email should have information showing your interest in their research, previous similar research/work experience, motivation for Utokyo and motivation to work with them. If you have a publication already, you will be in a far advantage.

Also I applied for University recommended and got it. But what I got wasn't the MEXT scholarship but a Utokyo fellowship. My application gave me the option to get either a government scholarship or a university scholarship. In my opinion I think embassy might be easier depending on the quota that your country has to accept. The reason I didn't apply for embassy was because I originally didn't like that there was no guarantee that I would get into Utokyo even after winning the scholarship. (since they first fund you for one year and after the year you need to take an entrance exam and pass it to get into the school and continue to get funding). After I started having second thoughts the deadline already passed for my country for embassy recommended.
 
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if I research about a topic already analysed in Japan but not found in any Western book, that topic is new to the West but not for Japan so I thought that a good reason to engage in such a topic would be to "enlarge" knowledge outside Japan on that specific argument.
More or less, this is what Lawrence1 stated. Just how much you enlarge the knowledge or scope will determine how publishable the work is. I also agree that if you just look at a university's faculty page, you are likely to see what they are researching and publishing.
 
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