My question applies to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math disciplines (STEM).
Q: By what process does a graduate student determine his or her research direction?
(Assume that the graduate student is in the first year and has no previous publications with this supervisor.)
I can imagine several scenarios:
The graduate student proposes a research topic and then their supervisor evaluates it for originality and feasibility. In this scenario, the graduate student has the foresight to know what research directions are promising and appropriate.
The graduate student performs an extensive literature review. In this process, the student finds a challenging and/or interesting problem. (I am not sure how much effort this requires. I also don't know how to identify a problem as "interesting" or "challenging".)
The supervisor comes up with an interesting research problem or question and then presents it to the graduate student. (This appears to be a common pattern, given the plethora of complaints that I see on-line about uninteresting research.)
I would especially like to see responses from professors who are supervisors and also from graduate students.