Finishing a Research Project
Research is never really done. There are always more questions to ask and
attempts one could make to answer them. So, other than when you graduate, how do you know if a
project is complete? I think there are two ways.
- Get an idea to a publishable stopping point. This means that you
completed some work and written up a good paper on the topic. That paper
should be submitted to a conference. If the paper is accepted, consider that
project done once you go through the additional stages of final paper
revisions (of course that may only mean you want to continue with the
same line of work because at least some of your peers have indicated that
they think your approach is important). If the paper is not accepted, then you need to revise
it, perhaps updating the research, and try again. To truly
"finish" an idea can take quite a while so I'd expect to have more
than one project on the burner at a time.
- Get an idea to a demoable stopping point. Sometimes you will create
a system that you don't necessarily publish. In this case I'd consider the
project done when you can create a robust demonstration that can be run by
people in the group other than yourself. This needs to be something that
works regularly, not just something that works once.
Generally, if you aim for publishable, you will end up with demoable. A demo
should illustrate some creative, new, innovative idea that advances the state of
the art (i.e. publishable!) Things
that actually work robustly usually attract the attention of others and become
more memorable than those ideas that never make it beyond a theoretical
If you have been working on something for a long time and have not achieved
neither 1 or 2, you might consider stepping back, reflecting on how to chart a
modified course, and then doing some more work to truly get to a real stopping point.
Stephen Intille's Thesis Development and Writing Tips
Last updated: 11/16/04