The Office of Sponsored Programs

Generating Ideas

All research endeavors, and every great discovery that follows them, begin with an idea. At the beginning of the research process, this could take the form of a fully developed idea, but many times the process is likely to begin with either a general idea for a potential research topic or simply a question whose answer seems worth pursuing. For those of you who find yourselves in the formative stages of a research idea, the first step is to consult your Research Dean and discuss the topic until the idea is clarified and formed into something with a clear research strategy. Moving from the idea phase to the strategy phase is dependent on your ability to answer these three questions:

  • Is there a question or a problem that you believe you can solve?
  • Do you and the university possess the expertise (credibility) and resources (capability)to answer these questions?
  • Can you convey your idea and its importance to those who might be willing to fund this endeavor?

Some of us may get our idea from a spontaneous “Eureka!” moment when a once hidden thought or perspective instantly becomes clear. However, there are ways to take the idea generation initiative rather than waiting for an idea to come to you. Some ways in which you can find the idea you what to pursue include:

  • Reading the latest books and journal articles related to your field, so that you will know what questions have been answered, as well as what questions remain/were raised and whether those answers seem in need of revision.
  • Keeping in touch with colleagues at your institution in order to be aware of current ongoing research that might overlap with your interests.
  • Utilizing our website’s funding search engine to find potential research sponsors and what funding opportunities are available for your field of interest.
  • Simply keeping a notebook, journal, etc. where you record ideas and questions as they come to you, so you can develop the ideas later.

Once an idea has been generated, a strategy has been developed, and potential external sponsors have been identified, The Office of Sponsored Programs will be able to assist you in taking your strategy and presenting it to the external funding sponsor. For ideas that involve multiple faculty members collaborating across different academic departments, the Proposal Development Officer in The Office of Sponsored Programs will be available to assist.