Graduate Project Research Contribution

A graduate project should make a research contribution, i.e., it should contribute towards the advancement of human knowledge by adding something new. Graduate students should be guided by current research papers to determine: (1) what problems are currently being worked on and (2) what results have already been obtained. (Their own experience may suggest new problems separate from any previous research, but this is extremely rare and may well be a significant contribution in itself.)

The following table identifies seven categories of research contributions. Suppose the world’s experts on a type of problem were collected together. In which one or more categories would you argue that you are adding something new? What is your evidence? Although you may do a variety of work on your project, the novel aspect may be in only one category.

By using percentages totalling 100%, indicate in which categories your project is intended to make a research contribution. For example, if you are following a suggestion for future research in another paper (problem has already been identified) and planning to design and implement a software system, you might record 40% design and 60% implementation. As another example, after reading a description of an existing system, you decide to implement your own replica version in our local environment; you might indicate 100% confirmation.


Typical Activity

Contribution of your project


Identify and specify a novel problem



Provide novel mathematical definitions, theorems, and proofs



Design a novel system



Compare several theoretical models, system designs, or implementations in a novel way



Implement a designed system for the first time



Study the performance of

an implemented system in a novel way



Confirm the correctness of someone else’s work (for the first time or in a novel way)