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Process of growing ideas: from fuzzy feelings to finished results

Collecting relevant links for my talk on blogging research yesterday I realised that a piece explaining my current view of the process is missing. So, a little story is below. It’s an edited piece from the dissertation chapter on blogging PhD ideas, There I reconstruct my own process of growing ideas from the moment they appear as fuzzy unarticulated feelings to turning them into some tangible outcome as part of my work. I distinguish three phases in this process: awareness and articulation, sense-making and turning ideas into a product.

Research process

The first phase is awareness and articulation. This is the moment when a certain idea (or an aspect of it) first comes to my radar, either being brought by others or articulated as a result of reflecting on my own experiences or choices. I join those two together as they are often interrelated. Personal experiences shape what I pay attention to in interactions with other people, while articulation of my own thoughts is often prompted by events or conversations that involve others.

Once ideas appear on my mental radar they go through a sense-making phase: discovering different aspects of an idea, the meaning of it to me and its connections with other ideas.

Finally, there is a moment when ideas are ripe and the process of turning them into specific products is started. In my case it is doing research and reporting about it, usually in a form of an academic publication.

These phases do not have clear boundaries between them. While being engaged in a sense-making process around an idea I may become aware of or articulate new aspects of it; working on making an idea part of a product often prompts additional rounds of sense-making. Also, there are many ideas that grow at the same time, so multiple processes like the one described above go in parallel.

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