If you are a new faculty member or researcher, carving out time for your research ideas can be challenging. But it can be done.
Establishing a network of colleagues can be one of the most important steps toward success in research. Seek out faculty mentors on campus who can help you navigate the challenges of academic research. Make connections with researchers in your area through conferences or e-mail lists. Don't hesitate to contact them when you think it may help you; they may also benefit from your interactions.
Make the time
Set a schedule and stick to it. Set aside uninterruptible blocks of time each week for planning and research. It's amazing what a few hours focused on your own work can do for your productivity and peace of mind. And don't forget about non-urgent but important tasks, which are easy to put off, yet critical for the advancement of your long-term goals.
Know the literature
Familiarity with previous and current research in your field is critical to carving out a unique sphere of inquiry. Almost as important as conducting your own research is staying up-to-date with what others are doing. Skim journals, use online literature and citation searches, Identify what other researchers have been studying and methods or methodologies they used. Attend conferences and stay on top of recent conference presentations.
Test your ideas
Create an environment where ideas are routinely tested for viability.
- Critically examine previous approaches, questioning generality, practicality, validation.
- Attend or organize workshops on research-in-progress presentations.
- Discuss with colleagues presentations from conferences you attended to identify key research ideas.
- Write papers and give talks.
- Solicit feedback on draft journal articles, proceedings, or proposals.
- Establish a reading group.
- Keep a research notebook to write down ideas.
- Participate in grant evaluation panels and program committees.
Decide where you want to go
- Do you want to be at the forefront of an exciting, new field?
- Do you question existing literature?
- Do you have an interest in a multidisciplinary topic?
- Consider requests for proposals from agencies or organizations in your area of interest.
- Discuss research ideas with experienced researchers in your department or elsewhere via online discussion groups and e-mail lists.
- Whatever interests you, it should address important questions that are likely to attract interest from potential funders and journals in your field.
- Most important in choosing an area is that it be something that you enjoy and that fulfills your intellectual curiosity.
If you're not sure exactly where to focus, you may be able to get some ideas from what you've already accomplished. An obvious choice is to build on your dissertation, or develop unpublished or suspended research you have wanted to pursue.