About this Site. We (Professors Nick Feamster and Alexander Gray) created this site as a resource for advice on research and creativity methods and techniques for Ph.D. students. We originally created the material as part of a course offering at Georgia Tech (read on for the history).  The intended audience for this site is Ph.D. students in computer science programs, but many of the concepts that we present on this site may also apply to other disciplines.

The material we have provided will prepare you to perform great research in computer science, regardless of the area you ultimately choose to pursue for your Ph.D. The material should:

  • Teach you many skills that you will keep in your “research toolbox” for the rest of your career:
    • time management
    • productivity and (selective) procrastination
    • how to read a research paper
    • how to review a research paper
    • how to write a research paper (technical writing)
    • how to generate ideas, creativity, sources of problems
    • information management (research notebooks, etc.)
    • how to give a good talk
    • how to write a proposal
    • how to be a good TA
  • Find some inspiration regarding open problems and big ideas
  • Offer general tips for life in graduate school and beyond

History and Background. The material that we have provided on this site is based on a class that was designed by Professors Nick Feamster and Alex Gray from Fall 2006 through Fall 2010 at Georgia Tech.

This project started in Fall 2006, when the two of us were asked to prepare a course for incoming Ph.D. students at Georgia Tech to help them become exposed to research methods early in their career.  After agreeing to take on the preparation of this new course, we quickly discovered that, while there is a wealth of knowledge about research techniques and methods, and many thoughts on skills for creative and critical thinking, this material had not been aggregated or distilled into a single document or course.  We spent the next five years developing a course at Georgia Tech, “CS 7001: Introduction to Graduate Studies”, refining the concepts, methods, and assignments each year.

We have learned a lot from these course offerings.  We have distilled many of our insights and lessons from teaching this course in a an ACM SIGCSE paper.  On this site, we will codify the modules from the course.  We have also made our course notes available on this site, for the benefit of both other Ph.D. students and for faculty at other universities who may choose to use this course as a model for similar courses at their institutions.

Various aspects of this course have been replicated at other universities.  We have made the material from the course available to others for the benefit of both computer science Ph.D. students and others who might wish to teach a similar course.

Nick and Alex created this site in Fall 2013 to add blog post material to the course content that already existed, to make the research advice and course exercises digestible for a broader audience.

We are working on adding all of the content to this site.  Meanwhile, please also feel free to peruse some of the previous course offerings (e.g., 20082009).

We will welcome feedback on the material as we post it.


Nick FeamsterPrinceton University
Alexander GraySkyTree, Inc.

Note: Both Nick and Alex have left Georgia Tech, so this course is no longer offered at Georgia Tech in its current form. We will continue to maintain the blog as a space for posting research advice.  We welcome guest posts!