Picking a dissertation topic is a BIG Decision. “You will spend a great deal of time reading, researching, thinking, writing and talking about your dissertation topic,” says Dr. Heather Frederick.
“To pick a topic that you are only vaguely interested in is like marrying someone you only kind of like.” Additionally, picking a topic that is too close to home (for example, the impact of divorce while going through a divorce) can make it very difficult for you to maintain a scholarly voice. Dr. Frederick’s advice - “Just don’t do it!”
Your initial dissertation idea(s) may change as you begin conducting your literature review and writing your concept paper. However, you should be able to answer yes to these six questions:
1. Am I passionate about this topic?
2. Do I enjoy talking about this topic with others?
3. Do I really want to become an expert in this area?
4. Can I study this and still be interested in it a year from now?
5. Can I study this area from an objective standpoint?
6. Am I objective about this topic in general?
If you have answered yes to all six questions, then you may have a winner!
What’s next? Read as much as you can about your general research area. Ideas for dissertation research do not materialize out of thin air. Rather, a good idea will come after you have conducted a fair amount of reading in an area and then thought about the next logical step in a sequence of research.
Originally published in the Summer 2013 issue of Higher Degrees.