There are four things all researcher must bear in mind when formulating a research topic.
1º Being open to find unexpected things. In the 1960s 3M research scientist, Spence Silver, was trying to enhance the adhesive used in tapes. However, he discovered something quite different, since the resulting adhesive was not enough strong to stick tapes. Throughout the next five years he talked about his new adhesive to people working in the company. Later, a new 3M researcher was frustrated by how the scraps of paper he used as bookmarks kept falling out of his church choir hymn book and he realised that Silver´s invention could be a solution. Soon, after the concept was developed and market research undertaken, the wildly used office product Post-it was launched in 1980. Nowadays, it is rather difficult not find it in any office. As well as in this case, the results of your research might not match the initial objective, so that be open to unexpected things.
2º Discussing your idea with others. A success factor in the Silver´s invention was the fact of having talked about to people working in the company, what highlight the importance that interaction with others has in the research process. It is quite common that students do not talk openly about their research ideas. Sometimes for fear the ideas to be plagiarized, but in most of cases just for fear to make a fool of oneself. Both sentiments must be overcome and all researches, both veterans and beginners should have a few good friends willing to listen their ideas. This is actually crucial. Far from feeling shame of your ideas, a good critic might be crucial to make research ideas and topics consistent from the beginning of the research process. On top of that, in the rise of the so called network society (Manuel Castell, 2005) the transnational research groups are emerging from a wild range of academic and professional networks. It is very recommendable to take part of the existing debates in your interest field in such group or forum. You could also test the feasibility of your research idea. It will surprise you to what extent anonymous people are willing to devote you part of their time.
3º Sustaining your professional/academic and personal interest. The first stage in any research process is always the fact of “wishing to research” which may though be obvious; it is not hold by many students. You might be interested just on obtained your graduate, which is a completely respectable position. However, researching, as well as other life´s facets, doing something that really matters and which you are fascinated with is usually a key issue. Before engaging the research world, my recommendation is to be sure you really like it. Secondly, finding your sub-branch of interest is also important. Perhaps you are passionate about doing a research in management, but at the same time, you should concretize your field of interest like, for instance, accounting or human resources. Finally, many authors suggest that research on things that really matter you from a personal point of you might be another success factor. Your commitment is going to be higher and also, regardless whether your research results are valuable for academic or professional community, at least you will be contributing to a major knowledge of yourself or the people or things around you. This one could be a good question to find a research idea: What does really make you happy? Or in terms of the philosopher Punset, what is your element? (you might be interested on this post)
4º Being sure about what you are going to research. This reminds us of the quote made by the recognised Chinese philosopher Confucio (孔子): “the wind never blows in favour of those who do not know where to go”. Uncertainty is likely a very common obstacle for developing a good research and it definitely starts at the beginning of the process. As mentioned above, testing your research ideas among colleges and friends is essential to discard those inconsistent ideas that like everyone else you might consider when formulating your research. And this difficulty is very well illustrated in a conversation between Alice with the Cheshire Cat in Alice´s Adventures in Wonderland (Carroll 1989:63-4) Here you have both the dialogue and the video of this scene:
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to walk from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to”, said the Cat
“I don´t much care where”, said Alice.
“Then it doesn´t matter which way you walk”, said the Cat
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Becker, H. S. (2007). Writing for social scientists: How to start and finish your thesis, book, or article University of Chicago Press.
Camino, J. R. (2011). Cómo escribir y publicar una tesis doctoral ESIC Editorial.
Castells, M. (1996). The rise of the network society Blackwell Publishers Oxford.
Lewis, P., Saunders, M. N. K., & Thornhill, A. (2009). Research methods for business students Pearson.
Punset, E. (2007). The happiness trip Chelsea Green Publishing.