For MS option A (thesis) and doctoral students, generally students decide to work with a particular faculty advisor within a broadly defined research area. The specific research or project problem is usually suggested by the faculty advisor. This is appropriate in the beginning of a student’s graduate education since they may not have the experience to fully appreciate the proposed research or project problem in the context of the field. In attempting to solve the assigned research or project problem, the student will benefit from the ideas, expertise, and guidance of their faculty advisor.

During the course of their graduate program, the student should become increasingly familiar with the subject of the investigation and, upon completion, may well have greater expertise than their faculty advisor. It is assumed that the general research or project area in which the specific problem fits is one in which the faculty advisor will continue to work. It is to the mutual benefit of the student and faculty advisor to agree, before the student's departure, on the responsibilities for future work in the general research or project area.