Developing Your Programmatic Research Strategy - Part II

Developing Your Programmatic Research Strategy - Part II

2. Have a strong Paradigm.  This is a reminder we need to identify the key concepts that we like and map out the theories and methods we like to use when exploring them.  This can be intensely personal or one can adopt an existing paradigm and use it.  I almost always start with something proven, make sure I understand it well, then add my own special adaptations.  For example, one topic I am currently interested in is student use of libraries and how anxiety about being embarrassed about asking questions gets in the way of effective library use.  There is a good body of research on library anxiety related to physical libraries but little about virtual libraries.  There is a validated instrument used to assess library anxiety so adapting and revalidating that for virtual libraries makes sense.  One I-O PhD student, Rebecca Sledge, has taken on that challenge.  After she has validated the new measure it will be available to use to explore this phenomenon.

3. Work with your supervisor.  All the dissertation chairs I know are sincerely interested in helping students succeed.  Most have their own interests and are happy to share them and invite students to participate.  In on ground programs this sharing takes place easily since students and faculty work in close proximity and often see each other regularly.  In virtual programs you can accomplish much the same if you set up a regular communication plan and maintain the initiative to talk briefly each week with your advisor.  As a faculty I do this but leave the initiative to the student to make the calls.  Many times they do not.  To facilitate working with your chair, set up a regular meeting and be sure to call when you have agreed to do so.  Even if you do not have much to report you can find out what else is going on that would be helpful to know.

4. Look for inspiration.  What inspires you?  Do you have a way of capturing fleeting thoughts?  I like to read and often have ideas stimulated by things others have written.  To capture those, I have a small notebook I use to jot down the ideas as they come to me.  I also keep a notebook beside by bed since I sometimes wake up with a great idea but find I forget it by morning.  I go through my notebook once a week and sort out those I want to chase a bit.  Students often contribute to my inspiration.  They discuss ideas about problems and issues that are important and get me thinking about those ideas.  I think about what would be a unique contribution I could make.  Finally, because I belong to several professional organizations and receive their announcements for conventions and requested papers, I often think about the topics selected for conventions and if there are related issues I might like to pursue.

5. Attend conferences and network.  This is a great idea stimulator.  One of the reasons I try to attend several conferences each year is to see old friends and to share ideas.  I particularly like presenting posters at conferences since the folks who visit your poster are legitimately interested in the topic and more than willing to talk about it.  Also, the neighboring posters are often on related topics.  Last year at APS I was in a group of four presenters all examining social networking from slightly different perspectives.  The four of us had a great hour-long conversation about our research ideas and findings.  That led to a new study I am working on now in the CWDR.

6. Spend time thinking about theoretical issues.  Theories represent integrated, condensed knowledge.  They are knowledge organized in ways that help make sense out of research results and enable us to make predictions about future events.  Arnaudova noted that students do not think as much about theories as they should.  I agree.  Identifying with a particular theory can help organize your research efforts.  Many professionals begin their careers with a solid theoretical base from their dissertation and build from there.  Part of the reason is that for your dissertation you need to study the literature carefully and that includes existing theories.  My favorite I-O theory is leader-member exchange (LMX).  Graen (1976, 2003) offerED the key insight that not all of a leader’s actions had the same effect on subordinates.  Embedded in the one on one exchanges between a leader and the followers is the degree of trust, loyalty, su8pport, respect, and obligation felt.  Research has shown this theory to be valuable because it can explain many leadership results.  LMX is practical and helpful in part because of the emphasis it places on communications.

References

Arnaudova, I. (2014). Ten tips for developing a programmatic line of research. APS Observer, 27(9), 31-32.

Graen, G. B. (1976). Role-making processes within complex organizations, in M. D. Dunnette (Ed.), Handbook of industrial and organizational psychology (pp. 1202-1245).  Chicago, IL: Rand McNally.

Graen, G. B. (Ed.) (2003). LMX leadership: The series, Vol. 1. Dealing with diversity.  Information Age Publishing, Greenwich, CT.