Good research rests on good questions: on good research questions, good interview questions - and good questions about questions. It is these latter ones, the meta-level ones, that I attempted to collect for today's post. I tried some of them with the students I tought and advised this spring; some more occured to me while reading their final papers.1 Whether you ask these questions about your own project or pose them to students: I believe they work best if answered in only one concise sentence each. Give it a try:

First step: finding an empirical puzzle and a research question (I am deliberately not talking "topics" here, since research built primarily around a topic rather than around "questions" and "puzzles" tends to be not as good)

1. Which incident or reading inspired your research idea?

2. What exactly puzzled you about this incident or reading?

3. What larger issue is that puzzle an example of?

4. Which questions does this puzzle put on the agenda?

5. Which of these questions do you want to answer?

6. How would an hypothetical sample answer look like?

  • 1. One of the joys of teaching this term was the chance to see actual (if small) research projects through from start to finish - a rare chance before you are tenured and have your own research students. Thanks to all of you students (and the staff at SIT New Delhi) for this opportunity!

I always wanted to blog about academic attire - every time I returned from a sartorially desastrous conference (frequently), every time I saw a colleague who knows how to dress without being arrogant (once in a while), every time I received comments on my own attire - appreciative (occasionally) or otherwise (rarely). A recent post on the Thesis Whisperer, and the ensuing discussion on #phdchat gave me the last necessary kick to finally write down my two cents. While doing so, I again realized that most commentary and advice out there is for women - arguably because female academics tend to be under much more scrutiny in these matters. For men, I only came across a classic rant at Inside Higher Ed - and a piece in the Chronicle which asks all the right questions - about geography, discipline, campus and role - but provides no answers.

Without claiming exemplarity, I thus decided to flung open my wardrobe and assemble all those things I wore during the last couple of months in official academic contexts (except fieldwork - where I tend to wear a simple trouser-shirt-combo - but the same rules apply there, too). The collection is pictured to the right - and I will go through three classic occasions to explain what I wear, and more importantly my reasoning behind it. These occasions are teaching in the classroom, presenting and networking at a conference, and making the best out of professional meetings.