Setting the research agenda


Published: April 9, 2015 by Dr. Lili Luo

A couple of months ago I gave a talk at SJSU Gateway PhD students’ virtual residency about how to set the research agenda. To prepare for that talk, I looked back in the past 11 years and thought about how I have been planning, conducting and disseminating my research since I was a doctoral student. I was able to summarize a few useful (hopefully) tips from my experience and share them with our PhD students. I’m posting them here too.

1. Set aside blocks of time designated for “research thinking”. I often do my “thinking” while I’m cleaning the house or cooking – such thinking could be about anything related to research (e.g. ideas for the next research project, how to interpret the data in a completed project and what arguments to make, etc.)

2. Reading favorite journals/blogs/Websites to keep up to date with research developments in one’s field.

3. Record/organize all research-related thoughts/ideas for later consideration – I use Evernote, but a traditional notebook will do too.

4. Join/form a journal club with colleagues/students – exchanging critical evaluation of the published literature with my peers is intellectually stimulating.

5. Serve on the editorial board or as a peer reviewer for journals/grants/conferences – this is a great opportunity to see the most recent research in one’s field.

6. When attending conferences/workshops, it is worth paying attention to work-in-progress presentations.

7. If interested in a research topic, it would be helpful to teach a graduate seminar course on that. Teaching and research are mutually beneficial.

8. Be flexible – set long term goals and short term objectives, and conduct elf-examination at regular intervals and adjust accordingly.

9. Develop a writing routine – this is hard and takes much self-discipline.

10. Quantify the publication targets – for example, every year aim for X number of journal articles, X number of conference presentations, etc.

11. Identify 3-5 journals or conferences for research dissemination – be familiar with their topical coverage, editorial style, submission guidelines and everything else that needs to be noted.

12. Collaborate – potential collaborators may be colleagues, students, researchers connected at conferences or even from other disciplines.

13. Enhance research profile via various online venues – social media (e.g. blog/tweet about your research, create a presence on ResearchGate, or Google Scholar), institutional repository, publisher’s marketing tools

14. Be active and be part of the ongoing scholarly conversation/debate.