Seven Things You Can Do RIGHT NOW To Generate New Ideas in your work
Reflect on what attracted you to your discipline in the first place. When you think back to a time when you weren't in graduate school or had just begun your degree course, what were the questions that you were seeking to have answered? How many of them remain unanswered...and which do you still feel passionate about addressing?
Go talk with your adviser or a faculty member whose research interests are in a similar area (or not!)...tell them what you're interested in and listen to what they have to say about that. Their comments may inspire a connection between otherwise disparate pieces of research that you'd like to investigate further.
Commit to skimming through the latest issue of three to five leading journals in your field. Focus on the articles that capture your attention and look at the discussion section for suggestions for further research.
Volunteer for as many on- or off-campus presentations and talks as possible - even if you don't believe your ideas are well formed. The process of putting together a presentation and speaking it out loud is a great way to clarify your thinking and promote new directions for you to explore.
Socialize! Attend Graduate Student Assembly gatherings, come to the Graduate School reception area (MAI 101) and hang out or do some reading on our comfortable couches, join a club. Look for opportunities to have informal chats with graduate students outside of your field, where you can talk briefly about your research interests, ask about theirs, and look for connections that might be mutually beneficial.
Register for courses offered by another department next semester. You can gain invaluable knowledge about ethics, consulting, writing, teaching, communication and many other topics, while meeting students from other disciplines. Listen to how they respond to your explanation of your research ... misunderstandings or even active dismissal or negation of your ideas is a great way to explore other ways of approaching your topic. Don’t take criticism to heart-take it to mind. At the very least, take it seriously.
Take a break. Creativity isn't about forcing yourself to do something, it's about being receptive. Instead of chaining ourselves to the computer when we each want to write something that isn't freely emerging, we might take our respective dogs for a walk, go for a run, sort out the washing, clean the bathroom, cook - anything that allows us to take a break from all that "left-brained" thinking. In the same way that inspirational thoughts often come into people's heads just before they're about to go to sleep at night, or first thing in the morning, calming your brain activity by doing something "mindless" can help you access fresh perspectives and new ideas.