My writing productivity yesterday did not go as planned. It was one of those days where things just do not get going at the right speed. The day happened, but my focus was off for some reason. That has happened a lot in this time of pandemic, but I have been trying to get back into sustaining a solid daily writing routine. I know that sitting down and clearing my mind should be enough to allow the stream of consciousness writing process to take over. That is pretty much how it works or so it goes when you sit down and just think out loud using a keyboard. I’m just pretty much typing my thoughts as they arrive and allowing the totality of my concentration to be on my thoughts at the time. The screen and the keyboard are secondary to the thoughts that are occurring. Sometimes that produces some really deep thoughts about everything from the universe to just life in general. Other times the gears spin and nothing happens. That connection between focus and creativity does not engage. The other thing that I have noticed in the last 91 days of posting within this defined daily writing routine is that the first paragraph from time to time gets overly focused on the process instead of the topic at hand. Apparently at the start of the day my thoughts are very process oriented.
This second paragraph is where things changed directions. It was the next topic or focusing on what’s next that really helped move things along. Today I’m going to diagram out my research trajectory. A lot of time and effort could be spent on how to plan out a research and writing trajectory and that goes beyond making a list of things to write or even having a point of view or a writing agenda. It was one of those topics that is really important, but probably does not get the attention it deserves. Generally you can grab a blank white sheet of paper and start by making a short list of the major themes in your research. For example, I have spent a lot of time researching two distinct clusters of things:
Cluster 1: civic engagement, civil society, automated survey techniques, e-government, local government administration, and general public administration scholarship
Cluster 2: machine learning, TensorFlow, natural language processing, and general artificial intelligence
You might have a very focused set of general themes or you might have a few clusters of things you spend your time researching. My research generally involves those two clusters of things which I rationalize as the intersection of technology and modernity, but functionally they are generally different areas of inquiry.
The next step in the research trajectory plotting exercise would be to expand each of those clusters by noting either major unsolved questions within the field or specific research questions you care about. My recommendation here is not to focus on research questions that do not spark any type of passion or interest at the start of things. That is going to lead to false starts and abandoned efforts. Now that the first two steps in this blank page of paper exercise are complete. You made a list of major themes and expanded on those themes to include major unanswered questions and started building out your own questions. The thirst step is the trajectory part of the whole equation. Pick some things to focus on and evaluate if that effort follows a trajectory or pushes a research agenda forward. The goal of what you are building out on this blank piece of paper is a flow toward producing something throughout a period of time. Your contributions to the academy should be focused and as you muddle through the research and publishing process you are going to have some type of trajectory. That research trajectory is really the thing that you are trying to describe.
I’ll take a shot at writing that out in a better way as an example or just a better walk through later on at some point in the not so distinct future.