Finding a Phd Topic

Phd TopicFinding 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.Bored

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.


Publishing your Research

publishing Publishing your research result is important. It is a crucial step in the scientific process. The growth of knowledge can only happen if people communicate what they’ve found out to one another.

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.

Nadeera Nilupamali“The process of moving from idea to a published manuscript can be overwhelming or discouraging.” Says Nadeera Nilupamali, founder of . 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.

stack-of-booksDo 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.

Online or Invisible?

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 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.science_on_internet_by_cobalagi-d5dnw0y11

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.

My views

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.

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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.

Open Access: What is it?

Open  Access is  free,  immediate,  permanent  online  access  to  the  full  text  of research  articles  for  anyone, web wide, without  the  severe  restrictions  on  use  commonly imposed by publisher copyright agreements.

There are two roads to open access:

·          the “green road” of open access self-archiving, where authors provide open access to their own published articles, by making their own e-prints (the final accepted version) freely available to all by placing them in institutional or central repositories;


 the “golden road” of open access journal-publishing, where journals provide open access to their articles (either by charging the author/institution, a publication or processing fee instead of charging a subscription fee from the user/institution, or by simply making  their  online  edition  free  for  all  and  recouping  the  publication  and  production  costs from other source).

An Open Access Publication is one that meets the following two conditions:


The  author(s)  and  copyright  holder(s)  grant(s) to  all  users  a  free,  irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual right of access to, and a license to copy, use, distribute, transmit  and  display  the  work  publicly  and  to  make  and  distribute  derivative  works,  in any digital medium for any responsible purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship, as well as the right to make small numbers of printed copies for their personal use.


 A complete version of the work and all supplemental materials, including a copy of  the  permission  as  stated  above,  in  a  suitable  standard  electronic  format  is deposited immediately upon initial publication in at least one online repository that is supported by an academic institution, scholarly society, government agency, or other well-established organization that seeks to enable open access, unrestricted distribution, interoperability, and long-term archiving (for the biomedical sciences, PubMed Central is such a repository).

The  two  roads  to open  access,  viz. open access self-archiving  and open  access publishing, are complementary. Normally, by open access we mean open access to refereed research papers. But open access does not exclude other forms of scholarly material such as preprints, theses, conference papers and reports.

The ecology of scientific knowledge production

Research is a  truly  global  and  collective  endeavor.  It is at  once  a  competitive  and cooperative enterprise where free and unhindered flow of knowledge is essential for making any advance.

Researchers  build  on  what  is  already  known.  Cooperative  or  competitive,  lone  ranger, or  working  as  a  team,  researchers  depend  to  a  great  extent  on  the  contributions  to  knowledge made by others across space and time researcher working in any part of the world and  those  who  have  contributed  to  research  in  the  past.

Down  the  centuries,  since  scholarly  communication  is  said  to  have  begun  in  ancient Greece more than 2,000 years ago, research has typically been communicated in parallel by  speech  and writing. However, since  the  beginning  of  modern research  in  Western Europe  during  the  sixteenth  and  seventeenth  centuries flow  of  information  is  facilitate largely  by  professional  journals.

Ever since the first professional journal — Journal des Sçavans in France and the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in England — commenced publication in 1665, the printed journal has become the primary vehicle of knowledge dissemination among scientists and scholars. Journals occupy a special place in scholarly communication, not only because they help scientists get the status of a permanent record for their new findings but also to establish ‘credentials’.

In the early days there were a few researchers and few journals, but in the past three centuries the number of researchers has increased exponentially. Since the  early  1700s,  the  number  of  scholars  in scientific  disciplines  has  doubled  every 15 years, according to de Solla Price.

With the rising number of journals, academies and societies which were traditionally publishing  them  could  no  longer  cope  with  the  numbers and  enterprising  commercial publishers started taking over the burden of publishing many of the journals.  That paved the way for privatization of knowledge. Today there are reportedly 25,000 refereed journals in the areas of science, technology and medicine (STM), many of them published by commercial publishers.  As  of  late  2010,  Elsevier  published  1610  journals,  Springer  588 journals and Lippincott Williams & Wilkins 299 journals.

“The  scholarly  journal  marketplace  has  consolidated  in  recent  years. 

Three companies dominate: Elsevier, Springer, and Wiley.  Elsevier is the dominant force in Science, Technology, and Medical (STM)  publishing. Commercial publishers have established considerable monopoly power, playing a role in 60 per cent of all peer-reviewed journals, owning 45 per cent and publishing 17 per cent on behalf of non-profit organizations. In STM, seven major commercial publishers  account  for  30 per  cent of  peer-reviewed  titles  but  60 per cent of  the  market’s revenue.”

the advent of new technologies such as the Internet and the World Wide Web, it became possible for scientists around the world to look for alternatives to journals.  For example,  in  1991  Paul  Ginsparg  of  Los  Alamos  National  Laboratory  (LANL)  came  up with  arXiv,  an  electronic  preprint  service  for  the  physics  community. Although there had  been  preprint  services  for  physicists  earlier,  such  as  the  ones  at  the  Centre  for  Research  in  Nuclear  Energy,  Geneva  (CERN)  and  Stanford  Linear  Accelerator  laboratory (SLAC),  it  was  arXiv  which  really  revolutionized  sharing  of  information  among  physicists in a fully online manner. With dwindling budgets and rising costs of journals, scholarly communication today is  at  a  crossroads.  We  need  to  think  seriously  about  how  scholarly  information  can  be shared efficiently and at an affordable cost. Even librarians in affluent institutions in the United States feel that current methods of scholarly communication are unsustainable and proving to be excessively restrictive.

Knowledge Ignites Growth

There are over one million authors who produce over 1.5 million research articles every year.

But getting access to this sum total of knowledge costs an exorbitant amount

If you are an independent researcher  it costs about $30-$40 to download one article.

If you are accessing articles through your university, your university library is spending almost 65 percent of its budget to subscribe to these journals, eating into the money available to buy new books, software and other resources.

We don’t just Yak – we act

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