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Eight Tips for Academic Research Success

Academic research is a necessary and difficult part of a tenure track position at a top research university like Georgia Tech. The Scheller College of Business is home to award-winning researchers—pioneers who continue to innovate and impact their fields. They offer eight tips for academic research success.
Research success begins with a great question and is fostered by a dedicated network of colleagues

Research success begins with a great question and is fostered by a dedicated network of colleagues

Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business faculty, perhaps more accustomed to standing behind lecterns or sitting in front of office computers than warming chairs in a lecture hall, filled the seats in classroom number 316. Dong Liu, Thomas R. Williams Chair in Management and professor of Organizational Behavior, and Morvarid Rahmani, professor of Operations Management, organized a workshop to welcome 11 new faculty hires alongside other junior faculty members. The gathering came at a critical time for newly minted academics still learning to juggle the demands of research and teaching.  

“The Covid-19 pandemic has imposed significant stress and isolation upon faculty members who are grappling with many challenges such as maintaining their research productivity and ensuring the effectiveness of their teaching,” Dong explained. “Faculty orientation events like this one can help junior and new faculty members feel welcome and integrated into the Scheller academic community.”  

Dong and Rahmani hoped that by organizing the workshop, all junior faculty could familiarize themselves with Scheller’s culture, policies, and procedures, and build a supportive and informed academic community that flourishes and continuously seeks improvement.  

Abhishek Deshmane, new assistant professor of Operations Management shared, “Starting a job like this is always overwhelming when you’re transitioning from a Ph.D. student to a job with a lot of responsibility. It’s really heartening to see that people who have been through this are willing to help make the transition easier.”  

Eight Tips for Research Success 

Research is one area early-career faculty must spend a great deal of time considering, and the pressure to publish research in top journals can be daunting. Beril Toktay, Regents Professor of Operations Management and faculty director of the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business, is a celebrated pioneer in sustainability research. Toktay, and her senior Scheller colleagues, shared eight tips for research success.  

1. Do research that energizes you.

Why do you do research? You are the kind of person that is interested in ideas, who is curious, wants to know how things work, thinks they can bring new insight that matters and has an impact in the world. Find what energizes you and don’t lose it. Whatever it is that made you excited about doing research in the first place, hang on to it, and expand from there.  

2. Craft an independent research identity. 

Most people do not have a research path figured out for their career in the beginning. It is a unique and interesting challenge to transition from being a Ph.D. student to being an independent researcher. It is the time to make a name for yourself. Talk to people that are a bit further ahead and learn from their experiences.  

Ask yourself what story you are telling about your body of work and begin articulating how your research will contribute. It will be different for everyone but crafting that narrative about your expertise will help you find, and grow, a body of research.  

3. Choose your collaborators wisely. 

Be judicious about who you choose to do research with; make sure it aligns with your narrative. Find someone with complimentary skills—perhaps they are a strong analytical thinker, and you are a strong writer. Together, you make a great team. 

4. Don’t be an island. 

Don’t wait for somebody to see that you are stumbling. If you need help, ask for it! One of the patterns that we fall into if we feel like our research is not going well is to hide under a rock and try to avoid the senior faculty in the department. It’s really important to proactively create a network from which you can seek feedback and then regularly check in with. 

Engage your trusted network throughout the research and publishing process. You may have a different network for each stage of your research.

  • Early-stage network: These are the people you can bounce ideas off.
  • Developed research network: Invite three to four people from your area, or better yet, junior faculty at other universities, ideally people that are not going to be letter writers for you but whom you trust. 
  • Presentable research network: When your research is at a stage where you want to share it with an audience, present it at the college series. You should present here at least once before going up for tenure.  

5. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Squeak.  

Ask for help early and often. It is okay to nudge co-authors and advisors if progress is needed, or to ask for more funding if your discretionary funding is not enough to cover your research needs. The dean, college, and centers are here to help and support you.  

6. Ask good questions. 

This is an obvious, albeit difficult, thing to master to do good research.  

Good research questions: 

  • Have no obvious answer
  • Have people and populations who care about them 
  • Require some innovation or new way of framing a problem 
  • Make a contribution, like advancing a theory or offering relevance to a practice 
  • Open up more questions 
  • Must be answered with rigor by showing causality 
  • Are open to refinement and feedback  

7. Take care of yourself.  

Pre-empt burnout by making time for the things you care about outside your academic life, like family, community, volunteer work, sports, outdoor exploration, or religious worship. Discover what Georgia Tech has to offer for your physical and mental health, like becoming involved in Employee Resource Groups, the Campus Recreational Center, and faculty friendly intramural sports teams.  

8. Become familiar with campus-wide support. 

It is unlikely that you will make it through your academic career without needing some outside help, whether that’s assistance with untangling a co-authorship dispute, mediating issues with students, or support for your own mental health. When the going gets tough, Georgia Tech offers people and resources to help you find your way through the tough spots.  


Learn More: Scheller Academics and Research 

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