How to Pick a Good Thesis Problem
What are the characteristics of the project?
- Is it a significant problem?
- Is it original?
- Does it push the envelope of science somewhere?
- Will it be of interest to others?
- Will it make a ‘good story’?
- Does it involve quantitative data analysis?
- Might you be able to publish your research?
Is it well suited for you?
- Is it personally interesting?
- You need to find the topic sufficiently interesting that
your enthusiasm will not lag throughout a year long effort
- Are you qualified to do this project?
- Are you sufficiently knowledgeable on the overall topic
you will be able to fully understand the project?
- Do you have, or will you be able to learn any special
required to carry it out?
Is it doable?
- Are there sufficient data available or that can be gathered
you within your means and timeframe?
- Do you have available the necessary facilities and ability to
carry out the necessary analysis of the data?
What about your research mentor?
- Does your mentor have an academic background? (A PhD is
- Has your mentor worked with undergraduate students before? If
not - please discuss in a lot of detail what expectations you
have of each other (see letter to mentors on this website).
- Will your mentor be reachable throughout the duration of the
If your project is part of a larger research effort…
To answer these questions you need to carefully think through the
project at an early stage, and discuss these aspects with your
mentor and advisor.
- Do you know how your project fits into the larger effort?
- Do you know (is it clear) what you are responsible for doing,
vs. what you will be getting from others?
- If there are going to be any collaborative publications, will
you be able to be involved?