Applications season is coming round the corner, and that only means a bunch of lazy, insipid questions will make their rounds on this forum again. Refer to these exhibits to know what I mean:
Believe it or not, grad school applications mirror the PhD research process. Everyone has a bunch of questions to ask, and although there is information to be found on this forum, they pertain specifically to your circumstance, and no one will ever quite know what is the best answer for you. If you want to do research in physics, I'm sure these are some of the things that you'll do before you embark on any kind of project. And trust me, the same skills are required when you apply for grad schools.
1) Do your readings
This is your gateway to even knowing what the field you're pursuing is about. And heck, this is absolutely the first thing you should do when you come to this forum. See that link "Search" at the top right hand corner? USE IT. See if your questions have been asked already before you post a topic. You won't publish a paper if it has been published ten years ago would you?
2) Formulate your thesis topic
The most important feature of a thesis topic is novelty/originality, and this is what we want to see in your posted topic. I'm not saying it needs to be completely new and unrelated to anything posted in this forum, but there has to be a twist or new perspective to it, much like your thesis topic. We do not need you to "reproduce" what others have already asked, and you should be highlighting the new points you're trying to bring up.
3) Data crunching
The applicant profiles serve as the "experiments" in the grad school application process, and guess what? You don't even have to lift a single finger to have access to all the data. Isn't that fantastic? So that being said, use the data to glean any patterns and information which is beneficial to your application. Your circumstance would make you focus on different aspects of the profile, and come up with different conclusions accordingly. This is your application, put in your own work. You won't tell others to do your research for you right? (if you do, please just stop the application and find a new career path)
Found a new pattern/trend that is really interesting and beneficial to others? Feel free to share! It's just like publishing a paper for the wider scientific community. Any original finding is more than welcome on this forum, and helps others who may be faced with a similar situation.
So with these criteria, I establish a post quality system which I christen Levels of Research (LOR). (I even put in a dandy acronym to help you guys remember).
L0, the layman: You don't even hit the criteria of doing literature review. You seriously want to be a scientist?
L1, the hopelessly lazy grad student: You show signs that you can read and digest information, but seemingly lack the ability to formulate original questions. Do better before you get kicked out of the forum.
L2, the fresh-eyed grad student: You demonstrate skills that shows your potential as a scientist, being able to ask relevant new questions on this forum. But as any good advisor would do, we'll prod you towards the data and give you some hints on the direction you should take, but you still need to do your own work.
L3, the ABD grad student: You're pretty much independent and competent in navigating around the forum for information and coming up with your own conclusions. You'll only bother your advisor when it is truly a startling new problem that no one has ever faced, and only after you have exhausted all possibilities.
L4, the doctorate: You have firmly established yourself in the forum community, and your opinions and advice is much sought after by other members. You aim to mentor newbies to the righteous path of self-research.
Basically, anything below a L2 is gonna be treated with utter disdain and disgust. If you want to be a physicist, show it. If you can hit at least a L2, we'll be happy to give you some nice advice, but we will not mollycoddle you. If you can hit a L3, we can definitely launch into a full-blown and lively discussion to come up with a solution. (This is a great example viewtopic.php?f=27&t=4682) And if you hit a L4, you'll be a rock star here, and that's the most awesome thing ever.