One of the greatest challenges of dissertation work is choosing a topic to write about. Use the strategies below to select a first-class topic.
Although it may sound obvious, the best thesis topic is the one you are familiar with but still want to learn more about. Make a list of classes you have taken in your graduate or undergraduate studies. Next, list the topics of your previous seminar or term papers. Would you like to explore any of these in greater depth? Next, list any questions or issues that you have a strong interest in, as well as everything you like to read or think about. Compare this list to that of your classes. What patterns emerge? What problem are you both well-prepared (by your studies) and eager to investigate?
Use brainstorming or freewriting techniques to come up with as many dissertation topics as possible. The point is to write down any ideas that come to your mind. Write for at least 15 minutes without a stop. Do it for several days in a row if needed. You should now have a long list with dozens of topics. Evaluate them critically, and select the three most promising ones for your short list. Re-write them as questions.
Read previous research studies in your field. Make a list of all calls for further research you find there. Does any of these ideas interest you? A sure way to produce a strong dissertation is to replicate a previous study while altering its research methods. Use a more current methodology or re-examine this research problem in another context. Just be careful not to enter a debate that has already been resolved.
If you can’t choose among your short-listed topics (or have doubts about a single remaining one), use a quick checklist to assess how good this topic is for your dissertation. Does this subject arise your strong interest? Do you have enough scholarly sources available? Can you manage this topic within your given time frame and resources? Do you know enough to do quality research on this topic? Does your topic add any valuable bit of scientific knowledge, however small? (Hint: a research topic about whether people who drink Starbucks coffee are better parents than those who drink Nescafe coffee is not a good dissertation topic. The results of such a research can only pose an interest to marketing managers of both these companies, not to the scientific community.)