Since this community seems to include a lot of Ph.D. students, and because there is a provision for attracting even more, I think this question is very appealing:

What topics do you suggest for Ph.D. students to consider for their thesis?

I intentionally didn't restrict the topic to any field in TCS.

Obviously, very broad subjects of study, such as "logic" or "complexity theory" are not adequate answers.

On the other hand, ideas like "combine logic X with Y algebra to solve problem Z" are completely acceptable. (Since this is not MathOverflow, "problem Z" should have some TCS flavor.)

The more you elaborate, the better!

  • $\begingroup$ Should this be CW? $\endgroup$ Sep 22, 2010 at 9:16
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    $\begingroup$ I think this question is too broad. At the very least it should be community wiki. $\endgroup$ Sep 22, 2010 at 9:17
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    $\begingroup$ I think it's way too broad as well. it should probably be closed. @Incredible, why don't you look at the list of major unsolved problems in TCS (cstheory.stackexchange.com/questions/174/…). In any case, this really isn't a good way to go about choosing a Ph.D topic. $\endgroup$ Sep 22, 2010 at 9:20
  • $\begingroup$ I made it community wiki. @Suresh Venkat: because they are really "major." There is zero hope that a Ph.D. student selects the topic "Solving P vs NP" for his/her Ph.D. thesis. $\endgroup$
    – Incredible
    Sep 22, 2010 at 9:23
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    $\begingroup$ Theoretical computer science is a massively varied field. You'd need to at least narrow down your quest to the sub-area you are interested in. Then, you need to find adequate supervision, which may not be available at university you attend. An alternative way of finding a research topic is to find a good supervisor and then work with the supervisor to find an appropriate topic. This may well depend on how flexible you are in terms of where you are willing to live. $\endgroup$ Sep 22, 2010 at 9:33

1 Answer 1


It is an extremely broad question, and probably the wrong question, but I actually think the answer is pretty short. I'll just give you the advice that I was given (from multiple people), and the advice that most people I know would give:


In other words, you start with an interest, and that interest develops into a specialty. You deepen that interest, and then you expand a small amount on it in your PhD. Telling you what to do not only in some ways would defeat the purpose of you actually getting a PhD (i.e., you picking a specialty and pursuing it because you like it), but it says some pretty strong things about a PhD: that is, I personally think it's more helpful to think of a PhD not as the crowning achievement of your career, but as a good start, and since yours will almost certainly not be revolutionary (like, say Syntactic Structures), it is much more descriptive to explain the process than it is to tell you what specifically to do.

Good luck, though!


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