Arriola of Artlets, Graduate School looks back at research journey, highlights sharing, mentoring as peak of scholarship

Prof. Joyce L. Arriola, PhD, former Chair of the Department of Literature and former Director of the Research Center for Culture, Arts, and the Humanities, revisited the early days of her career as a researcher and gave insights on producing quality research in the 2nd episode of iShare, a webinar hosted by the National Research Council Philippines.

Laying the foundations for an interdisciplinary academic

Arriola recalled her “obscure” days in the University as a BA Literature freshman who followed her heart despite literature not being the top-of-mind choice for an undergraduate program that promises later financial success. This reputation of the program did not deter the avid reader who was raised in Bulakan, Bulacan. “Bulakan is the land of writers,” recalling to the town’s rich history of writers and heroes who have distinguished themselves in the nation.

Arriola’s upbringing would have its own share of historical events. After the 1986 ESDA Revolution, Arriola discovered the inspiration to find her voice as a literature undergraduate after “realizing the importance of the free press, culture, writers, values, and morals for the nation.”

Being exposed to a wealth of ideas, advocacies, and perspectives, Arriola recalled how she was often in between practicality and idealism—to the point that there were moments of indecision. “I realized that these kind of indecisions—me, being in between worlds—would define my career later on,” she said.

According to Arriola, the qualities she developed in her undergraduate days were understanding the value of focused, uninterrupted reading. “(What I learned about research as an undergraduate literature major was) the need for note-taking, the need for looking for details, for close examination of sources. (It is) very important for a researcher,” she said. “What do you do after you have left the field and you have gathered the data? You sit down and write. Patience is important and close-reading, which is very important if you want to follow a career in research,” she said.

After exiting the Arch of the Centuries, Arriola marched to the University of the Philippines to join the world of mass media and took up MA Journalism, where she became more equipped with knowledge on social sciences, qualitative and quantitative research, social theories, and social responsibility. It was in this phase that Arriola began to look into the higher purpose of research—beyond just being a career and a source of income. “What can it do for the nation?” was a question she often asked.

Improving the quality of truth

Giving advice to would-be researchers, especially in the Humanities, Arriola highlighted the importance of a compelling argument. “I learned the value or the role of improving the quality of truth. What do I want to become? But then I realized it should not be only about me,” she said. At this point, the “research voice” Arriola longed to hear in her journey was gradually letting itself be heard. “If you can do something for your community, for the nation, that will really give you a compelling argument that will give you the best rationale for your study,” she said.

Arriola talked at length as well about the qualities a researcher must have. “So more than disinterestedness, more than the accuracy, what is important is also rigor,” she said. This mindset proved useful when she entered government service, as a researcher and content provider in the Philippines Broadcast Service. “I consider that one of the seeds planted for my entrance into academic research,” Arriola narrated. 

Returning to España

Arriola’s exposure to practical research in the government made her yearn to bring it to the academe and enlighten aspiring researchers who wanted to take the similar journey.  “My entrance to the academe, the University, plunged me deep into the arena of academic research. The very first test of a faculty member doing research, or whether he or she has the ability conduct research, would be the graduate papers,” she said.  “It is a test of experience, so you need to produce good graduate papers, MA or dissertation. Just work on your thesis and your dissertation, and after that you go on with your life,” she advised the younger generation of faculty members.

Arriola said her works, such as researches about the UST Educational Technology Center, former Rector Rev. Fr. Frederik S. Fermin, O.P., and a textbook on Philippine Literature, were dedicated to the institution. In time, her theses and dissertation served as springboards for her research publications, which exposed her to the refereeing and critiquing of other scholars. “You are not writing for yourself. You are writing for other people, so you have to convince other people,” Arriola said, recognizing the importance of feedback in improving one’s work.

The blending of fields

Being a practitioner in the fields of communication and literature, Arriola said the cusp between the two respective fields was Cultural Studies. Her entry into this field has led her to understand better the present, as guided by the past, in an attempt to answer the post-colonial questions of “Who are we?” and “What are we?”

As such, her studies on film, literature, and media studies are now available for the world to read through the reputable journals and publications where they are immortalized.

Not one to forget her roots, Arriola likewise does disciplinal studies either in communication or literature. “From time to time I would do disciplinal studies because I realize I must contribute to the discipline. Or else, nobody is going to write about it,” she said. As such, some of her publications were related to communication and media. “We have, after EDSA, a renewed democracy. And a renewed democracy is in need of free press, a responsible press.” 

Weaving connections with fellow scholars from all over the world

Meanwhile, Arriola said the researcher must go beyond its field and explore the terrains outside their discipline. She reiterated that the researcher must have a lengthy meter of both patience and rigor. 

Likewise, she highlighted the importance of networking and meeting new people from various fields through conferences. “You will not only gain friends. These are like-minded individuals who share your interest in some disciplines,” she said.

In one instance, Arriola recalled that a fellow researcher approached her and asked her if she could publish works with them.  ”If you do your job, somehow, people will approach you and they will say, ‘Can we collaborate?’ You are not a lowly scientist from a third-world country. You are one with them,” she said.

Arriola cited that in the field of Humanities, they publish more books than research journal articles. However, it takes time to publish a book. “Books are very difficult to produce, especially if it is an anthology where you have so many collaborators. So, you really have to study what they want out of you,” she noted. Of particular importance to her is her book “Postmodern Filming of Literature: Sources, Contexts and Adaptations”, published by the UST Publishing House, which bagged the National Book Award for Film/Film Criticism in 2007.

“We have to join professional organizations. They will enrich your research, and somehow you contribute to an organization that, in turn contributes to society. Getting involved with research journals connects us to a wider audience,” she said. 

On mentoring, quality reading, and producing indigenous knowledge

Arriola said engaging in discipleship and mentoring was the ultimate joy of a professor. “It is about giving, breathing life on another human being through what you have learned,” she said. “The peak of success is sharing,” she added.

Moreover, Arriola underscored that for the researcher to produce a quality thesis, he/she must devote time reading journal articles to strengthen their Review of Related Literature chapter.

According to Arriola, to indigenize knowledge, it must come from the researcher’s perspective. Recognizing our colonial past, Arriola warned against the historical dependence on “received knowledge,” which has prevented local scholars from producing their own original, localized categories of terms. “When we can intellectualize knowledge in our languages, more than 130 of them, then that would mean we can have an original take on world knowledge,” she said. For Arriola, the culmination of local researchers’ journey in scientific theorizing is when our theories can already be expressed in our local language.

Arriola received the 2018 NCRP Achievement Award – Division of Humanities to recognize her dedication in promoting Philippine literary education, indigenous culture, and Filipino discourse.

The second webisode of iShare featured Arriola and Dr. Karlo L. Queaño, a Regular Member of the NRCP Division of Earth and Space Sciences.

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