I'm an undergraduate and am looking forward to becoming an academic; do the whole PhD stuff and start doing research. I'm interested in a variety of computer science related things but lately P2P technologies have really caught my interest. I have the impression that I need to choose one of the computer science fields to perform my PhD studies in, so now I'm wondering how to do that, given my interest in P2P technologies. Would P2P fall under the area of distributed systems and such? Which fields of computer science are most relevant to P2P systems?

  • $\begingroup$ I do not know whether it is a good PhD topic, but it is an important one. $\endgroup$
    – babou
    Commented Apr 10, 2015 at 22:18
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidRicherby, you're right. I took another look, and I think you're absolutely right and my criticism of the question was a little bit unfair. Thank you for taking the time to make the case for why this was OK. Anyway, hopefully this revision feels like an improvement you and Luca, but if you disagree, feel free to roll it back. $\endgroup$
    – D.W.
    Commented Apr 12, 2015 at 3:23
  • $\begingroup$ @D.W. OK -- glad we're both happy. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 12, 2015 at 10:23
  • $\begingroup$ maybe find the intersection of a p2p technology and its implementation. one emerging example, bitcoin. anonymous networks such as Tor also have a lot of theory. there is a lot of overlap between some areas of crypto & distributed systems. social networks could even be considered p2p technology although maybe stretching it. queries such as these sometimes go over better in Computer Science Chat $\endgroup$
    – vzn
    Commented Apr 12, 2015 at 15:43
  • $\begingroup$ Networks (obviously); Distributed; communication; crypto & security; algorithm analysis; may even parallel computing, and possibly many others, depending on the exact application. $\endgroup$
    – Ran G.
    Commented Apr 12, 2015 at 22:23

2 Answers 2


Distributed systems, algorithms and even graph theory are fields that are likely to be relevant.

But, in a sense, "fields" aren't particularly relevant. You don't get a PhD "in a field" but, rather, by finding an advisor who wants to do a research project with you. That person would probably be in one of the fields I've suggested but being in a field isn't a formal status.


Not repeating previous answer.

Security, cryptography, zero knowledge techniques are probably also very relevant. Essentially you should analyze what properties you expect from your P2P system, and that include two kinds:

  • properties that you would expect from any implementation of the same service.

  • properties that only P2P can provide.

Typically, many services can be fully centralized, but that gives too much power to whomever can access all the data. Possibly P2P can avoid that. At what cost?

Identifying the questions you might have, and the way they were so far addressed may help you identify relevant fields. Look at all existing P2P systems.

For example, the first one may have been Internet TCP/IP. What did it rely on? I would guess that probability theory has some part in it. What else?

And if you manage to produce a working P2P search engine that is competitive, I hope they give you two PhDs for the price of one.


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