How to pick your dissertation topic
PICKING YOUR DISSERTATION TOPIC
When thinking of a possible topic for your dissertation it can be hard to know where to start. Spending
time choosing the right topic and research question is a very important part of the dissertation process.
To get you started, why not think about the following questions:
• What have you covered on your course so far? Which topics were interesting?
• What are your career ideas after completing your degree?
• Are there any new or developing areas in your subject?
• What questions do you feel have not been answered on topics so far?
Looking at overlapping answers to the above question, or creating mind maps may also help you to get
ideas for your topic.
Conducting preliminary research
Before deciding on a topic it is essential to investigate what research already exists. This can prevent
problems further the down the line. This initial searching exercise should enable you to see:
• Is there enough research on your topic?
• Is the scope of your topic realistic?
• Has your question already been answered?
Use the Library Catalogue Plus and Google Scholar as a starting point to find books, journal articles
and more about your topic.
This will indicate if there is enough related research for you to make reference to in your own
Writing the research question
Once you’ve chosen a dissertation topic it’s time to start thinking about your research question.
Your question is not the same as your topic. It needs to be phrased so that it asks something
specific and focused. It is important, as it will shape the whole of your dissertation going forward.
Your question should help you communicate the problem or gap your dissertation will address. Other
components of your dissertation including your literature review and methodology will progress from
your research question.
Before settling on a question you may want to ask yourself:
• “Will it keep me interested?”
• “Can I answer it with the time and resources I have?”
• “Is there someone who can supervise me?”
• “Do I have an idea of how I may go about answering it?”
• “Is it theoretical or empirical?”
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