How To Choose A Strong Topic For Your Dissertation
What are the most important decisions you’ll make in your life? Where to go to college, who to date, where to live, and what career path to follow are pretty big ones. But one of the biggest, and most stressful, is choosing a topic for your dissertation. It’s one of the more important and involved journeys you will ever undertake, and it can really shape your future! If that’s not enough to incite panic, not much else will. If you are panicking: don’t! Here are some tips to help you get started when you begin thinking about what you’re going to write your dissertation about.
- Choose something you’re interested in. You’re going to be working on this dissertation for the next few years; it’s going to be your full-time job, the thing you spend all your time thinking about. So don’t choose a topic that bores you, or you’ll find yourself procrastinating or even giving up entirely halfway through! Even if you think a certain topic suits your skills, and would be a way to “wow” everyone, if it’s not something you care about you won’t produce a good dissertation. The passion and interest just won’t be there. So pick something that interests you, and that you can see yourself working on for a long time.
- Choose something that you have a new idea about. Your dissertation shouldn’t just be rehashing what’s already been said about a topic; this isn’t high school, and you’ll be expected to create an entirely unique and original theory about the subject. So choose something that you have something fresh to say about. There should be plenty of research material for you to read and use as evidence, but try to pick something about that subject that hasn’t already been written. You should strive to be as specific as possible when picking your subject: if you love a certain novel, and feel like there is a strong symbolic element to the placement of characters in specific scenes, and you’ve never come across a paper or analysis that discusses it, you may be on to something.
- Pick a subject that matters. You shouldn’t just be providing an original analysis, it should be something that contributes to the larger literature available on a topic. You want to make your dissertation something that people will want to read because it’s interesting; ideally, your dissertation will join the existing canon and be used by other writers later on! So it’s vital that your dissertation pushes the envelope and is dynamic. You might have the idea to write about the types of cheese that were produced in Nazi Germany, which would certainly be original, but unless you could prove that the types of cheese were historically and sociologically significant, you won’t really be saying anything at all!
- Research the subject thoroughly before you dedicate yourself to it. It’s possible that the subject you are considering has never been written about before because it’s simply not a very strong subject. Do lots of preliminary research to find if there are theories and evidence to support your thesis. Maybe someone has already debunked what you are trying to prove, thoroughly, so the reason no one has written about it before is because the argument against it is too strong. Or, there may not be enough evidence to support your theory because it is too based in your own personal experience. Your dissertation is going to be lengthy, and needs to be convincing; if your subject is too personal, or doesn’t have enough supporting evidence, it’s time to start thinking about something new.
- Always run your ideas by an established mentor. You’ll need someone’s help throughout the entire writing process, so seek out someone you respect in your field and start a dialogue with them about your ideas. They’ll be great at pointing out where your subject may be flawed, or helping you find the right sources to support it. They’ve been through it already, so it’ll make it much easier on you if you have their support and help!