I would like to write my thesis on modelling extreme rainfall events in urban areas coupling a 2D surface model with an 1D sewer channel model. I have access to a good software which models hydrodynamically and offers me 3 different modelling approaches. My basic idea was to apply all three approaches and compare them and see what happens but my prof. is not convinced yet. He is happy with the model but he wants me to formulate a clear research question and ideally a hypothesis. Further, I can apply the model but I have no data to verify the results.

I'm stuck here, I don't know how to come up with a good research question and hypothesis. Maybe you can give me some ideas of what I could do?

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Earth Science SE. Your question may be better suited for the Academia SE (academia.stackexchange.com)? As it is not on the science itself, but rather on how to come up with a good research question. $\endgroup$ Dec 26, 2019 at 14:11
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    $\begingroup$ The canonical answer given on Academia SE is "talk to your adviser". $\endgroup$ Dec 28, 2019 at 12:44
  • $\begingroup$ I would consider this off-topic on academia.se, because it is enough about the science that it requires field-specific knowledge. $\endgroup$ Dec 29, 2019 at 7:45
  • $\begingroup$ ask what are you trying to predict and why? Do you want to know when the sewer system will be overwhelmed so water flows down the streets? Do you want to know when the sewage treatment plant will be threatened? If this is a PhD, I'd expect you to come up with a better model or at least a detailed analysis of where and why the models fall over. Good luck! $\endgroup$
    – haresfur
    Dec 29, 2019 at 21:36
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome. As the others and your prof. have pointed out, think of a question you want to have answered, and a method to answer it. Or how to develop a method to answer a given question. The hypothesis would be a falsifiable statement that you can test, ideally with the model at hand or with extensions you develop. Try to distinguish between engineering (urban planning) and plain science, if that makes sense :-) $\endgroup$
    – user18607
    Jan 28, 2020 at 11:47

1 Answer 1


It sounds as though you have ideas on the tools you'd like to use, but not on an actual question that you want to use them to answer.

You probably need to either come up with such a question, or focus instead on methodology - in studying the tools and the effectiveness of using them in a given scenario.

For nearly any modelling project, its viability will be affected by whether data are available to validate the model. If no appropriate data are available for the area you're looking at, you probably don't have a project (because what use is a model if you have no idea whether it's right?).

Bear in mind that these comments are all generalisations based on very limited information. The best advice is still "talk to your advisor".


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