- It's probably already been done
- That's a stupid idea -- I can't believe I said it
- It's too obvious
- It doesn't seem important enough
- My mind is blank; I can't think of anything
I suggest that you get into a real brainstorming mode when you try to come up with research ideas. Here's a reminder of what's needed to brainstorm effectively:
- You can't critique your ideas
- All ideas, no matter how bad they seem, should be written down
- Create as many ideas as you can. Aim for an impossibly high number. One hundred seems about right!
- If possible, do this with someone else, who is in on the rules of brainstorming.
- It sometimes helps to purposely come up with outlandish ideas, to help your brain break out of its box.
Another way to help generate research ideas is to start with a theory. Find a theory that intrigues you and see how many ideas can come from it. Here is a list of ten ways to use theory to generate research ideas, from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. It was originally written for psychology, so I've made it more generic.
- Apply the theory to solve a practical problem.
- Use the theory to understand a real-life situation.
- Apply it to a different sub-field than it was intended for.
- Apply it in a related field (I suggest considering theories from related fields; e.g., cognitive psychology theories as they relate to marketing)
- Look for moderator variables: slight changes that you could apply that would change the findings that others got in their work.
- Apply the theory to a different subject population (e.g., theory about the effect of slavery in America applied to theories about slavery in Ancient Egypt)
- Take it "to the limit": exagerrate the theory and see what it predicts
- Improve the accuracy of the theory
- Go for the jugular (not sure; maybe they mean try to tear it apart)
- Pit two theories against each other
Use these ideas to jump start your list of 100 research ideas.
Innovation always brings out the nay-sayers. All research involves innovation. Be alert to others who would put down your ideas. You have enough self doubt bombarding you from within.
Here is a comment on negativity from The Daily Innovator: "Don't let others' insecurities deter you from your mission." Another way to say this is: "Illegitimi Non Carborundum." He also points out a quote from Joel Orr on the challenge of innovation:
Innovation is an unnatural act. It induces fear, unmitigated by the promise of great gains in productivity. The fear is fear of personal loss - prestige; power; respect...
But the consensus is that the future belongs to those who innovate - and who are willing to try innovative tools.
Will you own your future?