How do I select a topic for my final-year research project in Physics BSc?

In summary, it's important to talk to your supervisor about your research project and to review other projects that have been done before starting on your own. It's also important to consider the applications of a research topic before trying to probe the foundational issues.
  • #1
WWCY
479
12
Hi all,

I'm about to start a final-year (Physics BSc) research project and would like some advice about how to select a topic.

I was thinking of working on quantum theory, and in particular, quantum foundations (very broadly speaking). As such, I've been reading a bunch of papers on arXiv (e.g Hardy's QM theory from 5 axioms) but there appears to be a common thread: I don't understand a lot of the concepts in the papers. And I believe that I need to be able to understand a good deal in these papers before I can identify problems to work on.

I have been told that this is a common problem amongst students, but I still don't know a good way to overcome it. In fact, I doubt that the courses left for me to read will touch on all of these concepts.

So my question is, how should I approach this issue? And how do I know if my research question is a "good" one?

Also, it'd be nice if someone could point out some concrete problems (and papers) in quantum foundations that might be interesting (and not too difficult, hopefully) to work on. Many thanks!

PS I do have a research supervisor, but I feel that I should at least get a rough sketch on the topics I'd like to work on before asking him for any detailed assistance

PPS Many a time when I read papers, I get an "ooh, that's interesting" reaction to certain ideas introduced, but an unable to go past that to form a concrete research question. Are there certain steps I can take to formulate a problem that can be worked on?
 
Last edited:
Physics news on Phys.org
  • #2
The default answer to a question like this is to talk to your supervisor. I understand... you want to walk in with a brilliant idea and several deep, meaningful questions so that your supervisor will be impressed with you. But there's no easy algorithm for defining a good research project. And really, when a supervisor agrees to take on an undergraduate student, he or she is committing to a certain level of mentorship. You also have to consider that often the supervisor will have a project (or several) in mind. So step one: talk about it with your supervisor and build up that relationship as strong as you can.

A few other tips that might help...
Consider reviewing other projects that people have done in the past. While it might be too late at this point, any student thinking about doing a thesis project next year should make sure to attend any public presentation of projects in the current year. This gives you an idea of what to expect, which projects are the most successful, and what can be reasonably done in the time period you have while balancing a full course load.

Talk with current grad students - they guys who just did this kind of thing a year or two ago. Often they will have either done, or at least seen decent undergrad projects and can help you generate ideas.

Something else that might be worth looking up are things like the 3 Minute Thesis competition, in which grad students summarize their research in only 3 minutes.

Remember to be realistic too. Embarking on a project, a lot of students want to create something amazing, but remember you have other classes, other time commitments (including taking good care of yourself) and so the number of hours that you have to spend on this project is likely limited. Often with undergrad projects, you're limited to reproducing something that someone else has done and then maybe adding one new element to it.
 
  • Like
Likes Dinoduck94 and WWCY
  • #3
Thanks for the response! I'll be sure to think about what you said, especially the bits about being pragmatic.

On another note, I was wondering if attempting to work in the area of QM foundations is advisable at this stage of my study. Would it be better to first explore/work on/learn the theoretical applications of QM (in terms of phenomena) before trying to probe foundational issues? I find that papers on foundations either tend to be rather abstract (no mention of specific systems/phenomena) and/or philosophical.

Thanks for your time.
 

Related to How do I select a topic for my final-year research project in Physics BSc?

1. What is the first step in starting a research project?

The first step in starting a research project is to identify a research question or topic that you are interested in exploring. This could involve reviewing existing literature, brainstorming ideas, or consulting with colleagues or mentors.

2. How do I choose a research methodology?

The choice of research methodology will depend on the nature of your research question and the type of data you want to collect. Common methodologies include experimental, survey, qualitative, and case study. It is important to carefully consider which methodology will best address your research question and provide reliable results.

3. What are the key components of a research proposal?

A research proposal typically includes an introduction, literature review, research question or hypothesis, methodology, data analysis plan, and timeline. It may also include a budget, ethical considerations, and potential limitations of the study.

4. How do I ensure the validity and reliability of my research?

To ensure the validity and reliability of your research, it is important to carefully design your study and collect data using appropriate methods. This could involve using control groups, random sampling, and reliable measurement tools. It is also important to critically analyze your data and consider potential biases or limitations.

5. How can I effectively manage my research project?

Effective project management involves setting clear goals and timelines, communicating regularly with team members and collaborators, and staying organized. It may also involve seeking support or guidance from mentors or colleagues, and being open to adapting your approach as needed.

Similar threads

Replies
3
Views
515
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
4
Views
333
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
3
Views
257
Replies
28
Views
1K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
25
Views
2K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
1
Views
1K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
7
Views
1K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
7
Views
673
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
8
Views
1K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
10
Views
2K
Back
Top