Choosing a Research Topic

Choosing a research topic and methodology should ultimately be a joint decision among you, your supervisor and your supervisory committee. Initially, however, the determination of a research topic is up to you and your supervisor. Be sure to discuss the research topic early in your student/supervisor relationship.

Graduate Supervisor Comments: Choosing a Research Topic

  • "I will not take on a student unless their interest is a reasonable match with funding opportunities. I offer students a range of what I am currently able to support and I also consider the opportunities that may result from their own experiences."
  • "In team research, the student should know what his or her component is and how it links to the other research being done by the group."
  • "If the student arrives with his or her own funding (e.g. NSERC) then the student has more latitude in selecting the topic of interest. If the funding source is a research contract or grant, there is less latitude in topic selection because the supervisor must fulfill the original commitment and intent of the contract or proposal."
  • "Most of my new graduate students coming in already know what their research topic will be. Graduate students are expected to discuss their approach and research methods with me."
  • "It depends on the student and on funding. Some students come with excellent ideas that can be funded, while others prefer the supervisor to advise. I vary my approach according to the student and the current funding opportunities."

Student Comments: Choosing a Research Topic

  • "Start off by gathering ideas and manipulating them to see what you can come up with. This often requires a considerable amount of reading and discussion with researchers in this area."
  • "Review the current topics of research in this area and look for gaps in the knowledge?"
  • "Read outside the specific area you are interested in as well, and look for opportunities for synthesis between two or more areas."
  • "Define your topic as clearly as possible. It must be limited and feasible. Most thesis projects are too ambitious."
  • "Make sure the books necessary for your research are available in the library. You should not have to rely on interlibrary loan for very important or lengthy materials."