Suppose that I have an idea "not fully developed" of course but a sketch somehow. If I want to convince an advisor by it and let him take me seriously. What should I do? My field of study is Mathematics. I only got an intuition that might work or not. Should I make sure that the proposal is valid before I talk to my advisor or what should I do exactly? any ideas would be appreciated.


  1. Formalize the problem and identify any trivial cases.
  2. Figure out where a result similar to your idea would be published and try to find it. Have a list of the places that you looked and where you didn't find your result. This will allow you to tell your professor something along the lines of "Professor, I checked ...noteworthy journals in your exact area... as well as ...famous textbooks in the area of study... And I didn't find this result."
  3. Know why your idea is intuitively correct. Try to find counterexamples.
  4. Outline your plan of action.
  5. Be able to tell your professor why you want to work with him/her. Is it because you two work well together or because he/she is a major person in the field?
  6. Bonus: State why your result would be (or could be) meaningful.
  • 1
    +1, but note that, by its very nature, it is difficult to impossible to tell beforehand (a) whether an idea has merit and (b) that it is amenable to solution. Only work will give you the answers. Therefore your proposal will be tentative. Your advisor may have more insight than you and might be able to give an assessment, but maybe not. Therefore, don't worry that you have only minor "results" and "hints". But the writer here gives a good outline of the attack. – Buffy Feb 1 '19 at 2:00

Clear writing is clear thinking. Go ahead and write it up (see if there is a set format, but if not, do a 1-3 page memorandum). If you do the 3 pager, make sure it is clear AT THE BEGINNING what the idea is. (People have limited time to read.)

I recommend to do some minimum of literature research. Does not have to be 100% on the idea itself, but could be closely parallel or smaller steps in same direction. Once you have it written up, others can evaluate it more easily. Doesn't mean it will be a great idea or not, but the act of writing it up, will make it easier to engage with and even to criticize more thoughtfully.

Good luck.

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