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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.
Looking at the recent statistics for this site, I noticed the surge in interest on research topics for undergraduates. What they found were posts I made over the last few years that included lists of titles of researches being undertaken by our undergraduate students at UP Diliman Civil Engineering. In addition, there are also a lot of articles I posted about various topics on transport and traffic that could be used as basis for developing or identifying research topics for their undergraduate research work. There are a lot of problems or issues or challenges that the Philippines needs to solve. Thus, there should be a number of topics that students can choose from depending on their interest as well as perhaps the capacities or capabilities of their respective advisers to guide them in the implementation of their researches. Among the more “in demand” topics are those relating to road safety, public transport, traffic congestion, walking, cycling and even parking. Topics for undergraduate research should be something that could be implemented over a semester or two including the required review of literature, data collection (i.e., field surveys as well as secondary data collection from various sources) and the analysis of such data. Some topics can be more challenging than others and those requiring specific software (e.g., commercial rather than open-source) should not be encouraged if a school doesn’t have the resources. For the “techies,” topics involving development of software tools or apps may be encouraged as long as the objectives and data requirements are well defined and students don’t end up with useless products.
The National Center for Transportation Studies (NCTS) receives a lot of inquiries every year from students of various universities about research topics on transportation. Most of these are emails and letters without the endorsement of their advisers or teachers. And so we advise them to get the necessary endorsements first before they could do their researches at the Center. This gives the request a bit of a formality though we can only usually extend limited assistance as the Center’s resources are also limited. We have to state, however, that we are not in the business of advising or guiding students from other universities or colleges. That is the responsibility of your faculty whose job is to guide your students. The Center can provide whatever it has in terms of data or information but the specific data or information should first be identified by the students and their advisers by doing research on the topics of interest.
I have not yet posted on research topics for Academic Year 2014-2015 as UP has moved its academic calendar from June to August starting this year. At this time of year, we usually already have a list of topics for our students to choose from. These are topics that faculty have provided and which they could confidently guide students who would be under them (i.e., those who selected the topics they listed). It is highly likely that I would be selecting topics from some of the articles I have posted here and my co-faculty would be listing topics that address current issues or challenges in transport. Until perhaps the middle to last part of August when we would already know how many students will be assigned to our Transportation Engineering Group could we come up with a long list. By early September, our students would have selected their topics to embark on their undergraduate research work.