Great research springs from great ideas. Similar to writers who face writer’s block, researchers often draw a blank when looking to find new and interesting topics or areas of study.
Here are some tips for where to start, and how to transform average ideas into potentially exciting new avenues.
The most tried and successful way to come up with an idea is to find a gap in existing literature. If you find yourself questioning something while reading, explore these questions and examine how they might be fleshed out into a feasible research project. In general, connecting ideas – be it a blending of two different areas of study or interest, or adapting ideas from one field to the literature of another – proves to be a great source for innovation inspiration.
Some researchers have found it useful to turn their opinions into research questions, while others have found success from reversing a common idea. Sometimes asking “why not?” can open many doors. If a trend has been heavily studied, find a surprising time it was different or contrary to the popular belief. Sometimes, all it takes for inspiration is finding the exceptions to the rules.
Thinking globally and acting locally can also prove helpful when seeking research inspiration. If a previous researcher examined a theory on a global scale, take the global theory and learn how it can apply to a more local scale. This can also work in reverse by adapting a small-scale theory to a much larger, global scale.
At the end of the day, talking to other people may turn out to be one of the most effective ways to inspire innovation. Whether you speak with someone within your field or someone in an entirely different discipline, others may open your eyes to new ways of thinking or even help you find a new angle for approaching an idea.
Great research questions are crucial to creating new, innovative, ideas, but ideas don’t always just pop up in your brain. Don’t wait for ideas to come to you—actively seek inspiration.