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Generate an Idea

Generating a viable idea isn't as simple as being creative and knowledgeable. This section will provide common techniques for generating ideas for a research program that you can develop into future applications for research support.


Ideas are frequently generated from conversations that arise organically through chance and serendipity. It's important to seize opportunities to:

  • Talk to colleagues
  • Present at conferences
  • Review papers
  • Sit on panels & advisory councils
  • Contact national/international figures in your areas of interest

Look externally

Considering what others want and might pay for may not be the same as generating a radical new idea but it's a good start. You can take an entrepreneurial approach to your research and work with a private company that will supply the imaginative leap and/or read through request for proposals from the federal government to develop a creative spark.

Pick up where others left off

New research can arise from old research. Sometimes saying a study is finished is misleading. Findings published in journal articles aren't always as tidy as presented and this provides an opportunity to generate new ideas based off an existing one. Whenever you read, evaluate, or listen, ask yourself:

  • Where did he/she draw the ideas?
  • What was accomplished?
  • How does it relate to other work?
  • What would be a reasonable next step to build upon?
  • What ideas could be brought in to expand upon the topic?

The initial idea is sometimes quite far from the final topic. If you remain open and flexible, it will usually be much easier to generate alternative topics.

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