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I work in a small department! I think you're describing two different issues: coming up with new ideas, and the research/background knowledge needed to develop those ideas into projects. For the first, I find reading really helpful. Sometimes I teach classes based on areas I'm interested in, or just incorporate things I want to read into my classes, and that helps too. For the second, I think it can actually be good to just think through the idea and then go out and do some research on your own-- PhilPapers, Google Scholar, etc. But you can also post on social media, and there are Facebook groups for specific topics (social epistemology, maybe other commenters know of others).

I know there is a sense out there that small teaching departments are not research-conducive, and it's true that they present some challenges. But I think working in one has made me a better researcher, by allowing me to be less constrained by what other people see as the 'right' topics to be working on, and freeing me up to work on projects that I think are interesting. It sounds like this is the direction you're already going in, OP, so good work and keep at it!

(Oh and also I find conferences really helpful too.)


I'm ABD, but I work in an area that my department (a fancy R1) doesn't care too much about. So, I sort of feel the pain.

What I've found helpful is staying in touch with folks I meet at conferences. I have met a handful of folks who wrote their dissertations on the very topic I'm writing mine on, and I just ask if they have some time to chat, can read a short draft, or whatever. Thankfully, these folks have become invested in me (most are now TT faculty), and are eager to help me develop ideas into papers, and papers into publications.

So, my advice, for what it is worth, is to not worry about who is there around you in-person, but to focus on making and strengthening connections with colleagues outside the department.

online groups

I think running a reading group or work-in-progress seminar online with former colleagues/contacts in similar contexts can help. Sometimes even joining an online reading group with sufficient overlap with one's research interests may give rise to new ideas (it worked for me).

Long-time Junior Philosopher

Even well-connected philosophers in large research departments have to do their own research into what's already been written on a subject.

Search, in multiple places. Look at everything that could be relevant (not just papers in top journals by people you've already heard of).

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