So I saw this article on getting into computer science research; it helped me but I still have questions more relevant to my position.

I'm getting ready to start my sophomore year at my university. I'm a computer science major (software engineering concentration), good GPA; I'm also thinking about doing a minor in physics, and minimally my masters in either computer or electrical engineering. I've been programming since the beginning of high school, and I know (based on my college classes) that my skills are strong. I have a lot of projects on Github and a personal tech website that shows my skills.

I'm very interested in getting into research, I feel like that's really my thing, but I don't really know where to start. My question is basically how should I go about it in a college environment. I'm assuming that getting to know my professors would be best; would it be a good start to contact past professors and maybe my upcoming ones for this fall? One professor I had in my first semester was in research so I feel like that would be a good start. Or should I go to my advisor first? I want to start looking now, but school starts in a few weeks so I could always wait till then.

Any advice is appreciated. Thanks!

PS: Apologies in advance if the tags or anything isn't right; first time posting here...

1 Answer 1


The first problem you will have is coming up with a problem worth exploring. If you don't yet have much experience it is a very hard thing to discover. So, yes, talk to one or more professors, perhaps your advisor, about what sorts of problems they are interested in.

Perhaps they can get you started with some part of their own explorations, or give you a problem they have set aside for lack of time to explore it.

In your first time out, it may not be vitally important that you actually come up with results. Learning the process may be enough. But who knows. Maybe you learn something that can be published.

In fact, some problems worth exploring don't really have accessible solutions. They may be beyond the current state of knowledge to solve. The same is true in math, of course. It is very difficult to predict in advance whether a problem is actually solvable with the resources available - including time.

Eventually - many years - you will probably develop the insight to see the problems that are unsolved, but solvable, and also worth the effort to explore. But like anything else, that takes practice. Start with someone who has already been there to help guide your initial steps.

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    In your first time out, it may not be vitally important that you actually come up with results — Let me say that more strongly: In your first time out, you will not come up with results, unless you are extraordinarily lucky. But that's fine; nobody expects you to come up with results your first time out.
    – JeffE
    Jul 27, 2019 at 20:53

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