Things I could do that count as research, if I want to pursue a tenure-stream position or be eligible for promotion having attained such a position:
- Anything that will lead to a book-length manuscript on eighteenth-century women poets likely to be accepted by a university press. It will have a print run of 300 - 500 copies (roughly as many copies as there are academic research libraries in the U.S., be read with care by 1 - 25 specialists in the fields of C18 studies and women's writing witing and skimmed by a hundred or so more, mostly readers culling quotes to support their own work in related fields, needing an additional source to meet the requirement for a paper, or divining gaps into which to slot new research projects.
- Dredge up bits of book detritus or unpublished hunks of dissertation that could lead to a journal article. Similar print run, but possibly more readership if the journal publishes online as well.
- Start to look into digital humanities angles for a second book in C18 women's writing so that I can have a second project in the pipeline when the first goes to press.
- Look for opportunities to produce other sorts of academic publication: book reviews, encyclopedia articles, conributions to edited collections (although these generally don't count as much as the first two items on the list, so I'm better off directing my time there.
- Read more eighteenth-century Chinese fiction in translation and the Anglophone (or translated) scholarship about Chinese literature of the period in order to bolster the "World Literature" angle of a course I teach on literature from 1600 to 1800. (Also because after being trained extensively in the C18 Angrlophone novel, I am blown away by the psychological depth and complexity of this material and I want to know more about it.)
- Consult with a ethnomusicology colleague about how to incorporate African bardic forms into the same course.
- Read more widely in recent comparative literature theory as a corrective to my "throw it all at them--it will make sense somehow!" approach.
- Scan the journal literature to see what interesting work has been published on the authors I regularly teach and identify ways to use those new insights in my teaching.
- Read recent biographies of several of the authors I teach regularly for the same reason.
- Read recent historical work about the periods I cover for the same reason.
- Look into recent developments in teaching through various digital media to learn more about techniques that could make my own teaching more effective.
- Explore the latest pedagogical findings about how to determine whether or not students are learning what I'm trying to teach them.
- Talk to the experts in FYC at my institution about effective strategies for beating the 5-paragraph essay out of students who tested out of our FYC requirement.
- Learn more about current best high school practices for teaching literature for insight into how to mediate the gaps between my best-prepared and least-well-prepared students.
Institutional imperatives and incentives drive the assumption that "research" in the research/teaching/service triad means only specialized books and articles. Increasingly "research" in the R1 is taken to mean "STEM research with practical applications that can pull in hefty external grants" and credential creep has steadily raised the bar on how much research is enough. There's an argument to be made that sustaining the humanities involves putting more emphasis on teaching than research. I've started making that argument elsewhere on the blog and I'll be making it in future posts. Note, however, that shearing off "research" from "teaching" is only necessary or desirable to the extent that "research" is taken to mean only the time-consuming isolation of questions sufficiently narrow and specialized to warrant publication as new knowledge.
There are important books in the humanities that need to be written. There are also other kinds of work to be done with that research that can help it to matter.