Finding a Phd topic is one of the most difficult thing even for the most successful students .
Why? Because it is very important! It’s the next two, three or sometimes more years of your life. It will define the area for your job search, you may be working in the same area (or a derivative) for years after
There are lot of things to consider when it comes to finding a topic
* Whether you have pre assigned supervisor in your mind or you have to find one
* What kind of job you are interested in future for ex : Teaching, Government , Industry
* What are the strength and weaknesses of yours ex: programming, data analysis , designing
* What drives you or bores you to do a Phd ex: technology , puzzles, problems, applications
If you have a supervisor it is important to get to know that the supervisor understands the topic. And what is supervisor’s style and is he or she having any funding to do research in that area? And also it is important to know you can work as a team or you are more comfortable working alone.
It is difficult to find supervisors who agrees to work on your idea , most of the time your supervisor has a list of topics and they suggests one (or more!) that you can work on and it can save you a lot of time.
But it is very important to remember that you should not work on something you find boring, fruitless and demotivating.
Sometimes you work on some projects and think very hard about what you’ve done looking for insights you can re-implement in a common framework and identify an algorithm/proof problem inside and the topic emerges from your work, but bad thing about this is you may be working without “a topic” for a long time
Some people work on a number of small topics that turn into a series of conference paper and they figure out somehow how to tie it all together, create a chapter from each paper, and put a big staple through it , problem with this is at times you might find difficult to tie things together
The other thing is you can read some papers from other subfields in computer science/engineering or a related field (e.g., biology) and look for places to apply insight from another (sub) field to your own but there are times you may not find any useful connection.
Best thing is read papers in your area of interest, write an annotated bibliography, read a PhD thesis or two (or three), read your supervisor’s grant proposal(s), take a project class with a new perspective, serve as an apprentice to a senior PhD student in your group, Keep working on something , get feedback and ideas from others, attend a really good conference in an area of interest , Do a industry/government lab internship and you will find the best topic to do your Phd.
Giving talks and going to conferences helps, but the published paper gives people a chance to read and understand what you have to report. As Bob Jaeger (long-time editor of Herpetologica) remarked, “if you don’t report the results of your research, you’re essentially a hobbyist”.
Presenting and publishing your research will give your career a success in academic field and beyond. It will enhance and build network with other researchers who share your interests, and this will only increase the career options available. Apart from all these advantages finally, getting your research published is extremely satisfying. Completing any sort of research project is a major accomplishment, and when you finally see your paper in a journal one day you will feel very good.
“The process of moving from idea to a published manuscript can be overwhelming or discouraging.” Says Nadeera Nilupamali, founder of rockyourpaper.com . She continues with… “You have to decide the time to publish. The right time to publish is, when your findings represent a complete story, one that will make a significant contribution to the scientific literature. Simply collecting a given amount of data is not adequate.”
There are three basic formats for peer-reviewed research articles:
Full-length research articles: These articles contain a comprehensive investigation of the subject matter and are viewed as the standard format. It uses the “IMRAD” format – Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion.
Short (or brief) communications : While not as comprehensive in scope as full-length research articles, these papers also make a significant contribution to the literature. Their length will be set by the journal but is usually 3500 words or less and will contain up to 1-2 tables and figures. Unlike full papers, methods, results, and discussions may be combined into a single section.
Rapid communications: These articles quickly disseminate particularly “hot” findings, usually in a brief communication format. Articles that have immediate implications for public health would be appropriate for such a format, as might findings in a highly competitive and quickly moving field.
Do not start writing without it! If you have co-authors, you may wish to get feedback from them before you proceed to the actual writing phase. It is important to remember if you have a great idea, but present it poorly, your paper probably won’t be accepted. Be sure you know what the point of the paper is, and state it clearly and repeatedly. The same goes for the key technical ideas. Don’t make the reader work to figure out what’s important – tell them explicitly. Write for the audience that you expect to read the paper, just as you would plan a talk.
I came across this wonderfully written article from Steve Lawrence of NEC Research Institute and decided to repost it here as a blog with my views…
“Articles freely available online are more highly cited. For greater impact and faster scientific progress, authors and publishers should aim to make research easy to access.”
Scientiﬁc literature typically far exceeds the ability of scientists to identify and utilize all relevant information in their research. Developing methods to improve accessibility of scientiﬁc literature, allowing scientists to locate more relevant research within a given time, have the potential to dramatically improve communication and progress in science.
With the development of web, scientists now have very convenient access to an increasing amount of literature that previously required trips to the library, inter-library loan delays, or substantial effort in locating the source. Studies shows that usage increases when access is more convenient, and maximizing the usage of the scientiﬁc record beneﬁts all of society.
Although availability varies greatly by discipline, over a million research articles are freely available on the web. Some journals and conferences provide free access online, others allow authors to post articles on the web, and others allow authors to purchase the right to post their articles on the web.
Free online availability facilitates access in multiple ways, including online archives, direct connections between scientists or research groups, hassle-free links from email, discussion groups, and other services, indexing by web search engines, and the creation of third-party search services. Free online availability of scientiﬁc literature offers substantial beneﬁts to science and society. To maximize impact, minimize redundancy, and speed scientiﬁc progress, author and publishers should aim to make research easy to access.
In today’s world of publishing it is true. It is highly unjustified that a researcher should pay to publish his own article and question is why? We should aim to have a system where knowledge is free, access to research article is free, and publishing research article is free. After all, the author spends a tremendous amount of his time and effort researching and writing about his research.
Free access gives an opportunity of free collaborations amongst the researchers, which in effect will result into better research and better writing and hence a better community. We all should all aim towards free access to knowledge.