I noticed that this site has received a lot of hits for inquiries regarding undergraduate research topics. While we at UP have yet to start our first semester of the academic year 2015-2016, other schools have already started their semesters, trimesters or quarterms. I suspect students in their final or graduating year would be looking for topics for their research projects or, what some schools refer to as the undergraduate thesis projects.
I have written about our undergraduate researches at UP Diliman the past few years and listed down the topics our students have implemented for their undergraduate projects. In our case, we have 2 subjects that our students take during their final year – CE 190, a one unit course that focuses on the formulation and approval of the research project and CE 199, a three unit course for the implementation of the approved project. These are taken over 2 semesters, usually the last 2 that the student takes before graduating.
Unfortunately, not all schools would have the capability and capacity to advise students taking on topics on transport and traffic. I noticed that many schools and their advisers just let their students select topics of their own choice. Many provide minimal if any guidance to students. The latter often choose topics on current issues or problems without checking if they have the knowledge and tools to undertake substantive studies. Often too, it seems to us that the advisers are not capable of providing guidance to their own students and as such just let them seek advise elsewhere including people they would identify as resource persons but to whom they would be more dependent on for advice than their schools’ faculty members. Although their enthusiasm and interest in various topics are commendable and there are many out there who would be gracious and generous to share their time, knowledge and experience with these students, they cannot do so as regularly as full-time faculty members. In fact, it is unfair to these people whose times and resources are already constrained by their own responsibilities (e.g., a professor at DLSU also has his own students to guide and classes to teach).
Schools need to develop their own research agendas. That is so that students would be able to choose topics that their faculty can realistically and effectively guide their students instead of sending them out to become the burdens of others. These would include topics concerning local issues. Are there road safety issues at locations such as intersections near the school? Are the streets in the nearby CBD experiencing congestion? Is there an oversupply or lack of public transport services in the city or a nearby town? It seems awkward for a university in Pampanga, for example, to have students taking on a topic concerning EDSA-MRT or students of a university in Metro Manila taking on a topic on Mindanao railways, if their faculty have no relevant experiences or capabilities to properly guide the students.
I would encourage schools to identify topics concerning local issues first. As they say, charity begins at home, and working on solutions for local problems should be top of the agenda of any school. That includes us at UP and there are many topics that focus on issues in and around UP Diliman. If we can’t solve our own problems then how can we be believable in addressing those outside our direct influence area?
In the next post, I will share and example research agenda from the last academic year. This was the basis for our students selecting topics for their undergraduate researches and as starting points for our graduate students in formulating topics for their MS thesis.