Where Does Research Really Begin?


Today’s book is: Where Research Begins: Choosing a Research Project That Matters to You (and the World) (U Chicago Press, 2022) by Thomas S. Mullaney and Christopher Rea, which tackles the two challenges every researcher faces with every new project: “How do I find a compelling problem to investigate—one that truly matters to me, deeply and personally? How do I then design my research project so that the results will matter to anyone else?” This easy-to-follow workbook guides you to find research inspiration within yourself, and in the broader world of ideas.

Our guest is: Dr. Thomas S. Mullaney, who is Professor of History at Stanford University and Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures, by courtesy; the Kluge Chair in Technology and Society at the Library of Congress; and a Guggenheim Fellow. He is the author or lead editor of 7 books and the forthcoming The Chinese Computer—the first comprehensive history of Chinese-language computing. His writings have appeared in the Journal of Asian Studies, Technology & Culture, Aeon, Foreign Affairs, and Foreign Policy, and his work has been featured in the LA Times, The Atlantic, the BBC, and in invited lectures at Google, Microsoft, Adobe, and more. He holds a PhD from Columbia University.

Our guest is: Dr. Christopher Rea, who is a literary and cultural historian. His research focuses on the modern Chinese-speaking world, and his most recent publications concern research methods, cinema, comedy, celebrities, swindlers, cultural entrepreneurs, and the scholar-writers Qian Zhongshu and Yang Jiang. At University of British Columbia, he is a faculty member and Associate Head, External of the Department of Asian Studies; former Director of the Centre for Chinese Research; an associate of the Hong Kong Studies Initiative; and a Faculty Fellow of St. John’s College. He co-authored with Tom Mullaney, Where Research Begins: Choosing a Research Project That Matters to You (and the World).

Our host is: Dr. Christina Gessler, a historian of women and gender.

Listeners to this episode may also be interested in:

  • The Craft of Research, by Wayne Booth et al
  • The Research Companion, by Petra Boynton
  • How to Write a Thesis, by Umberto Eco
  • The Art of Creative Research, by Philip Gerald
  • This podcast on learning from your failed research

Welcome to The Academic Life! We reach across our mentor network to bring you podcasts on everything from how to finish a project to how to take care of your beautiful mind. On the Academic Life channel we embrace a broad definition of what it means to lead an academic life. We view education as a transformative human endeavor and are inspired by today’s knowledge-producers working inside and outside the academy. DMs us on Twitter: @AcademicLifeNBN.

Your Host

Christina Gessler

Dr. Christina Gessler is the creator, show host, and producer of the Academic Life podcast. She holds a PhD in U.S. history.
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