What Research Ideas Mean

I have odd dreams. More than once, I've dreamed something so narrative and elaborate that I was convinced it was a full-blown novel waiting to happen. I did write it out (100 pages) and found that it needed more editing than I expected. At about this time, I began work on the Ph.D., and creative writing projects fell by the wayside.

I still have odd dreams, but now they are about research. I've woken up in the night with ideas for 3 or more papers at once. Last night, there were 5 ideas for small-to-medium research projects involving methodology other than history (surveys, focus groups, interviews).

The humbling truth of the matter is, however elated I am at 3am, each of these ideas to grow into a paper would need substantial. In fact, I've decided to post a list of the steps needed:

1) Is it worth it? (in the cold light of day)
2) Why do I care?
3) Who is my audience, and why would they care?
4) Is it feasible?
5) What else is out there on this topic? on similar topics? What will be my lit review?
6) What 3 journals could I send it to?

The good news is, once I've written these answers out, I should be able to turn to #s 2 and 3 to refuel my motivation for the project when it is low. I've been reading a blog called Zen Habits, and motivation is one of the things the author addressed yesterday in this post.

It's also possible that step #5 should be #2 or even #0, depending on the subject area. Having finished the diss and facing the wide world of all that is possible, I am continually branching out into new areas in my head without having done the depth of research I need to make a start there. It's a shame you can't get a Ph.D. in Everything, so all the basic work is done! Alas...

And I've missed some steps, even on the projects I've already committed myself to doing. Last night, I realized that I needed to start looking at the Journal of Women's History and other sources for papers on women and work, especially feminized professions, for one of the projects I have coming out of my dissertation.

One last thing: I'm posting this because I've been spending some summertime in the blogosphere, and just can't find the kind of academic-productivity-tips-and-tricks blog that I wish were out there. It would be Emith Toth's Ms. Mentor's Impeccable Advice... book, but in blog form. I'd love to find something like that...

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