October 24, 2011

Research proposal writing: topic and methods

Photo by me. I like the T-shirt of the boy on the right: "PhD: Philosophy of Denim."

As you've likely realized, I am intently focused on the impacts of climate change on agriculture. But not in a way that most other scientists are. They want to quantify, predict, assess, and project. I want to tell a human story about how scientists, policy-makers, farmers, and the people in between, imagine their future. This is why I became a social scientist rather than a biochemist.

I'm running into a bit of a conceptual roadblock, which is that not many other scholars take a "human perspective" towards agricultural research systems. There is a lot written in economics and policy, but I don't have, nor necessarily desire, an economics background. I read a lot of economics, because economists like to write about things like agricultural innovation. My disciplinary trajectory, however, is currently inclined towards Science and Technology Studies, political ecology, and some ("enlightened") science policy. I end up drawing from a medley of sociology, history, anthropology, geography, and environmental studies; picking and choosing relevant theories, methods, and similar case studies that I can base my research on. 

On one hand, my unique (inter)disciplinary perspective is something that I hope gives me special insights to my research, as well as contributing something original to the field of literature; on the other, sometimes it feels a bit lonely! I have a great set of advisors and colleagues, but I'm feeling like I want to express something really badly, but can't quite come up with the words. Writing my research proposal has been eternally frustrating because of this.

I know that the work I'm putting in now it really important to the rest of my career. I have a steep learning curve to get over, but luckily I'm equipped with a pretty good brain to help me out :)

In other agriculture related blogs, check out Ed Carr's post on agricultural productivity, and a response by Nathan Yaffe.

1 comment:

  1. It is pretty exciting to be in a position where little has been written regarding your ideas. I searched Google for "utility company literature" the other day and there were only three hits. One was my abstract for the Association of American Geographers meeting. ^_^ We got this!

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