Dissertation Topic Phd

Selecting a good dissertation topic is vital, as this will provide a strong foundation upon which to build the rest of the work. A weak dissertation topic will inevitably lead to a weak dissertation; something which you want to avoid happening at all costs! Often students realise too late that their dissertation is based on a bad choice of topic and have no choice but to start again.

Don’t want this to be you? Choose a dissertation topic with your strengths in mind. Of course, you want your topic to be impressive, but make sure you choose a subject area in which you feel comfortable working. If you attempt to write a dissertation based on a topic you are unsure of, it will show.

Dissect your chosen topic until you can’t think of anything else to write – then use your notes to work out whether this particular topic will make a good dissertation. You can also ask your tutor for advice – after all, they know what they’re talking about! Once you have selected a strong, interesting topic, you’re well on your way to writing an amazing dissertation – good luck!

Note: This week, I am sharing with you a great post by Vilna Bashi Treitler, which has been posted over at the SREM Mentoring blog.

Are you struggling with choosing a dissertation topic?

Choosing a topic can be one of the most important choices you will make in your professional career because it determines the first major piece of research for which you’ll be known, provides a focus for the group of professors you wish to solicit for your dissertation committee, and it is the first thing (along with the text of your letters of recommendation) that future colleagues will scrutinize when considering you for a job in their department.

The bad news is that all this can make choosing a dissertation topic pretty overwhelming. The good news is that I try to make the process somewhat easier by explaining to you how you might get started and avoid certain pitfalls. I have four pieces of advice to offer that I hope you follow, plus a tidbit that is not mandatory.



First, “push the envelope.”

You’ve probably heard a gazillion times that new research should “push the envelope,” but I’d bet that the likelihood that you had a clear explanation of what that means has not been given to you. Well, I’m going to explain it, right here, right now.

It is a phrase with a mathematical reference. An envelope is a term for the curve that encloses all other curves in a family of curves. When the term was used in aeronautics, it referred to the outer curve describing the limit of an aircraft’s performance. Test pilots were encouraged to push the envelope in order to test the aircraft, and the phrase made it to the common lexicon in Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book about test pilots, The Right Stuff. (Thanks, for the info, Michael Quinion, at http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-pus1.htm!)

Envision the whole of sociological knowledge as contained in one big dataset, complete with keywords and subject headings. Surely, you would contribute something to the dataset that would ostensibly fit under a subject heading, and possibly a set of existing keywords, but to push the envelope your topic should meet meet three criteria.
  • It doesn’t repeat something that’s already in that dataset.
  • It is something that sociologists interested in the topic will want to read when searching on information on the topic. That is, your research is not just different from the other work on the issue, but also has an interesting take.
  • It is research that actually teaches researchers in your area of interest new information and will be useful to them when they are framing their own research projects. That is, not only is your research interesting, it shouldn’t be ignored if other sociologists want to do research in the same areas.
Honestly, you need only come up with a question that, when answered, would shed new light on what others have done before – but the idea is for that new light to truly have us look at things in a whole new way.


Read the remainder of the advice here: http://srem-mentoring.blogspot.com/2012/06/how-to-choose-dissertation-topic-four.html

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