Doctoral Dissertation Topic Selection

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  • If you are reading this, it is likely you are considering starting your PhD but you are still unsure about what topic to choose. As you will see, finding the right topic is not as straightforward as you may initially think, but with patience and the right attitude, you will be successful.

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    Here are a few tips that may help you find the right research topic for your PhD studies:

    1. Before making up your mind, read several dissertations on related subjects to get familiar with different ideas and individual research styles. You will find your own style while writing the paper, but starting with a diverse outlook will be of great use to you.
    2. Choose a topic that YOU are passionate about. Make sure to search for a topic that interests you. Follow your professor’s advice, but make your own choices. After all, you are on your way to becoming a ”doctor” and an independent researcher. You will have to work on this subject for at least 3 or 4 years, so you should make sure you like it.
    3. Investigate old ideas you might have come across during your Master’s studies. Check out old resources you might have used for previous research during your graduate years.
    4. Rather than looking for one perfect idea, it is better to consider several ideas. In the initial stages, you should be open to the craziest notions. Just start with one and consider multiple variations. Think of as many different new topics as you can. Even if many of them won’t be useful, in the end, they will bring you closer to THE idea.
    5. Before deciding and starting working on the research topic, you should spend some time in advance to find out if what seems like a good idea is the right one. Make sure nobody else has already completed a similar research. Try to bring supporting arguments why your research matters. Test potential ideas to see if they are possible. Consider access to needed resources and information.
    6. Keep your topic to the point. Most PhD students appear to start their PhDs with over-ambitious projects. The key is to ensure that the big topic can be resumed into one central research question.
    7. Through testing, you can be sure that your main research question will change form. Be as flexible as you can. Every good researcher should be open and adapt to new evidence. The point of your thesis is to find the answers, even if they are uncomfortable.
    8. Seek advice from experts BEFORE deciding on your doctoral dissertation. This is also part of testing and investigating your ideas in advance. Accept problematic questions, as they offer a general outlook on your work. Therefore, regular contact with your PhD advisor is very valuable for your success.

    Before starting your work, you should know that there will probably be moments when you’ll feel fed up with your chosen topic. It is common to feel that you might have chosen the wrong research topic. Don’t worry! It’s all part of the process. It is similar to building a long-term relationship. However, this time, you are building a relationship with your dissertation as well as with yourself. So, treat your work with respect and accept your feelings towards it. There will be pleasant and rewarding days as well as difficult ones. Just remember that difficult moments help develop your doctoral dissertation and bring it to a successful completion.

    Good luck!


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