Selecting Your Dissertation Topic
We have all seen those nervous Ph.D. candidates, busily working on their dissertation topics. A dissertation is something a diligent student dreams of for many years, even before becoming a Ph.D. student. Finally, when that day comes, it can seem almost unreal selecting their dissertation topic. Selecting your topic for some can seem difficult. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s talk about the best way to select your topic.
Follow your passion when selecting your dissertation topic. This may sound very basic, but some students get so anxious about working on their dissertation that they actually ignore this simple and very practical advice. They are caught up in trying to select a topic that will “please” the committee or some other nonsense like that. The best topic that will actually make any committee happy is one that shows your best talents and skills.
This is likely one that follows your passions and interests related to your Ph.D. major of study. Think for a few days about what excites you about your course of study. You’ll probably come up with a few ideas to chase down.
Do some pre-research before narrowing down your actual dissertation topic. We’ve seen students select a topic only to discover that the research is quite difficult. Don’t let this happen to you. Take the time to do some pre-research and decide if this topic is one you want to devote months or even a year of study of your life to. Follow up on research materials that seem interesting, then make your decision.
Don’t select anything under pressure from your advisor. An advisor can sometimes try to force your hand to get you to pick a different type of topic than what you would like to research. While an advisor can guide you, don’t let them paint you into a corner with a topic you don’t want to dedicate serious time to. Remember, that this is your time and an important part of your professional life you are embarking on. Especially if you are thinking of teaching, people will take note of the topic you chose for your dissertation and will have expectations of you based on this topic.
It’s important that your dissertation subject be one that compliments you and that you are comfortable with. Find a “middle ground” between what your advisor suggests and what you desire so you can study something that interests you.
If you are having trouble finding a dissertation subject, turn to current events for ideas. Often you can find ideas for inspiration. From world news to popular culture, there are many on-goings that may spark something unique that you can comment on. Especially if you find a number of current events on a particular topic showing a trend, this can be great, discussing today’s influence on our culture. Look for ways to adapt current event topics into your subject of study.
Whatever it is that you select, always be certain you leave your own mark on it. The biggest mistake a student will make is when they get anxious and don’t pick a subject because they don’t think they will do a good job. Or they let their advisor select the topic because they don’t think they can come up with one on their own. Have confidence in yourself that you can have original thoughts and ideas. Your dissertation topic is only the beginning of a wonderful journey of study and exploration.