When you come to the point of writing a dissertation, your mentor expects you to figure out a unique topic that will bring value to the research community. Maybe you had a great idea, but after the preliminary research, you realized someone thought of it before. Now, you have a problem: you have a general idea of what you would like to research, but you can’t narrow your ideas down to a specific topic.
This is where the entire process of dissertation completion starts: the topic. It will be the guiding point, and it’s often the most challenging aspect for PhD candidates. We’ll give you a guide to help you choose the right dissertation topic.
What’s Your Main Interest?
You’ve gone through several courses that covered more topics than you can count. By now, you surely identified one aspect of the studies that attracted huge interest. Think about those evenings you spent researching for information related to an interesting fact you found in the course materials.
If you can build up on previous research you’ve done, that’s great! Consider the past projects you’ve worked on, especially the suggested research section.
Your interests will easily lead to research topics. Consider few interesting topics and find out how much research has been done around them. Try to turn them into a unique foundation for research.
Talk to Other Candidates
Some of the other PhD candidates have already closed the topic. Talk to them, so you’ll make sure you’re not considering something that’s already being worked on. However, these topics can also inspire you. Each research question inspires another one. When you discuss ideas with the other candidates, you may come down to a concept you could work with.
You can also go through dissertations completed by previous students in the department. You’ll be inspired by the questions they impose, so maybe you’ll want to solve one of them.
Remember: The Topic Doesn’t Have to Be 100% Unique
Yes, your dissertation topic will be unique. A topic that has already been covered by another author will be rejected by your mentor and the committee members. However, you don’t have to try to think of a completely unique concept that has never been mentioned before. A research study can do one of the following things:
- Test or develop a method;
- Tackle an under-researched area;
- Take an existing study and put it in a different setting (in other words, you can get inspired by the research from other disciplines);
- Prove how theoretical concepts work with a relevant real-world problem.
Talk to Your Mentor
When you have a short list of topic ideas, discuss it with your mentor. That’s what they are there for: to guide you through the process and help you develop a useful dissertation. You’ll probably face few questions:
- How much do you know about this?
- Is there enough material to count on?
- How long will the research take?
- Will you need to invest money in the research?
- Do you have proper equipment?
- Does this research idea involve traveling?
The mentor will remind you to be practical. They will push you to pick the most interesting research topic only if it’s realistic.
Don’t Be Too Emotional
If you or a family member suffered from anxiety, you might be drawn towards that area of interest. If you’re too emotional about a topic, your approach may interfere with the whole research. Try to pick a topic you can be neutral about.
Do not procrastinate! You need a topic as soon as possible, so you can start with the research process.