When you are a new faculty member, you may have ideas on topics you’d like to research (and publish about), but setting up a plan for research and publication may seem like a daunting task. Most likely, during your PhD (and post-doc, if you did one) your supervisor will have instructed you. As a new faculty member, however, it is up to you to sketch your research line.
In today’s post, I will guide you through the various considerations on how to start a new research topic, and how to go from an interest in a topic to a solid research plan. I’ll also discuss how you can involve your students in your research.
So, let’s start with what to consider for your research plan:
- If you develop an interest in a new research topic, identify possible sources of funding. If you start to work on this topic, how can you find funding for it? Do you need funding for this research or could you work on this topic theoretically and on your own? Do you expect the work to be of interest to companies and/or the government?
- Identify the key players around this research topic, and identify potential collaborators. Think about which research ideas are most suitable for a collaboration, and which research you may want to carry out on your own (and thus, publish eventually as a single author as well).
- Read about the topic in more depth, and identify the gaps in the knowledge, and the novelty of the work you have in mind. Draft the research question(s) you will be working on. Indeed, the research question is still the core of your research – your PhD thesis advisor did not spend so much time and emphasis on the research question to bug you, but because it is truly important for setting up research.
- When you are setting up a plan to tackle a new topic, also think about how you will manage your data.
Then, let’s have a look at some important considerations for your publication plan:
- When you start to set up the research activities, and once you have identified the research question(s) and novelty, it is good to identify the expected outcomes of your work (algorithms, databases, experimental results, theoretical expressions…) as well as how you will report your results (in reports, conference papers, or journal papers).
- As you have identified collaborators for the research and thought about whether to involve students or not, you can think about potential coauthors for the papers you intend to write. As you crystalize your plan, make sure to discuss with your potential coauthors to check for their interest, availability, and set clear expectations for the collaboration and writing. All of these discussions require you to have a clear publication pipeline for yourself as well.
- An important part of your publication plan also consists of identifying where you will publish and present your work. Which conference venues are important to foster collaborations and share your research results? Which journals do you intend to submit your work to?
Finally, let’s look at a few things to keep in mind for involving students:
- You can work together with students on preliminary work that will generate the first results and insights that you may need to apply for grants. Potential thesis topics or case studies to explore in class are: exploratory studies, review of the literature (which, when done well, can lead to a review paper), compilation of research from the literature (for example, development of a database of existing experiments), or the numerical or analytical analysis of experiments you would need funding for.
- I invite you to think more about how you can involve your students in your research. You can infuse your research interest in your teaching and involve the entire class group. You can collaborate with Bachelor’s and Master’s students for their thesis research. If you have clear interests and streamlined research lines, it will be easier to identify topics that are suitable for these various levels of application, that can still generate valuable results and insights for you. If you have students who are eager to get more involved in research, you can propose to coauthor a paper – again, setting clear expectations on how to work together, as well as outlining a clear research question is key in getting to good publications here.