Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Making Sense of a New Field: 5 Tips to Use During your Next New Job or Project


I remember when I started my bachelor thesis and had begun to scratch the surface of a few journal articles on entrepreneurial intentions.  I went to my thesis advisor asking, "Can you give me a map or flow chart or some kind of structural organization for this field?! I feel like I have no idea what the different branches of the discipline are..."

In his most patient and understanding way of putting me up for a challenge he replied, "Well, nothing like that exists. That's for you to go figure out for yourself."  And then he gave me a big, knowing smile.

It wasn't an easy process, and it took about a year, but I finally got my bearings in the intentions literature.  Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the entire experience is the discovery that venturing into a new field is a process, and there are specific techniques that can help me move forward while minimizing the headbanging and aimless wandering.



Here are five techniques to try as you begin your next new job or project:


1. Find the best sources:
Find out what the most respected and authoritative sources are in the field.  These are usually the places where it's most difficult to get published.  Active professors generally give informed and reliable advice.  

2. Look for the most commonly cited authors:
Make a list of their names, find their major publications, and map out a few of their main points/contributions to the field.

3. Look at the dates:
Sketch yourself a little timeline featuring major publications and breakthrough finding in the field.

4. Tell a story:
How could you sum up the genesis and evolution of the field in one paragraph?

5. Build the house:
Among the big thinkers, who has broken away from the discussion around the kitchen table and added on an annex to the dining room?  Who's colluding in the corner with a bottle of whisky?  Who's debating loudly and proudly in the sitting room? Who's quietly building a complex model train over in the corner? Who's swimming around in the deep end -- of the neighbor's pool?  Every field / industry / stream of research / technology has its own "house" of key influencers; imagine a "Big Brother" scenario.  The research grows and expands out of conflict.  The people who get heard the most are often the most eccentric.  Sketching the house and its colorful residents is a fun way to bring your new intellectual surroundings / working space to life.


While I find it really helpful to go through all of these exercises on my own, they're also useful for structuring the "orientation" meeting of a group project.


Have these worked - or not worked - for you? Visit the original post to leave your feedback in the comments.  

0 comments:

Post a Comment

Blog content © 2015 Shirah Eden Foy. Powered by Blogger.