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Undergraduate and graduate research topics, 2021

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I noticed again that there seem to be a lot of ‘hits’ for articles I wrote years ago about research topics. Many appear to be looking for topics for their university/college/school research projects including those who might be looking for thesis or dissertation topics. Here are some of my past postings on research topics:

October 23, 2020: https://d0ctrine.com/2020/10/23/research-topics-in-the-time-of-covid-19-part-1/

August 11, 2017: https://d0ctrine.com/2017/08/11/topics-for-transportation-research/

September 28, 2016: https://d0ctrine.com/2016/09/28/research-topics-for-transportation-engineering-and-planning-for-2016-2017/

December 11, 2015: https://d0ctrine.com/2015/12/11/undergraduate-research-topics-for-academic-year-2015-2016/

July 4, 2015: https://d0ctrine.com/2015/07/04/research-topics-on-transport-and-traffic-in-the-philippines/

October 22, 2014: https://d0ctrine.com/2014/10/22/undergraduate-research-topics-on-transportation-for-ay2014-2015/

August 27, 2013: https://d0ctrine.com/2013/08/27/undergraduate-research-topics-on-transportation-at-up-diliman-2013/

October 17, 2012: https://d0ctrine.com/2012/10/17/undergraduate-research-topics-on-transportation/

October 12, 2011: https://d0ctrine.com/2011/10/12/undergraduate-research-topics-on-transportation-2011-2012/

It is from the July 4, 2015 article where I wrote something that is still very much applicable today or perhaps anytime someone asks about what topics should be pursued by undergraduate, graduate and even faculty research:

“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?”

I do encourage prospective student researchers to take on topics addressing local transportation issues. Some recommendations are as follows:

  • Active transport – topics on bike use, bike lanes planning and design, pedestrian or cycling facilities, safety, funding and investments, integration with public transport, end of trip facilities, IEC or C4D materials development and deployment, etc.;
  • Road/highways – topics on road safety, road capacity (e.g., assessing the necessity and/or effectiveness of road widening projects);
  • Public transportation – topics on rationalization, modernization, services in the time of Covid-19, business models including service contracting, motorcycles as public transport (i.e., motorcycle taxis);
  • Anything relating transport and the pandemic – topics about transport in the so-called new normal, impacts of Covid-19 on transport, traffic, commuting, etc. These topics can be framed a number of ways and can be very local (i.e., based on local experiences) and/or comparative.

There are obviously more including the “classic” ones on traffic engineering and management (e.g., traffic congestion, intersection analysis, development of micro-simulation models, etc.), transport planning (e.g., travel demand forecasting, transport model development, etc.), as well as those on the various modes of transport (air, maritime and rail come to mind). The objective is to be able to contextualize and address issues closer to your home rather than far from it. I think that’s how best you can contribute to addressing transport problems rather than be over-ambitious or messianic in your research topic(s).


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