No matter where you are in your graduate school program, now is the time to outline your Research Agenda and Mission Statement.* The Research Agenda is the ‘What’ or the overarching subject of your research, while the Mission Statement is the ‘Why’ or motivation for your research coupled with the ‘How’ or way you’re going to pursue your research.
Why is having a clear understanding of your Research Agenda and Mission Statement important? If you don’t have a clear idea of what you want to research, why, and how (i.e. values/ethics), then you could easily end up conducting research that does not align with your own goals and principles. You definitely do not want to wake up one day to the realization that you’ve spent valuable, unrecoverable time and mind space on research that you really have no interest in, neither substantively nor methodologically. There is a reason why you wanted your Ph.D. – something you wanted to accomplish and a specific type of scholar you wanted to be known as – and you have to keep this in mind as you progress through the program. By knowing your Research Agenda and Mission Statement, you’ll have a guide to your day-to-day actions and decisions in academia.
So, how do you come up with your Research Agenda and Mission Statement? Below are some guiding questions to help you get started creating yours:
- What are your general areas and/or topics of interest?
- What are the research questions you hope to explore and/or answer?
- What are the importance and relevance of these topics/questions to the field?
- What are your values and/or ethics?
- Who is your intended audience or your intended reach?
- What is your anticipated output (articles, books, speaking engagements, policy, etc.)?
- How will you accomplish producing your anticipated output?
- What is your anticipated contribution and why is it unique or important (i.e. how will your research challenge, expand, or clarify existing research)?
While we’re on the topic of production, and we are in the business of knowledge production, let’s not forget compensation. How do you want to get paid? – money, reputation, prestige, popularity/fame – and What are you going to do with it? These are two central questions to keep in mind as you craft your Research Agenda and Mission Statement.
Once you’ve created your Research Agenda and Mission Statement display them somewhere you can see them easily and often.
*s/o to my colleague Shanna Brewton-Tiayon for bringing up the importance of knowing your Research Agenda/Mission Statement during discussion in our Critical Race Theory seminar.