How To Pick A Dissertation Topic: 10 Tips From PhD Holders


Are you having trouble picking a dissertation topic? Choosing one worth your time can be one of the most important yet stressful choices you will ever have to make. Your dissertation will determine the first major part of your professional academic success. It’s no wonder so many PhD candidates struggle to come up with that perfect topic. Here are 10 tips from PhD holders to help you settle on the best topic:

Push the limits of your knowledge: Your dissertation should be a challenge. Don’t write on a topic you already have vast knowledge about. Keep in mind that you want to broaden the scope of your knowledge.

Match methods with theory: Be sure your methods work well to prove your theories. Some students use research methods that don’t prove (or disprove) their own ideas, and essentially write pages and pages of useless information.

No question should be easily answered: No dissertation question (topic) should be answered with a simple yes or no. Your dissertation should contribute to the academic discussion of a specific topic. Just like before it should be challenging and be a valuable piece that other academics can use.

Eliminate the bad questions: This is kind of a no-brainer. Some dissertation topics are simply bad. If your only justification for taking on a project is that no one has ever looked at it before, it generally means you don’t have a good topic.

Stick with interesting topics: Take a step back from your proposed topic and consider how interesting it will be for others who read it. The more interesting your topic the more likely you will be in wowing the advisory committee.

Make your topic manageable: Never choose a topic that is too broad that you simply can’t handle all of the work. If you leave several unanswered questions on the table your dissertation will feel incomplete.

Stay within your discipline: If you’re in business or economics, you should have no business writing about literature or history. Stay within your discipline, thus ensuring your dissertation is well received by your peers.

Work with your advisor: Be sure to take your dissertation topic ideas to your advisor for some much needed feedback and suggestions. Remember that your advisor will be a part of the research and writing process, so his or her ideas are extremely valuable.

Consider your dissertation committee: Look into the backgrounds of your committee’s members. Knowing a thing or two about their expertise will help steer you towards topics they may find more interesting than others.

Read other works in your area: Pick up a couple of academic journal articles on topics that fall within your area. Not only will you come up with ideas of your own, but you may get a head start on your research.

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