Developing a Research Agenda

There are many steps that can be taken to develop a research agenda. Some of the key steps include identifying key problems, considering the impact of potential answers, matching your strengths to current issues, and work on developing a research agenda logic framework. The subsequent steps would be to establish the research questions and the associated methods.

Consider the steps to develop a research agenda.

  • • Identify deep and persistent problem areas of concern to yourself, your colleagues, and your professional community—identify what is known and what is not known—map out a research agenda, perhaps with a grid indicating key research questions with un[der]-researched questions highlighted and an accompanying hierarchy showing the research questions you intend to address and in what order along with the significance of the research to the academic community and to society.
  • - Sources—your dissertation and previous research, studies by other researchers, professional associations, think tanks, the government, etc. In our field we often refer doctoral students to look at the Handbook of Research on Educational and Communications Technology (3rd ed., Spector, Merrill, van Merrienboer, & Driscoll 2008; Spector, Merrill, Elen, & Bishop 2014, 4th ed.).
  • - Funding agencies—consider multiple funding agencies, including the university, state agencies, national agencies, professional groups, foundations, international organizations (NATO, World Bank, UN, EC, etc.). http://www.aaas. org/index.shtml


  • • Assess impact of potential answers and value to those concerned
  • - The greater the potential impact and value, and the more challenging the research tasks, the more likely the funding support and the more likely the motivation and will to succeed.
  • • Match your strengths and interests to the main issues
  • - Where can you make a real contribution to the knowledge base and profession?
  • • Develop a background statement with related research literature—a white paper.
  • - Useful in grant proposals, especially in discussion with program officers
  • • Identify the best people engaged in related research.
  • - UUPS[1] Corollary #3—others generally have better ideas—collaboration is not just one approach to learning—it is a great research strategy—an interdisciplinary and cross-institutional research is highly valued by national funding agencies.
  • • Develop a hierarchy of interim questions and hypotheses to explore in order to

contribute to the major problem identified.

  • - Determine and use methods that fit the questions raised; for exploratory research, qualitative methods are often appropriate; for causal studies, quantitative methods are often appropriate; mixed methods are desirable in many cases as they may add depth and increase confidence in findings, but they are challenging often require additional time and analysis.
  • - Conduct a first study and get it published; present and publish findings along with the long range plan—make the research agenda known to your colleagues and professional community.
  • • Build on prior work and address increasingly difficult and challenging issues.
  • - Your commitment and passion to finding answers will be contagious.

  • [1] UUPS = Spector’s Universal Underlying Principle of All Stuff, which is: Something has alreadygone wrong. Corollary #1: Mistakes rarely happen in isolation; one typically leads to another; bestto minimize errors early. Corollary #2: Resources are generally inadequate to accomplish what onebelieves should be done; this requires prioritization and compromises to be made. Corollary #3:Others usually have better ideas; this requires collaboration and an openness to alternativeapproaches.
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