Recently I asked the question What is PhD Level research? and it was closed as too broad.

I was worried about the broadness of the question and that's why I tried to limit the question to the "US context for Engineering/STEM fields".

However, it was still seen as too broad. Is this related to me listing my impression of the "standard" PhD process?

Before I posted I read the Meta post Is “What background do I need to do research in specific field X?” on-topic at Academia.SE? and was under the impression that, my question would be of a similar scope.

How can I do to modify the question to fit well in Academia?


1 Answer 1


The question starts very broadly with a overview of the entire PhD process from application to graduation. The question really seems to be about the meaning of

Independent research on an original topic

This still too broad and could be subdivided into what is independent research and *what is an original topic. Both of those are still pretty broad and really need refinement. Better questions might be about the process by which academics judge if a topic is original or if the research has been carried out independently. Of course, this might not be what you are after.

The question then goes on to ask about incremental improvements in methodology and groundbreaking research. This seems to me to be totally unrelated to the PhD process or evaluating if a topic is original.

In order to get good answers, we need focused questions. My guess is your issue right now is you are thinking too far ahead. If you focus the question on the thing you are trying to understand, that will help a lot.

  • Thanks for your feedback, I think your right and the question I am really after seems to be, "what is an original topic in the context of a Ph.D. thesis?" though that seems very open ended. Do you believe that narrowing that to STEM fields is narrow enough? or should it be refined further, e.g. to a specific field like CS or EE?
    – Mark Omo
    Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 15:33
  • 2
    @MarkOmo it is not the lack of a field that makes it broad in my mind. Are you asking about how to develop an idea, evaluate an idea, argue that an idea is original. You need to understand what you want to know and why you want to know it.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 15:41
  • Would "How do I tell if my research idea is original enough to be a Ph.D. topic?" be too broad? I think that could be rephrased as "what is a good Ph.D. topic?" and unsurprisingly There is already a question about that.. Thanks, for your help!
    – Mark Omo
    Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 15:57

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