Winter semesters ends on April 13th. Summer research/classes - May 15th

I am a second-year civil engineering student. Juggling between options, I planned on cold emailing many people for job internships/taking summer classes/requesting a professor for a research option.

SUCCESS - I got a research offer! This happened all so quickly before I could think properly.

I emailed the professor two days back and she responded the same day! However, I was not sure about any topic yet and she was not free until next week to meet and talk about my interest.

Now, she forwarded me an email the next day (April 8th) for a research scholarship fund application (ICAN-WISE) for female researchers and advised me to apply. The deadline is -THE SAME DAY (April 8th!!)

The application asks for the applicants research topic. And how it applies to the student's future studies and the welfare of the community. The better/better chances of getting the fund.

The problem - I am not sure what to say.

The professor I contacted works in Water Resource department. I registered with ReaearchGate and read through some of her collaborated works. Some of them really interested me and I put these in my email when I contacted her. But I am really unsure of how to come up with a topic. This is new to me. Is there any specific way I could approach this?

Should I email the professor for her idea/feedback on what will suit me?

  • 2
    "Should I email the prof for her idea/feedback on what will suit me?" - Yes.
    – ff524
    Apr 8, 2016 at 21:11

2 Answers 2


Generally speaking, developing a research topic is something that happens over weeks, months, even years - it's not really something that naturally comes about in a single day. So reasonably speaking, you really need an alternate question: how to come up with something reasonable to put in a scholarship form in a few hours. The usual process is to talk with lots of professors and potential advisers, read over their research, look carefully at all topics that come up in class, read a variety of books and keep your mind open and working on what you are really interested in...and that is going to take a lot more time than you have.

So frankly, you are going to need to "wing it" - to "fire from the hip" and hope for the best in terms of this particular scholarship application if it indeed has the hard deadline of 'today'. For this I would suggest you review the general ideas in this helpful professor's published works, as you mentioned you have already done, and point your finger towards whatever topic sounds kind of doable to you and is generally an area you might like to work more on in the future - or at least you think you might like to. And something vaguely in that realm could be your proposed topic. Just write it up and get it out.

Once you have gotten past the emergency of the deadline, you should certainly talk with the professor more about potential topics. But there is no replacement for having your own ideas and interests, and what is a great topic for one person is torture to someone else. By all means, keep working on it and developing your interests and awareness of what you might like to work on in the future - but for now, get that scholarship app done while you still can!


In a pinch, trying scanning your supervisor's previous papers for 'future work' topics mentioned towards the end of their papers. Writing down such things is fairly common in engineering papers, at least. If you see a problem that looks about the right size, then you can propose it. As noted elsewhere, it's better if you can take your time, discuss, let it brew a while, read the literature, distill, etc.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .