Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Where Do You Get Your Research Ideas From?

Towards the end of my lecture today in my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class, which was  on perishable product supply chains in healthcare, a student asked a very intriguing question:

Where do you get your research ideas from?

This class I very much enjoy teaching because of the topics that we cover, the diversity of the students (from the Isnberg School of Management, the College of Engineering, Public Health, and Regional Planning), the great guest speakers that we bring in. Plus, we even did a tour last Friday of ISO - New England which I will be blogging about, since electric power is essential to our modern society.

Also, I get great questions from the students and we have really good discussions that are even pushing research frontiers.

To answer the question above, in addition to the points that I made in class today,  I promised to provide some additional resources. Since this is a great question and some answers may be relevant also to my readers from near and far, below I have posted two sources of information.

The first is a study conducted by Professor Bin Jiang of DePaul University in Chicago  and entitled:
How to Do Research: Advice from Stellar Scholars in the POM Field. POM stands for "Production and Operations Management," but many of the suggestions are relevant to related and other disciplines. His study had been posted in the Journal of Operations Management page a while back and many of the points are relevant and current. I enjoyed being interviewed by Professor Jiang and honored to be included in the list of stellar scholars. The h-indices have increased since this study.

Also, almost two years ago I gave a presentation in Sweden, where I hold a Visiting Professorship at the University of Gothenburg in which I highlighted where some of my ideas for research come from and I summarized Dr. Jiang's findings.
The list below as to where research ideas come from, as per stellar scholars in Dr. Jiang's study, remains very valid and worthwhile. Research ideas come from:
  • Teaching: students’ questions, and working with doctoral
  • Contact with the real world: working with and talking to
    industrial partners, reading practitioner-oriented publications,
    news magazines, etc.;
  • Intellectual curiosity: observing the real world, delving deeply
    into issues, having passion;
  • Networking: discussing problems with colleagues, going to
    conferences, talking to others even outside your professional
  •  Reading the literature: how can you improve on what has
    been done? Do you have new tools or new ideas for old
    problems or old tools for new problems?
And today in class I even shared that some of my research ideas have come from my undergraduate students.