Tips for developing project ideas

I’ve collected tips here shared by various folks, via the forum and our webinar chat. I may update it with more insights people bring!

Do…

  • Be motivated by more than curiosity: curiosity is excellent, but it can wane. Having an additional motivation – e.g. solving a problem or improving your life – can motivate you & lead to a successful self research project.1

  • Ask a good question: A “good question” aspires to be: simple, unambiguous, and about just one topic. The SMART criteria (simple, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) can help evaluate how doable an idea is.1
    .
    While reducing things to a “question” may seem reductionist, it doesn’t deny other things matter too: it’s a valuable methodological reduction to help you learn something.2

  • Think about how to make it tractable: One of the biggest challenges is “how can I make this measurable?” This may require some creativity!3

  • Reflect on your understanding: Just starting a dialogue with yourself about ‘what’s going on?’ is a good practice – you might start by simply journaling. What did you think was true? How has that changed? (One technique: make predictions before making a measurement – was your guess correct?)4

  • Consider testing conditions: many ideas wonder about potential correlations, but the resulting data is muddy and unclear, and it can be difficult to assess causality. If you can change a condition deliberately (A vs. B) you’ll collect more powerful data.5

Don’t…

  • Put the data type in front of the question: People often get stuck spending a lot of time trying to master some kind of data, but then be unsatisfied with the outcome! They find the data was unrelated and unhelpful for their question.3
    .
    Keep your objectives in mind but don’t get fixated on the road to get there. Be flexible to take another road if thats whats needed.6

  • Feel constrained by these tips! There are exceptions to every rule.


[1] Getting started by @Martijn_de_Groot
[2] Thomas Blomseth Christiansen in the Feb 5 kick-off webinar
[3] @Agaricus in the Feb 5 kick-off webinar
[4] Steven Jonas in the Feb 5 kick-off webinar
[5] @madprime in Tracking my Mood & Food Intake and in the Feb 5 kick-off webinar
[6] @nobismRogierKoning in Tips for developing project ideas

I would add:

Be bold: Don’t leave any door un-opened and use all you achieved to make a next step. Inflate yourself and aim for the stars.

Be flexible: Keep your objectives in mind but don’t get fixated on the road to get there. Be flexible to take another road if thats whats needed.

1 Like

Thanks! I’ve added your “flexible” point, as a restatement of Gary’s point about being overly focused on a particular data/method. Maybe another way to say is… don’t put the “method” in front of the “objective”?