Research Revisited

Should my Christian faith be a factor in which research projects I choose?

I was recently interviewed by a media outlet that was interested in covering one of my published papers in their magazine. During the interview, I had to discuss my research interests and provide an overview of my published research portfolio.

A light bulb went off in my head as I attempted to cover all my research work for over a decade in a minute. 

I questioned if my research up to that point was broadly consistent with the mainstream business discourse and narrative. How much of my research had been framed and crafted by whatever problem was deemed most pertinent by the business community and the prevailing business ecosystem? 

I have always believed that I am responsible for the quality of my work and that my faith in God should be reflected in how I pursue that work. The scriptures say in Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

But as a researcher, am I crafting questions that appeal to the most visible segments of our society in a bid to get published in prestigious journals, receive funding, and generate high citations at the expense of less appealing inquiries aimed at underserved segments of our society that typically do not resonate with journal editors and funding agencies? 

Seeing our daily work as a platform to bring glory to God is very challenging for Christian researchers. The rigorous scientific process makes aligning our faith with scientific inquiry difficult. Also, we still operate in a world where the metric for success may not necessarily be consistent with our desire as followers of Christ. Yet, it is essential to see each research project as an opportunity to bring glory to God through knowledge dissemination and problem-solving. 

As a Christian professor of a business school, I have often asked myself if and how I could harness God’s presence through my research projects. Could my research questions reflect my Christian faith, or should these questions be primarily based on scholarly peculiarities? Does my inherent bias in choosing a research topic help preserve the status quo business conditions and further sustain the socioeconomic imbalance of our society?

The answers to these questions aren’t easy. Each Christian researcher must answer them for herself.

But I do believe that trust in the Lord during this process is crucial. 

I will continue to commit my work to the Lord and let God establish my plans (Proverbs 16:3). The scripture encourages me to trust the Lord with all my heart and not lean on my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).

By His grace, so will I endeavor.

Joseph K. Nwankpa

Information Systems & Analytics

Miami University