1. Exploration — In the vacation preceding the semester, educate yourself on the research done by various faculty members of the Dept. by browsing their websites, visiting their lab, and talking to their research scholars. Once you have shortlisted a few people based on your interest, approach them with the tentative request of wanting to get trained in research in the coming semester. Interact with them a few times to see if their style suits you, and if the work they do inspires you.

  2. Zooming in — Within the first three weeks of the semester, you must work with your guide to settle on a broad topic and plan of action for the semester. You will be required to submit a one-page write-up to the course coordinator CC-ing your guide with this plan.

  3. Work! — Keep in mind that this is a course like no other, in the sense that it has almost no structure (i.e. no tutorials, quizzes, exams). And since there are no deadlines, it is possible for you to slip up and not give this the time it deserves. Maintain a weekly log of the work you’ve done and what you plan to do and be very proactive in making sure you meet your guide often. Remember that your guide is 100x busier than you, so you need to take the initiative to make it happen!

  4. Evaluation — Towards the end of the semester, you will be asked to present the work done over the semester for evaluation. This might be a presentation in front of your guide and two other faculty, or it might be by means of a poster presentation. You will also be required to write a detailed report of your work, complete with details of:

    1. literature survey,

    2. the methodology of your work & your findings, and

    3. a discussion of the issues and open problems.


The objective of this course is to give undergraduate students their first experience of research. In simplest terms, students can approach this in three steps, of reading, thinking, and communicating.

Reading: Once you have identified a broad area of interest, you must read a lot. Don’t read detailed journal articles just yet; instead read magazine-level articles or popular science blogs. The point is to get a high-level idea of the area, to know what has been done and what are the open issues that remain.

Thinking: Deep reading naturally makes you think. This could be about different ways of explaining the same concepts, or it could be about new ideas that you have not come across so far in your reading. Discussions with lab mates or your guide is a further way of instigating your thinking. Crucially, this thinking has to be translated into the scientific language of proofs, experiments, simulations, etc.

Communicating: The logical next step is to communicate your understanding in as simple terms as possible. You should now revisit all the resources you had come across in the first step (of reading) with an eye on how they were written. Which articles successfully communicated their ideas to you, and which didn’t? It is often called "reading like a writer." Your goal is to make your understanding deep enough that you can communicate what you have learned or discovered in simple enough terms to a non-expert, as well as communicate with sufficient technical precision to an expert.

Of course, the above are not one-time steps. Research is about repeating this cycle of three steps till you touch and create beauty!


  1. An article on the Feynman Learning Technique, a powerful technique to learn better.

  2. Some tips on how to get started with research here.

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