Updated: Sep 16, 2021
One of the most important and crucial steps before starting your Ph.D. research is choosing a research topic that rightly suits your interests. Many students might find it challenging since their whole degree and career depends upon this choice. It may seem to them that they have so many options or no option at all to conduct research. Sometimes it leads to a lot of confusion if you don’t work out properly before finalizing your research topic.
Here are some tricks and tips which you can follow to choose the right dissertation topic effectively:
1. Don’t Dive-in Blindly:
Many scholars start searching for a research topic directly without getting familiar with the actual research process. This is a common mistake. When they don’t know the basics of a research procedure they miss out on a lot of aspects that should be considered before selecting a dissertation topic. They have to understand things like research problems, research questions, literature review, fieldwork methods, qualitative and quantitative methodologies.
Scholars need to understand how research is conducted, what tools or techniques are used to conduct it, and how does research works. If you pursue an idea before you understand it, there are high chances of wasting a lot of time and ultimately reaching a dead end.
Click here to know how research is conducted: Steps to Conduct a Research
2. Analyse Your Boundaries:
Many institutions or universities have a certain set of requirements and rules which you need to follow while conducting your research. It may include the originality criteria i.e. how unique your topic has to be, topic restrictions, data requirements i.e. primary research, secondary or both, ethical framework, and methodology of research.
You Should Know the rules of the game before you play.
Moreover, you should check which faculty members or relevant people you can interview and which technologies or facilities you will be provided by your institution that would aid in your research process.
3. Have a Broader Aspect Initially:
Evaluate potential research topics by starting with a broader aspect. Make a list of all the areas you worked through in your previous studies. Identify the fields that you find most interesting. Your interest area should be intellectually appealing to you and not about your emotional charge, attachment, or preconceived notion.
Also check about the faculty support, their availability, and research interest because you wouldn’t like to choose a topic that no one is interested in supervising or providing help.
A dissertation topic also defines the path for your career after graduation, So. it is advised to specialize in that area that excites you the most and out of which you would like to make a career. In this way, you won’t lose motivation till the end and have research experience before applying for your dream job. Follow the link to see some example topics: Example Topics
4. Narrow Down Your List:
Once you have a broader aspect it is time to narrow down your list. For this purpose, you can review any past dissertations to identify a more refined niche of interest. You don’t have to go through all the papers just skim-read them i.e. review the full title, its abstract, executive summary, and introduction section. It will give you a fine idea of how the research was conducted and whether it is a worthy field for you.
Now analyze the topics covered previously, how these topics were converted into research questions, how broad or narrow, unique, important or justified were these topics. You need to keep going until you have narrowed down the broad areas into more niche-focused areas.
Here is how you can broaden or narrow down your research topics: Research Guides
5. Review the literature:
It is essential to understand the current stage of knowledge in these research areas and identify the gaps in them. These gaps are a great opportunity for you to get a starting point for your research. For this reason, skim-read the literature review of at least 5 articles as described before and find more articles through them. Doing this step helps you in writing the first 3 chapters of your research paper in the future because you already have an idea of where to find relevant information.
Check whether this work requires further research. If It does then you have a good chance to opt for it. If it is already well researched there is no point in adding another research that doesn’t make any difference. Keep in mind that your objective is to conduct research that adds value to the current work. You don’t necessarily have to choose an entirely new field.
6. List-Down the Potential Topics:
Once you have gone through the literature reviews of many papers it's time for you to list down the potential topics on a paper. You can do some brainstorming and choose the topics which you find most interesting and suitable. Weigh the pros and cons of each topic very carefully.
Now take a break for some time and revisit your list. Maybe there are some topics you don’t find interesting anymore, or you may have repeated one or two of them with a slight change. There may be some topics that couldn't be feasible for research. So you should narrow down the list to 3 instead of 5 and write down a brief elevator pitch of each topic.
7. Seek Expert Opinion:
So now you have a list of three potential topics along with their elevator pitch but obviously, you’ll have to choose one. It is quite possible that you have difficulty or confusion doing so and the best solution is to have an expert opinion. You can go to your professors or seniors who have the same research interests and show them your list of findings. They would guide you to the best topic.
8. Select One And Get It Approved:
All this grind would enable you to finalize the topic of your research easily. Once you have made a decision don’t doubt yourself again and again. Just know that you have followed all the steps and made the right choice so, stick to it. Write a brief description of your chosen topic, show it to your supervisor, discuss it with him and finally get it approved.
We hope that this blog has greatly helped you to understand how to strategically select a topic under investigation. Do let us know in the comment section below about your thoughts and experiences of your doctoral journey and what other topics you would like us to discuss.
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