The Engineering Students’ Guide in Finding a Research Topic
I remember being so stressed over my subject called Methods of Research back in college. The entire course is about developing a project study or a thesis – a requirement prior to graduation – that is related to my civil engineering degree. I had two other classmates with me in a team to submit a project study in hardbound by the end of the academic year.
The initial run of our thesis was where we struggled the most because of one thing: finding a research topic. It was inevitably a test of our character as a consequence of not thinking ahead of this subject. Not one of us anticipated that looking for a research topic would be that hard.
Our research adviser came into rescue and offered us suggestions about the matter. So we explored those options.
It took us three concept papers before arriving to an approved research topic. The entire process involved a considerable amount of money, effort, and time. We could have saved our resources for later use if we only knew better.
Which is why I have come up with these tips – also because our inbox is flooded with these requests – for engineering students who are finding a research topic. I understand that nobody wants to suffer from the early stage of thesis writing so these tips might help.
Based on experience and from what I have read, the most effective way to find a research topic is to focus on your area of interest or passion.
You need to have at least a specialization in mind to narrow down that vast domain of your degree. It will be really difficult to meet the goal if you fail at this, since thinking about the many possible research topics wanders your mind to no end, arriving to none.
If you are still undecided about the field you will specialize in later, just choose one subject in your curriculum that you like to study the most. That’s better than chasing research topics after each subject. Say for civil engineering students, you can choose water resources.
Once you have done that, explore a deeper understanding of the chosen subject. Which aspects of water resources require a need for development, verification or refutation?
At this stage, you need all the ideas you can get. Use the materials from your coursework, such as texts, notes and papers specific to the subfield. You can seek golden advice from your instructors or advisor given the narrowed topic. And of course, you can always utilize the most accessible source of information in this technological age: the Internet.
If you intend to incorporate social relevance in your study, make sure that it reaches a target recipient. For example, in water resources, you can devise a water supply system solution for a certain community who needs it by studying how the planning could be done in that area.
Otherwise, as mentioned, your chosen topic should have significance to the research community by developing, verifying or refuting an engineering idea.
Your research topic should be narrow and well-defined enough that it could branch out in a new direction. Selecting the topic does not need to adhere to trends. What’s more important is that it will hook the attention of other people, especially yours. In case you don’t know yet: you need to defend your study later.
Other factors to be considered in choosing a research topic include resources and facilities that may be required in the process of forming conclusions. All laboratory equipment and testing machines should be accessible or readily available when needed.
You also have to weigh in your strengths and weaknesses like your ability to perform the calculations and testing and your reach to the target community.
Be careful about the originality of topic though. There is a possibility of research topic duplication that can only be discovered when you are already in the review of related literature. It pays to do a little background check once you have chosen a research topic.
It’s worth noting that in the end, your research should solve a real problem and contain solid theoretical work and empirical results. It should build on existing body of engineering knowledge and centered on a meaningful topic.