Now that you have started to articulate a sense of yourself as a researcher, where do you want to take that next? What effect do you want your research to have in the world? What do you want do with your knowledge and who will benefit from your research? Thinking about these questions will help you plan for the next steps.
Where are the communities you want to engage with? What are the key learned societies, conferences and meetings that you want to belong to? How can you participate in those communities?
Conferences are an obvious place to communicate your research, and they are great for presenting your work as a poster or as a presentation. People often tell me that they look forward to receiving feedback on their projects in these settings. However, there is usually only limited time available for questions and discussion during formal presentations – most of the opportunities to talk with others occur during breaks before and after the formal proceedings. I urge you to be friendly to your peers in these situations, even if you are not very confident about approaching strangers. This is your chance to build a network of like-minded researchers. If you are both at the same event, it’s very likely that you have a lot in common. Ask other attendees about the projects they are working on – remember, people who ask questions learn a lot!
Never underestimate the value of volunteering to help out with events – this can be a great way to get to know people by working alongside them (especially for those of us who are not great at the social chit-chat required for those awkward networking events!).
ACTIVITY: Is there an event of some sort coming up in your area? It might be a local seminar or an international conference being hosted by your School. There are always lots of (fairly mundane) jobs that need to be done to ensure any event runs smoothly. How could you participate? Or is there something you’d like to get started – a reading group, a writing group, a workshop? All these kinds of activities help create a community in which you can be a researcher.
Please let us know via the Comments box about your plans to become involved in a research community activity. Your ideas will help to inspire others about what they can do too.
Lots of our research lives take place online, too, of course. It is well worth developing a strategy for how you want to present yourself on social media – what kind of engagement and impact is suitable and meaningful for you?
Currently, the key platforms for research dissemination are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube. Do you use any of these to find research in your field? Do you find information on other platforms, and if so, what are they? Others are looking in the same places that you are; that means they can find you there too.
There’s a place for listening (or ‘lurking’) on social media as you observe how others use these platforms to build their profiles and spread their research messages (Mollett et al., 2017). You don’t have to be an overnight sensation – building up gradually as you become more confident in who you are as a researcher is absolutely fine.
Importantly, consider who you are trying to communicate with. What aspects of your research are interesting and relevant to them? Identifying your audience or stakeholders will help determine how you will present yourself online – are you trying to reach other academics in the field, or do you want to get your message out to the people who are directly affected by the findings of your research? What story do you want to tell about yourself?
It is useful to have various kinds of biographies available for different purposes as you start to tell your story and thus generate your researcher identity. Mark Carrigan (2020: 167) suggests the following information you might want to include:
- Your institutional affiliation
- Your research interests
- Other accounts you’re involved with
- Your personal interests
- Hashtags you contribute to
- An institutional disclaimer
- An additional website.
ACTIVITY: Try writing the following bios for yourself:
- 200-word biography in the third person (‘Dr Guerin is…’)
- One-page biography written in the first person (‘I am a…’)
- 30-second elevator pitch
- 160-character Twitter bio
- 2-3 word tagline, intended as a pithy summary of yourself
Please share your examples via the Comments box at the bottom of the screen.
This week we have seeded some ideas to help you focus on your researcher identity. I hope you are developing a clearer sense of the kind of researcher you want to be, and how you might present yourself to the world. The spaces in which we do research and the communities with which we engage are central to this sense of ourselves. I wish you all the best of luck as you continue on your researcher quest for knowledge!