Find a research topic and supervisor
Are you looking for a research topic for your master’s or PhD?
Selecting your research topic and your supervisor are major steps when you pursue a master’s or PhD degree. That’s why most programs strongly urge you to identify your research interests and research supervisor before you apply for admission.
Defining your research topic
Arts and humanities
Most arts and humanities programs let you choose and define your own research topic. You may be asked to provide a draft proposal of approximately five pages, including a description of your field of interest and a series of questions about a specific theme, along with your application for admission. This is the first step in preparing your research proposal, whether you have found a supervisor yet or not.
It’s a good idea to find a professor to supervise you before you apply, even if it’s not an admission requirement for your program. That way you can present a stronger research topic that the admissions committee is more likely to deem feasible.
If you do not find a professor to supervise you before you are admitted to the program, you could run into problems later if professors have already agreed to supervise other students and are unavailable to work with you.
Pure and applied sciences
In most pure and applied sciences programs, your research supervisor will recommend a research topic. In many cases, you’ll be contributing to the efforts of a team working on a funded project.
For programs in these fields of study, selecting a research supervisor before you apply for admission is highly recommended and may even be mandatory. Read the official description of your program to find out if this is an admission requirement.
Finding a research supervisor
Making initial contact with professors in your chosen field of study in order to find a research supervisor is your responsibility. It’s a good idea to select subjects that interest you, then find out more about:
- Researchers and their areas of expertise
- Projects that are recruiting new researchers
- Research groups and chairs
For more information on UL professors, see:
- The Research section of the official description of your program
- The Université Laval faculties website
Once you have identified professors who work in areas that interest you, contact them directly or, if necessary, contact the administrator of the program they teach in.
Research projects that are recruiting
Several professors are currently looking for students undergoing either a research master's or PhD degree to join their team. Explore many of the research projects now recruiting in various fields of study.
You are a professor at Université Laval and would like to publish a research project to supervise a new graduate student? Register your offer online now.
Before you contact faculty members
Make sure you personalize your messages to professors. We also strongly recommend you only contact a few professors at a time. Start by contacting those whose research interests overlap the most with your interests and previous research experience. If your research interests cover several fields, feel free to contact professors in related departments.
It’s also a good idea to read some of the professors’ recent publications or some recent work by their students (master’s or PhD theses) before you contact them.
Drafting your email
Always personalize your emails to faculty members. Make sure you include:
- Why you want to work with him or her
- Your academic background
- Your research interests or, if you have one, a draft of your research proposal and how it relates to the professor’s area of expertise
- Your CV (including your scientific achievements and publications, laboratory experience, etc.)
- Your academic records
- A motivation letter
- One or two recommendation letters
If you have obtained funding, indicate what type, how much, and its duration. Treat the email as if it was a job application and make sure to present yourself in your best light to make your application interesting.
Following up on your request can show that you’re really interested in working with a particular professor. However, sending too many emails or messages can be counterproductive. Remember that professors get a lot of requests. Give them time to look over your application and consider it. We also strongly recommend you try to meet the professor, even if you don’t live in Québec City. If you are unable to meet with them in person, try to set up a phone interview.