Identifying Research Questions/Problems


June 11th, 2002



The core of scientific work is identifying research questions/problems, working on them, finding solutions which improve the state of the art, and publishing this work in scientific conferences and journals. The outline of scientific papers therefore usually includes a section on motivation and problem description, the main section describing your work (assumptions, algorithms, formalizations, etc.), a section comparing your work to prior and related work, and an outlook for further work.

We have discussed some examples of scientific work on World Wide Web and Semantic Web Technologies during the first part of this course, now let's try a more active part! Based on three guidelines taken from the Stanford CS444A Project Web Page (see, we will, in the remainder of this course, try to identify some interesting research questions/problems, and possibly also references to relevant previous work for these research questions.

Guideline 1: What is the interesting research question/problem area being addressed (be specific) Ideally this should be framed in the form of a hypothesis: "We stipulate that the following is the case..." - this can refer to measurements, the possibility that something can be designed/built, etc. Your project will then attempt to support or weaken that hypothesis.

Guideline 2: What is the approach/strategy (again, be specific... will you measure something? what, and where? will you build a prototype in order to measure it? can you convince us you have enough time?)

Guideline 3: Who has done similar things, and why is this an improvement or how does it fill a gap? (i.e. you should definitely do a preliminary but broad literature search before starting the project)

You will have the possibility to work on this research question in the course of a Bachelor Thesis (Studienarbeit) or Master Thesis (Diplomarbeit) or in our Research Seminar on Knowledge Based and Distributed Information Systems, if you like.

As a beginning, please identify papers you want to concentrate on from the WWW 2002 Conference Proceedings (see or the ISWC 2002 Conference Proceedings (see If you do this alone, please identify two papers, if you do this in a group of n people, please identify 2n papers.

Until next Tuesday, please send me the URLs of these papers, with a short paragraph telling me, why you find these papers interesting and would like to work on these topics.


June 25th, 2002

In the next two weeks please try, based on the topic of one of your papers, to develop a research question and idea for a project proposal, according to the guidelines described above.

Detailed suggestions for the week June 25 to July 2

  • Look at the comments I gave you, and take them into account to produce a second version of your summary / motivation / discussion of your papers
  • Look for additional references and papers, which might help you to judge the state of the art on the topic where you want to formulate your research question / proposal, to judge the relevance of your question and the areas on which to focus in your proposal.

For each paper you found, also include how you found it, and discuss shortly (1-2 sentences) why you think the paper is relevant for your research question some suggestions for finding relevant papers:

  • check the references of the paper you selected and choose the ones which you think are most relevant
  • try to find them on the Web via google or
  • if you use, follow additional references of the papers you found (you might want to use the number of citations as one (but not the only one) criterion)
  • go to the homepages of the authors and check for their related papers on the chosen subject
  • look for other relevant papers (based on title, abstract, authors) in this or related conferences (WWW-02, WWW-01, ISCW-02, SWWS-01, and possibly others specific for your subtopic)
  • to find relevant conferences and journals, you might want to check where the references of the paper you chose were published shortly describe which problems you encountered in finding relevant literature, and in which areas / for which topics / questions, after one week of search, you still see the need for further search Note: your literature search and state of the art overview will most probably not be complete after one week of search
  • in real life, you might spend several weeks and more checking the state of the art - but for our course we'll leave it at one week.
July 2nd, 2002

Shortly describe your findings in class (5 minutes).

Detailed suggestions for the week July 2 to July 9: Formulate your research proposal based on the guidelines described above (1. research question, 2. research approach, 3. innovation/expected results) on about 5 slides. If you want, you can do some further literature search (see the previous week).


July 9th, 2002

Present your project proposal in your class (about 5 slides, 5 minutes).


>>> CLICK onto the IKON ScieCom and find interesting information as well as a workspace where you can share your work.


Comments to Prof. Nejdl: and his team: allertrichterbrasedhraief