The importance of a Research Agenda
A research agenda identifies research priorities which will lead to more successful research, outlining a clear framework for making decisions about future research activities. While research and personal passions ideally go hand in hand, research ideas coincide with the research agenda only in happy circumstances. Articulating a research agenda for your studies would improve the focus of your work. Some research problems that you would have jumped into will appear out-of-the-boundaries for your topic after double checking your research agenda.
A few things to keep in mind before writing down your agenda.
Don’t be scared. Start from your natural curiosity. Background reading, conversations with fellow students and professors and following courses can help you to clarify your ideas and to define research questions.
Focus on topics that are important for you, but align with the goals of your group. It is easier to work 24/7 on something you and the people around you really care about.
Have down-to earth expectations. Indeed we aim at generating knowledge and new understandings, but we should focus on small problems towards a final bigger aim. Divide and prioritize according to the impact each mini-project or task will have along the way. Having an accepted paper, a talk or a report per each milestone on your journey is a good rule-of-thumb to make sure you will end up with a consistent amount of building blocks for your final thesis. Keep track of your progress little by little and celebrate also the smallest successes. They will pay off in the long run.
Embrace flexibility. Keeping the agenda flexible is as much important as trying to stick to the original plans. You may find yourself seeking alternatives and exploring opportunities may expand your horizons and your network. An agenda which remains up-to-date regarding trends and future directions will improve the longevity of the outcome.
- Refine your focus. What do you want to work on?
- What is happening? Trends, baselines, research groups and programs?
- What is already known?
- Can you identify a research question to address? A topic, a method, an approach?
- Refine, refine, refine. Venn diagrams, concept maps and discussions with peers may help in with focusing your agenda on a specific problem.