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.