A dissertation is a final challenge students must overcome to acquire their awaited degrees. Yet, writing it isn’t the toughest part of the matter. Picking a solid topic is.

The topic of your paper determines the scope of research and work and shapes the entire flow of your ideas. Pick a bad subject, and your thesis might end up taking too much time and energy. Moreover, it can even affect how easily you’ll get hired down the road. After all, the choice of a subject reflects your understanding of the field and ability to identify relevant issues and gaps in it. Hence, making the right choice is crucial in many ways.

But how do you make the right decision? Although it can feel terrifying, there is a clear roadmap to success, and we’ve prepared one for you.

Read and understand the given requirements

Understanding and adhering to the given requirements is crucial for success. Hence, if you are wondering how to choose a dissertation topic, the first thing you must do is read and understand what’s expected of you:

  • When is your paper due?
  • Are you limited in the word count?
  • Are you required to use specific methodologies or sources?
  • Should your paper be more of a professional or academic orientation?
  • Is there a specific list of topics that you must choose from?

Understanding all these and other requirements should help you determine the scope of what you can do with your dissertation. So be sure to study them thoroughly and clarify all details with your supervisor if necessary.

Pick a suitable field of research

Selecting a specific field of research is an incredibly important procedure that will define how easily you will handle the task.

Here’s a set of steps you should take:

  1. First, define what you are interested in studying within your subject. The more interesting the area will be to you, the more pleasant the work process will be.
  2. Critically evaluate every option. You must consider various features of every field, including the scope of work, feasibility, relevance, and others, to make a well-informed choice.

Pro tip: If you aren’t sure what your interests are, seek inspiration from your previous research and coursework. This can help you find some engaging ideas.

Do some preliminary research

So you have a general course for research, but how to pick a dissertation topic based on it? To do this, you need to sense the current state of research in your field of interest. Namely, you have to understand:

  • How well-researched the subject is?
  • What are some research gaps there?
  • What challenges might hamper the research process?

To assess the state of research, study existing literature, journals, and articles in the sector. You can leverage search engines like Google Scholar for this matter, skim through subject-related databases, and leverage your school’s library.

As you study the existing materials, note down some gaps and interesting ideas along the way. This can give you more options for potential topics.

Narrow down the topic to a specific niche

After doing some preliminary study and detecting the state of research in your area of interest, you need to narrow it down.

Why does this matter? No matter how engaging the subject is, not narrowing it down is risky. This can make your research simply impracticable.

There are many ways to narrow down your topic. For example, you can do it by relevant issues, location, causes, timeframe, demographic characteristics, and other factors, whatever works best for you.

Pro tip: If you don’t know how to select a niche yet, don’t worry. Narrowing down a topic can be a gradual process – you can always refine it as you do research and collect more information.

Understand your focus type of research early

If you are wondering how to choose a dissertation topic that perfectly aligns with your research process, here’s a non-banal tip – think about your research type early on.

To get you on the right track on this, here are some core types of research that you might be using:

  • Original data collection (for example, running unique experiments or field research);
  • Existing data analysis;
  • Cultural objects interpretation;
  • Scholarly approaches comparison.

Dissertations often require two or more research approaches. By identifying which types you will be focusing on, you will see which aspects of the subject you will be able to address, which can help in the topic choice.

Assess the relevance

When choosing dissertation topic, you should always keep your personal interests in mind. Nevertheless, you must also consider the relevance and originality.

For a dissertation, you want to select a subject that makes a valuable contribution to your field of study. It can have academic, social, or practical relevance to your subject:

  • Academic relevance means that the topic will bridge the gaps in knowledge and stimulate scholarly debate.
  • Social relevance is demonstrated when the topic boosts the understanding of society or informs social change.
  • Practical relevance is determined by the topic’s ability to offer a practical solution to an existing problem in the field or offer process improvements.

Align your potential topic with one of these relevance types to ensure it brings actual value.

Assess the feasibility

Finally, before you are ready to make a final choice of your topic, there is one more thing you must consider – feasibility.

Here’s how to pick a dissertation topic that’s plausible:

  • Consider if the scope of research and work fits into your deadline.
  • Define whether the topic gives enough scope for research (if there are enough materials to study it in full).
  • Assess your resources (i.e., funding, technology, etc.) and their sufficiency in gathering the needed information on the topic.

After this, be sure to reconsider the interestingness of the topic. Define whether you will still be enthusiastic about it throughout the entire research process. This is crucial for retaining your motivation.

Receive an approvement for your topic

So you already know how to choose a dissertation topic. What’s next?

Typically, you will be required to prepare a brief overview of the selected topic (aka a research proposal) and submit it to your supervisor or department to get their approval.

As soon as you receive an approval, you can get started with your research. The last thing you must keep in mind is that it’s generally acceptable to change your mind. That is, if in the process of research, you discover that the chosen topic isn’t good enough for you, you should be able to switch it. However, if you decide to do this, be sure to consider if you’ve got enough time for reshaping your dissertation process. And be sure to discuss any changes with your supervisor or department.