How to Choose a Dissertation Topic

The first major challenge in the dissertation process is deciding the topic of your dissertation study. You need to consider how much research has been performed on the topic, whether it’s worth investigating further, how original your choice may be, and an understanding of whether or not it has been researched or is important to the field. If this seems like an awful lot to consider, keep in mind that your doctorate degree awaits you if you succeed.

How to find a Dissertation Topic

There are a number of ways to go about finding the dissertation topic you will end up pursuing. Topics rarely emerge from nowhere, you need to be proactive in your search. Some things you can consider, when choosing your dissertation topic are:

  • What are my interests?
    If you’re writing about something that excites you, writing becomes much easier. Think about your career and personal life, and what positive effect you could have on both by studying a specific topic.
     
  • What have I written about previously?
    Did one research paper stand out as something you’d like to pursue further? Did your professor give feedback or seem interested in you exploring the topic more? Consider reconnecting with your professor for direction or research the topic further to determine if it meets your needs.
     
  • What current theories are being explored?
    What’s happening in your professional field? Are there innovations taking place that could be explored further. As new theories emerge, it becomes easier to expand on original research.
     
  • What does Google say?
    If all else fails, you can always search for topics in your field online. Google Scholar is a great tool to help find scholarly research and publications after you settle on a topic idea.
     
  • What have other dissertations recommended?
    Dissertations often include a “Recommendations for Future Research” area that proposes future research about their topic. You may want to investigate other dissertations that peak your interest, and use their recommended research to fuel your own pursuits.

Now that you have an understanding of what to consider before choosing a topic, you will need to find literature relating to the topic you chose.

Items to Consider Before Choosing Your Dissertation Topic

Keep in mind that your dissertation will be a lot of work, in understanding this, you should choose a topic that will keep you engaged. Choose a topic that interests you long term, not just in the moment.

Understanding the commitment that your dissertation will take, remember to choose a topic that is manageable. You should understand how much time and budget you may require to pursue the topic, if it’s out of scope, then you should consider alternative topics. Your graduation date should be used as motivation but also a deadline to have successfully defended your dissertation.

Make sure that the topic you choose has enough data to work from, or that it has not already been exhaustively researched. If a topic is too fresh, there may not be enough research to pull from when creating your dissertation. If the topic has already been researched in depth, you may not be able to provide new hypothesis and research of your own. It is a good general rule to use research no more than 2 years old. Keep in mind that if you use research older than 2 years old, the research could be 5 or more years old by the time you complete your dissertation and may be entirely out of date.

Once you’ve chosen a topic that fits your needs, and meets the needs of your committee members/professors/dissertation chairs, then it’s time to get to work.

Additional Dissertation Reading

Now that you know how to choose a dissertation topic, you might find these articles helpful:

Prior Reading

Still have broader questions about dissertations in general? You may be interested in the following article: