How To Choose A Topic For Your Phd? - Productive Hints


Writing a publishable dissertation starts with choosing a suitable topic. Meet with your advisors early – and often – to discuss expectations and guidelines, and allow yourself enough time to clarify exactly what you want to cover in your dissertation.

Five Questions to Consider

  • What fascinates you? Angers you? Moves you to tears? In order to complete your dissertation, you need to choose a topic that you care deeply about and that will hold your interest for the next year – or several – as you complete your paper. If you choose a topic that intrigues you, chances are you will produce a dissertation that is informative, compelling, and that others will care about as well.

  • What do your advisors recommend? Mentors are committed to your success and know which topics are best suited for your program, your experience, and your dissertation committee. Often they will present a list of topics that they know need additional research and suggest those as suitable topics for dissertations. Be very cautious about choosing a topic that differs greatly from those recommended by your advisors, and be certain you have their full support before beginning.

  • What have others written? Do preliminary research on two or three possible topics that interest you, and find out what other scholars have identified as areas that need further research. Picking up where the existing research leaves off is a practical way of narrowing – or expanding – a topic to make it suitable for your dissertation.

  • Is there a call for papers related to this topic? If so, you may have just found a perfect topic for your dissertation and a possible publisher once it is completed. And, depending on the discipline you are studying and the entity issuing the CFP, you may be able to identify funding sources for any research or experimentation required for your dissertation.

  • How much time do you have? This is a question that needs to be answered early on because different programs have different deadlines and requirements for submitting your dissertation. If you need two years to conduct experiments and complete research to adequately cover your topic, have you started early enough to allow time for this? If not, you may need to choose a different topic or approach this particular subject from a different angle that can be adequately researched in the time allowed.
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