I just finished my first year of my Master's program in Atmospheric Sciences, and during this time I was a teaching assistant. Now that the summer has arrived, I'm starting as a research assistant with my advisor at the university I'm enrolled at, as well as a research assistant with a government organization. I'm currently working at this government organization, but I'm still getting paid equally between my two advisors.

Getting to the point, my research is a bit ambiguous at the moment. My advisor from my university doesn't have a clear project for me to work on, and my other advisor has provided some insight into what I can work on, but it isn't much better. I'm worried that the summer will be unproductive, and my chances of graduating on time (2 years total for me degree) will be put into jeopardy. Can anyone offer advice/insight into this? It would be greatly appreciated.

  • It sounds like you have a bit of freedom! I had the same luxury at the beginning of my masters (engineering). Do you know what you'd like to work on? Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 20:58
  • I know of a couple of things I could work on, but my problem is that I'm interested in almost everything in my field! It's hard for me to narrow down something specific.
    – Stratix
    Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 21:04
  • Your question is too broad to get useful answers in the Stack Exchange format. Can you narrow down what you'd like help with?
    – aeismail
    Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 22:18

2 Answers 2


I would say this is your opportunity to explore and find a (hopefully small) gap in the literature that you can fill. Reading literature reviews is the best way to start. I had a similar experience a little earlier in my degree (masters), and I was able to pick a topic that I loved, and it kept me going; I am almost finished, and it has been, IMO, a successful endeavor.

If you are applying to a PhD program after, you will have experience exploring a little on your own. Your advisor will be able to say in their recommendation letter that you took initiative in your research.

The difficult part will be carving out something meaningful that you can do in 7-9 months (1 month to research and decide & 2-4 months for thesis writing and defense at the end). Your advisor should be able to help you to narrow the scope to something manageable.

  • I suppose I just need to get into the literature more and find those small gaps, and communicate better with both of my advisors. Hopefully I can find something I will enjoy researching that I can turn into my Master's thesis.
    – Stratix
    Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 16:41

You need to press your advisors for more guidance. Although it is appropriate (and valuable) to give a PhD student room to develop his/her own research ideas, a Masters student typically needs guidance, at least a promising direction that the advisor can see resulting in a thesis.

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