10 Tips on How to Come Up with Research Topics and Ideas for Your Dissertation or Thesis
How to develop research ideas and topics for your dissertation. Well, in this article, I’m going to present you with 10 ways to do so, of course, you don’t need to do all of them, you can do a few of them and make them match if you want. Let’s get to it.
By the way, I’m going to be talking about Master’s dissertations in this article. But a lot of the stuff that we’ll be talking about in this article would also apply for bachelor’s research and to some extent doctoral research.
Read Previous Dissertations: The first thing you can do and probably should do is to read a few dissertations written by students of the previous academic year. Doing so will give you some very straightforward examples as to what are acceptable research topics that can lead to successful dissertations.
It is better to read recent dissertations so dissertations written by last year students were the year before that, because those students were probably instructed and supervised by professors and faculty members who are still here.
I mean, if you read dissertations written by students from 1520 years ago, those students were probably supervised by professors who are already retired by now, rules and regulations may have also changed a great deal.
So read last year’s dissertations that will give you a pretty good idea as to what are the current topics that the current faculty can instruct you and supervise you on? This is a very simple and pragmatic thing to do. So go to your University’s library, go to the section that contains all the Masters these rotations, grab some from last year or maybe the year before, and give them a good read.
I always say to my students if you want to write a song, first you have to listen to many songs. If you want to write a poem. First, you have to read and recite a lot of poems. Same thing with research. If you want to write a research dissertation, first go and read some.
Simply Ask For Suggestions From Your Research Advisors who were thesis supervisor: often these professors and faculty members already have an existing research line, meaning they have been conducting and publishing research on a particular topic.
So if you simply and directly ask them for suggestions, and you indicate that you’re open to conducting research within their general research lines, you might be surprised by how helpful they can be.
They can share with you a lot of information, a lot of suggestions, a lot of research papers and articles and literature on their topic. So be open minded and just ask for suggestions, you might then have a very good topic essentially handed right to you.
Now this is not to say that you shouldn’t be creative yourself. I’m just saying this is one possible avenue that you could pursue, you don’t have to do it. But you could consider it simply asked for a research topic from your research supervisor.
Look at the news. Think about what’s current and interesting and might require research, it might be too much of an exaggeration to say that your dissertation research should address some kind of urgent societal need.
But reading the news and finding something in it that you can turn into a research study might be a great idea, because it shows that your research is based on something that is happening right now.
It gives immediate relevance and significance to your research. And if you are working with professors who are really eager for attention and Limelight, they’re gonna jump at your research proposal. Yeah, I’ve seen that happen.
So you don’t have to worry that no professor will pick your proposal, some of them surely will, if they sense that this is going to give them publicity. So read the news that might give you a very good idea for your research topic and attract some attention seeking professors who would be so eager to work with you.
Think about what interests you in your field: Look, you will be the person who’s going to be doing all the work, you’re the person who’s going to conduct the research, you will be working on this thing for a year and year and a half, two years, depending on how long your master’s program is going to be.
So this research topic needs to be something that you are interested in. It should be something that you’re comfortable with, because you’re going to be working on this thing for quite some time. So think about what you like and make sure that the final topic is of sufficient interest to you so that you can commit yourself to it.
Remember the scope and the constraints: When we are developing research ideas, we need to be aware not all ideas and topics are open to us because you are writing a master’s thesis rotation as part of your master’s program in order to get a master’s degree.
So your research topic needs to be somehow related to your master programs’ general field, you can’t be researching a topic that is deemed by most people to be completely irrelevant to the subject of your master study.
So keep this in mind, you’re conducting this research in order to get a degree. So read your thesis guide or module book or syllabus in order to know what the general scope is, there may be some legitimate constraints. When it comes to selecting your research topic, make sure you stay within the permissible scope.
Consider a replication study: When you’re reading dissertations written by earlier students. When you’re scanning through research journal papers, you might come across a study that you feel Hey, this is really interesting. What they did here is really quite clever. It’s something I could do to maybe I could replicate this Great, why not?
You could consider doing a replication study. Maybe even with some tweaks made to it, you could follow their research design in general terms, but add something to it, you can measure some additional variables or create an additional experimental condition, whatever, be creative.
The point is, you could consider a replication study without or with some tweaks.
Look at the future research directions section in research papers: In almost all research papers published in journals. Towards the end of the paper, there is always a section called future research directions or limitations and future research, something like that.
That is where the researchers put forth what they think is interesting and promising research directions for future studies. Well, give that section a quick read, it might inspire you to come up with something interesting for your research thesis or dissertation.
Now, I must admit that sometimes these future research directions are written in a standardized manner. If the author’s use the survey design, they’re going to say something like this,
“Because we used a survey design direction of causation could not be established with 100% certainty. Therefore, we recommend that future researchers utilize a longitudinal or experimental research design in order to better establish causality.”
So you would see this kind of language in a lot of survey papers. So my point here is sometimes these future research directions are almost predictable. They’re almost standardized texts. So just because these people say that future researchers should do something doesn’t mean that those things are very easily doable.
But still, I would say it is worthwhile to read these future research directions sections in research papers, because even though some authors are only putting forth standardized and predictable recommendations, other authors might indeed be presenting interesting ideas in this section of their paper. So give this section a quick read, it just might help you develop an interesting idea for your dissertation.
Built on your own earlier research: So this is a very practical thing to do, here in the University where I am currently working students need to do a big research project in year three. So when they go to year four, and begin to work on their best dissertation, many students will simply choose to work on the same topic that they worked on the year before.
And this is because they are already familiar with that topic, they already know quite a bit about it. And they have already collected quite some literature and research papers and things like that.
So their earlier research topic will become the topic for their best dissertation. And in our master’s program, we see students building all the research topic of their bachelor’s dissertation and turning that topic into the topic of their master thesis.
So if you are unsure which topic you should research about, why not build on your earlier research topics? It’s an option to consider.
Be pragmatic: So this point has two sub factors,Think about the methodological aspects of your potential topics. By this I mean, we should think ahead a little bit. Sometimes at the beginning of the semester, my friends say to me, Hey, I have this very nice topic for my dissertation. And I have already formulated some potential research questions. What do you think?
And I would often say, that’s very good.
Now tell me what kind of people do you think would work the best as your sample?From what kind of people do you plan to collect data?And what sort of data collection instrument are you planning to use?
Because the thing is, I might have a great topic and fascinating research questions. But when it comes to conducting the empirical research, if nobody is willing to participate, if they all refuse to fill out a survey, or be interviewed or participated in the experiment, then perhaps this great topic is just a little bit too difficult to research.
So we’re in the process of developing research topics, we need to think ahead a little bit, we need to try to anticipate some of the methodological aspects of conducting this research study in order to make sure that the research topic that we’re formulating is actually one that can be smoothly and successfully researched.
Don’t let your passion blind, you be realistic: In one of my earlier points, I mentioned that this research topic should be something that is interesting to you, because you’ll be spending quite some time working on this thing. So it should be something you’re interested in, it should be something you’re comfortable with.
Now, the extreme version of that is sometimes I come across students who say that they’re really passionate about a particular topic or that they’re only going to research a topic about which they are truly passionate. Now, if that good, I suppose different people will feel differently about this, but my opinion is when it comes to conducting research and writing a dissertation.
Passion may not be necessary, or necessarily helpful, it might even be counterproductive.
Why is that? Well, firstly, passion may not last for very long, it wears out quite quickly, especially if we’re talking about writing a master dissertation. We’re talking about young people who are 23-24 years old, for most of these young people. How long can passion in a research topic last? Realistically speaking,
In addition, think about this. If you’re going to work on this thing for a year and year and a half or two years, or in the case of the PhD project. You’ll be working on this topic for four years or five years, no matter how initially passionate about this topic, it will just become your work.
Now, of course, your topic should be of interest to you, you should be comfortable with it, because you’re going to be spending a lot of time on it. But don’t let passion blind you don’t say oh, I am only going to choose a topic that I am really passionate about, because you know what that passion will probably wear out before you know it.
So be realistic, be pragmatic, choose a topic that on the whole with All Things Considered is the most doable topic, a topic that you’re interested in and comfortable with a topic you’re able to collect empirical data for a topic that your supervisor is happy and willing and able to instruct you on etc, etc.
Because often these pragmatic factors are probably more important for ensuring that you can write your dissertation successfully just my opinion for you to consider.
Evaluate Potential Topics: If you have now done all these things we have talked about probably you now have a list of potential topics that you could focus on in your master’s dissertation.
Now would be a good time for you to evaluate all these potential topics with someone and my suggestion is talk with your supervisor if possible. As I have indicated earlier, the best research topic is the one that on the whole with different things considered is most likely to lead you to success, it should be to name a few factors,
a topic that is relatively interesting,a topic that is empirically researchablea topic which you have a sample who is willing to participateA topic that your supervisor is willing and able to help you with, etc.
Now, in addition to these obvious factors, often there may be hidden things you didn’t even think of, but your supervisor might be able to indirectly guide you through these things.
For instance, maybe within this particular school or faculty, some research topics carry more weight, and if you research those you are more likely to succeed.
Or maybe a specific research methodological design is preferred in this faculty because it is part of this faculty’s tradition, or it is part of the general research agenda here.
In other words, there may be some hidden undercurrents that you didn’t even know about, but your supervisor can help you maneuver through these things.
So here is my last point. Evaluate your potential research topics with your supervisor. At least hear them out. That’s about it for this article.
What do you think about these 10 things? What do you agree and disagree with? What clever ideas do you have for developing research topics? Leave your thoughts and comments down below and thank you for reading.
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