Dr. Alex Dong's Blog

PHD Degree Series 3: Determine Challenges


In this article, we will talk about how to determine the research challenges. Finding the research problem and challenges is not easy. Some times the hard effort may not make it succeed. Researchers need some “feeling” to find it. But the “feeling” also depends on large amount of reading and thinking.

Find Unsolved Problems


In literary review stage, you already read extensive research papers. Through such reading, you should know what research has been conducted by other researchers; which methods have been applied into the area; what’s difference between various researcher’s work, etc.

The most important is you should remind you what problems are not covered in their work. Or what limitations of them. One hint is we can think about the assumptions of others’ work. Some of the assumptions are too ideal and unrealistic. The work without such assumptions could be the research direction.

Evaluate the Scientific Values


One of the difficulties of finding challenges is the university. The problems you found should be universal that can be used in a category of problems instead of a specific realistic problem. In addition, the problem should have scientific difficulty not only the engineering difficulty.t

This work also highly depends on the reading. You can learn the challenges found by the authors to see what problems can be called research challenges. Of course, this is not enough. As I mentioned, sometimes researchers need some “feeling”. That means even though you already read lots of papers, you still can not find the challenges. You can read more papers. Or you should discuss some ideas with your supervisor.


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