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How to choose your Research / Thesis topic

Updated: Feb 8

Firstly apologies for my absence on the blog for the past few months, I have been knee-deep in finishing my second year of the Doctorate and working on my Doctoral research for my thesis! As I have been doing a lot of work over the past few months on my Doctoral research, I thought it might be a good idea to write a blog post on choosing your research or thesis topic.

So you have your dissertation / thesis coming up and you are at stage 1... choosing a topic! It's such a difficult stage because there seems to be so many avenues to go down and explore and all topics will have their very own pros and cons, but hopefully this short guide will help to narrow down your topic of investigation.

1. Identify an area you are interested in or passionate about.

A good way to think about this one is to think beyond your dissertation or thesis and think about maybe the area or field you wish to work in after your studies or maybe if you wish to take research further what would that look like. The beauty about research is its not just like any other piece of work it can become a piece of work you continue to work on once you finish your studies.

2. Imagine you are going for a job / post graduate interview and asked to present your previous research, would this topic be interesting and appropriate?

I'm including this point because it is true, every post grad interview I had following my undergraduate degree they wanted me to either discuss or present my previous research, I was very pleased with the topic I chose because it was appropriate but also something I could confidently discuss and talk passionately about.

3. It doesn't have to be your 'life's work'.

I think a lot of students get hung up on the fact that their dissertation or thesis might become their 'life's work' and if it does that's great! But when choosing your topic try to not have this expectation in mind because it will add unnecessary pressure. One of my doctorate professors actually told us this on our first day and said 'a good thesis is a finished one' so also bare this in mind when choosing your topic for investigation.

4. Be realistic

When given free rein over a topic to research and work on it can be tempting to choose a topic that may not be so realistic to carry out in the short space of time you are given. Remember the time frame you are working in whether that is months, a year etc and remember the end goal is to finish, don't make your life too difficult, you'll end up regretting it later on.

5. Research current literature

Once you have some initial topic ideas begin doing some initial research of your own (prior to your literature review), this will help to give you an understanding of how people have previously narrowed down that specific topic of interest and the avenues they have looked into, this might spark some inspiration! It's also important to look for gaps in the current literature.

6. Discuss with your lecturers and professors

Lecturers are usually always open to having conversations about research, especially if your topic of interest is within their research area. Try to find a lecturer or professor who shares your topic of interest and have an open discussion. Also, you don't need to feel tied to your own university professors, google or LinkedIn search other researchers / lecturers who share your topic of interest and drop them a message to discuss it.

7. Discuss your initial ideas with your course mates and colleagues.

It's always helpful to have fresh eyes and ears, so have discussions with your course mates and see if they have any ideas to add or any questions that you might have not thought of yet.

8. Utilise your strengths

Think about your strengths and what you could bring to the research, if you are interested in analysis and mathematical data this would lend itself to a quantitative piece of research, if you enjoy thinking about, researching and analysing language or enjoying interviewing people this would be better suited to a qualitative research piece.

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