Is it okay to contact potential advisor if you have no specific topic in mind about your dissertation? I wanted to pursue graphics for masters, its a bit difficult narrowing it down. Is it okay to ask them for a specific topic?

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    This probably varies from country to country a bit. Where are your potential advisors? – Bill Barth Mar 29 '15 at 16:21
  • Are you talking about contacting potential advisers at the university you currently are at, or elsewhere in the world? – Wolfgang Bangerth Mar 30 '15 at 2:17
  • In japan, I'll be be a foreign student – Erie Dona Kent Mar 30 '15 at 11:03
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    I am a bit confused by this question. What exactly makes the person a "potential advisor" unless you have at least a vague idea about a topic that both he or she would be interested in and you would like to work on? – O. R. Mapper Mar 31 '15 at 20:03
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    Also, whether or not it "is ok" will depend very much on what is usual in the respective field at the respective university. For example, is it usual there that Bachelor and Master thesis topics are publicly posted by university staff, semi-ready for students to pick and start working on? Or are students in general rather expected to bring their own topics? The spectrum of what is usual and thus considered "ok" varies extremely in that respect. – O. R. Mapper Mar 31 '15 at 20:07

I'm a professor in Germany and I throw any master's students out who come asking me for a topic. It needs to be a question they want answered or some computing question they want to explore. Bachelor's I do a bit of hand-holding on.

You should research the interests of the professor and see if he or she is likely to be interested in your question. And do check if the professor is male or female before writing your letter. All emails addressing me as Herr Professor get piped to /dev/null.

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In my experience, you don't need to have a specific topic yet. I think a good way to approach it would be to talk about some paper or papers this person wrote that got you really excited about his/her group. You can also talk about some project that you did that you really liked. In this letter, you want to give the person a bit of a chance to get to know you. I think a good length would be no more than two-thirds of a page in MS Word. You could think of this as a cover letter when sending a CV to apply for a job.

Finding the topic is probably going to involve a lot of work on your part, but you can use your advisor as a sounding board, and your advisor can suggest some things to read.

Try to attend lots of seminars. They can be quite stimulating.

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