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I am a graduate student and planning to pursue a PhD. For one year, in search for a research idea, I have been reading random research articles and papers in many dimensions of Computer Science.

Suddenly, I have been blasting my advisor with various ideas. The ideas as per my advisor are possibly a new paradigm but do have great potential. Also, he says the complete idea may or may not be doable by a single PhD student. I also see those ideas converting into good startup ideas as well. (I was an entrepreneur before pursuing research in search of some challenging work).Most of the ideas are not very much related to each other but still concentrated to my specific field of study (Computer Vision).

I am concerned that pondering of so many ideas may prolong my research without results. My questions are:

  1. How can I manage so many wavy ideas in a streamlined way ?

  2. How feasible is it to focus the research so that the outcome may be a startup (since making it commercially viable would require some amount of research in other areas of Computer Science such as Data Mining, Large Scale Search etc. ) ?

  • 2
    (1) Write them down. (2) Utterly infeasible for me, but you and I are different people. – JeffE Apr 22 '14 at 20:36
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For your first question, here is the workflow I follow:

  1. Write them down (as @JeffE mentioned)
  2. Organize them in order of viability/ease
  3. Take the most viable idea and do a (very) quick prototype
  4. If prototype is successful, develop it. If not, iterate.

From the prototype you probably have a better idea of how much work it would take to fully develop the research idea. If it seems like you won't be able to handle it in the amount of time you have, or if the outcome is not worth the effort, I usually archive that idea for later. For a prototype I usually try to do the bare minimum to produce the simplest result possible. A common trap is to start from the complex before you've mastered the simple.

The second question depends a lot on your personality, so don't take the following advice much too serious. Personally, I have a very hard time focusing on two things at the same time. What I would do is focus on my PhD. You'll surely get many more ideas as your work progresses. For every problem you solve, you'll generate 10 new ones. Be sure to write things down so that you don't forget them later on.

This is a very personal question and you have to see what works for you.

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