A research agenda is an action plan that outlines the tasks that need to be prioritized within a particular field of study or research and the execution system of these tasks. A research agenda is a guiding tool for students with specific interests in a subject or field of research who intend to attain predetermined objectives by the end of their studies.
Most students joining college and university or undertaking research projects will usually have vague ideas of what they want to achieve. A research agenda helps them have a starting point based on their interests, short-term and long-term goals – factors that are vital in decision making, such as deciding the courses and classes to take. The agenda is adaptable in that students can adjust themselves as they progress with their studies or research based on their interactions with faculty, fellow students, research on a particular field, and gaining more knowledge on their chosen academic path.
The agenda improves the student’s sense of direction, thus allowing them to focus on specific areas of their chosen field study. Having an agenda improves your effectiveness as time and resources can be directed to the significant areas of the research topic. A good research agenda will outline the type of research project, research methods, and tasks to be completed.
A research agenda should help a student get more organized and plan their immediate and future plans within the academic institution. Therefore, the agenda should be specific to the student and must be helpful for them.
Before writing your research agenda, consider the following pre-writing considerations:
Discuss your area of interest with the faculty
Consult with faculty and let them know your general interests. Faculty members are typically more informed on general areas of study. They can help you narrow down to the lines of study where there is demand for more expertise and where you can explore your interests further.
Carry out exhaustive research on the particular field of interest. This will involve a lot of reading and consultations. Gather enough information, and do not hesitate to use external sources and areas outside your immediate interests; it is not unusual to stumble upon a subject that really captures your attention and interest.
Ask your faculty for resources
Ask faculty for additional resources where you can get further insight into the options available to you. They might recommend relevant dissertations, books, seminars, or conferences you can attend to gather more information on what you should focus on in school. Also, ask for any ongoing projects you can participate in. Ensure to consult more than one faculty member; different members will have diverse inputs and perspectives, all of which can be used to improve your research agenda. Note that you can use resources within and without the department; for example, engaging with other graduate students on which conferences are better suited for your field of study can be greatly beneficial.
Tip: Consider the second year of the program you are assessing. Sometimes, valuable classes in other interdisciplinary fields may provide further insight into creating a research agenda that helps you arrive at the best possible study options.
Identify key authors relevant to your interests
Visit the library or search online for authors whose bodies of work are related to your interests. Read their books, dissertations, and scholarly work and see how they applied their knowledge to your area of interest in research or real-life scenarios. This can help you determine your role in society after successfully completing your course. Citations are also good sources for materials to read.
Take courses relevant to your interests
Try as much as possible to select courses that align with your interests. This gives you extra motivation to undertake their requirements and be extra motivated throughout them. However, this should not be the sole factor of taking courses. Expand your list of options by identifying areas that spark a novel interest even though they appear to be apart from your passions.
Use class assignments to advance your research agenda
Class assignments are also viable tools for acquiring more information on how to improve your research agenda. Look into the term papers and identify topics or areas of study being majored on and research further on the same.
Talk to students with similar interests and collaborate
Anytime you interact with students with similar or overlapping interests, get their opinion on the particular areas of study. They may have a different perspective on the courses or areas of study that would best suit your interests.
How to Write Research Agenda
A research agenda should be comprehensive and detailed enough to help you make an informed decision on what you should be aiming for or prioritizing to study.
Below are steps to help you write a good research agenda:
Describe your area of interest
Firstly, indicate your area of interest. You can provide some background information on how your specified interest came about, its significance in society, and list any accomplishments in this particular field.
Describe the problem statement(s)
Next, justify the identified area of interest. The agenda should show the problems that the specified area of research can be applied to solve. These problems can be narrowed down to those that align with your interests. Therefore, if there is a challenge you always wanted to solve or be part of the solution, and you would like to focus on areas that help you work towards that, you can expound on how this is possible at this point.
Research methods relevant to your topical area
After the problem statement, identify the research methods you will use to collect information and make the decision on which classes to take. Different methods can be used at this stage, including research groups, conference papers, programs, research articles, observing trends, scholarly works, consultations, etc. Be specific when indicating the research methods. For example, when consulting with faculty members, talk to multiple members as it broadens the perspective with which you will write the agenda.
Include research questions
The next step in creating a research agenda is formulating questions that arose during your exploration of the identified areas of study. Questions can be associated with a specific topic, approach, argument, or method of doing things. As you advance in your studies or research, you may find answers to these questions by using what is already known or discovering new ways to address the questions.
Name collaborators, if any
Afterward, indicate any collaborators you have worked with or intend to work with. List the collaborators’ names and their respective capacities or positions. Collaborators can be professors, faculty members, or organizations that deal with the area of study you will be focused on.
List your finest ideas
Next, indicate any ideas that will be helpful in actualizing your research agenda. These can range from in-between certifications you wish to achieve, applications that will be of use down the line, or targets you wish to achieve every year. Come up with ideas that will be sustainable for two to five years from now.
Describe the grants and their deadlines
The agenda should then outline any funding opportunities available to support your research in the particular area of study. Provide a brief description that indicates the name of the grant program, the grantor, a brief overview of the type of research they support, and the associated deadline for submission of proposals.
Include scholarly communication outlets
Lastly, indicate scholarly platforms related to your interest in the research area where you plan on joining and sharing your work. Examples of scholarly platforms are conferences, journals, research papers, publications, and books. Consider actively participating in these outlets by presenting your work and asking for feedback. Try not to limit yourself to conferences within your department; venture into other departmental conferences, as you can always pick up a new idea that enhances your research agenda.
Essential Tips to Write a Good Research Agenda
To improve the quality of your research agenda, below are several writing and planning techniques you can use.
Clarify your ideas first
Choose an area of study, whether it is from a point of curiosity, brainstorming, or educated analysis. Gather background information and engage with professors and colleagues as you work to refine your idea. Also, research your course to develop strong research questions.
Divide and prioritize all tasks
Create your agenda by breaking down the field of study into subsets or tasks that contribute to the overall objectives you wish to achieve. There are multiple requirements any student has to satisfy in order to complete a graduate program successfully; list them as items that define your journey in the particular area of research. Examples of tasks that a student may have to complete include test results targets, presentations that one has to present at a conference, submission of a proposal, etc.
Keep your agenda flexible
Always create a flexible agenda to accommodate different alternatives and opportunities for accomplishing your set goals. It is acceptable to change to a plan with a more positive impact or better outcome than the original plan.
Keep your agenda up-to-date as you acquire more knowledge in your field of study. Add any supporting data such as a Venn diagram, research findings, or concept maps that add objectivity to your agenda.
Don’t be intimidated
Do not be scared to start your research agenda even if you do not have much knowledge on the specific research area to go on. Carry out personal research, consult with faculty members, and discuss with course mates to get more insight.
A research agenda is a good opportunity for students to align what they study with their interests and things they care about. It helps students plan for the tasks they need to undertake to complete their graduate programs in an organized fashion successfully.
An agenda should be a continuously changing document as the user progressively gains more insight into their specific area of study. A comprehensive research agenda outlines what needs to be done, the methods that will be used to grow in the field of study, academic and professional targets, collaborators, and any other details that make up the system of the set goals.