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Planning your Research Agenda

Most of you by now have some sense of your research agenda—the scholarly work you are doing in your field.  It’s important to consider your agenda, how you are developing it, whether or not you can sustain it over a period of time, and the ways in which you are contributing to the larger conversations in your field. Here are some thoughts and tips.

Suggestions for developing your research agenda

  • Set publication deadlines and goals. Sounds like common sense doesn't it? However, we don't all do it, and you all know how busy we can get with teaching, advising, committee work, and our family lives. Set yourself up a goal for each academic year. For example, maybe you want to send out 2 articles per year for review.
  • Present your work at 2 conferences per year. Focus on national conferences, as well as established regional conferences. International conferences are useful as well. Use these two conferences to develop the two articles you want to send out for the year.  
  • Note: Remember that conferences are great places to network, as are the professional associations to which you belong. Keep in mind that you will need 3-4 external review letters for your tenure file. It's smart to network and get an idea of who is out there you can use for a reviewer. Also, remember that your external reviewers shouldn't be your dissertation director or a former professor. Your external reviewers should be active in their fields and able to assess your scholarly work and contributions. They could be someone you have served with on a conference panel or someone you have worked with a few times. 
  • Don't depend solely on a book project. Developing and sending out articles for review is good practice and keeps you active in the larger conversations in your field. 
  • Write each week. Really. Plan time for writing. Writing and research only happen if we specifically set time aside for it. Don't give this time up; develop a rhythm and stick with it. 
  • Do not develop your research agenda around semesters or summer breaks. Instead, think about the most effective times for gathering data and getting the writing done. Gear your projects around key conferences you are presenting at. Even when you are too busy to write, you could be reading the literature for an article, gathering or analyzing data, and generally laying the ground work so that when time frees up, you are ready to begin writing immediately. 
  • Develop an editing group or a colleague who will review your work. We work best when we have constructive feedback about our work. Feedback also helps us complete projects more efficiently. 
  • Make sure you always have something under review. As we all know, the review process at journals is getting longer and longer, especially as there are fewer journals to submit work to. If you have a few articles written, you can keep them out under review and something will finally be a "go."
  • Connect your teaching to your research. For example, teach a course in an area that you are researching and writing about for your own work. Or, bring in a book that will work for your class that you need to cover for a project. Engage students in the research questions you have. Some of our best ideas can develop from the interactions we have with our students in the classroom.
  • Get on listservs that announce conferences and publication opportunities. Keep an eye out for topics that fit with your research agenda, especially the calls for articles for book chapters or special journal issues. These projects tend to be reviewed more quickly and also go to press faster.
  • Establish boundaries for teaching. It's easy to get caught up in teaching projects and developing your classes. Make sure that your teaching doesn't keep you from steady writing and research time. You should be writing and reading for your research development each week.
  • Save copies of everything! It's a good idea to get a binder and the plastic sheet covers. Each time you present at a conference, put a copy in your binder. When an article is published, photocopy the published print version and put it in your binder. When it comes time to put your dossier together, much of your work will be done.
  • When you publish an article, write a short paragraph in a document about how the article represents your work and how it contributes to the conversations taking place in your field. This paragraph can become part of the tenure narrative that you will have to write. 
  • Pursue grant opportunities. Locate grants in your field that will help you engage in your research agenda. Plan ahead for these grants. For example, if you know a grant application is due 6 months from now, write the grant, get feedback from colleagues, revise the grant application, and then have it ready to send out. Don't forget that any grant needs to be approved by your chair and the college dean, which means you need to have the grant to them at least 4 weeks before the grant deadline.   

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