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Struggling to Select Dissertation Topic? Here is the key!

Are you at that stage in your graduate studies where it’s time to select a dissertation topic? Have you been exploring topics and seem to be stuck? Let’s be clear… you’re struggling to select a dissertation topic that is interesting to you because, most likely, you haven't read enough literature!

The first thing you can do is start with a thorough online search to gain inspiration by reading the most current literature related to your general interests. You can start by searching scholarly journals in your field. Actually searching dissertations will allow you to see the format and structure of what others have done as well. Journals and other articles can help you narrow down topics too.

Are you actually interested in the topic, or does it seem “easy”? Your topic should be something you are truly passionate about, something you can positively argue about, or something that you are intrigued by. Spend a few minutes each day writing down the things in your field that you are intrigued by, passionate about, or find there isn't enough written about it in your field. Picking a topic that is “easy” won’t get you anywhere, because you aren’t truly interested in it, and it will show in the long run.

Will the topic that you select be achievable? The only way to know this is if you have selected a question that has precise variables and is based on gaps in the literature. If you don't know what a literature gap is yet, download the Dissertation Lab app to view the literature lecture and chapter template. Keep the response to the gap you pinpoint as simple as possible so you can create a methodology that won’t break you at the end of the day. You don’t want to make the mistake of biting off more than you can chew during the selection process, which is why keeping it simple will be beneficial in the long run.

Once you have narrowed down a few topics with definitive research questions, present them to your advisor for feedback. Ultimately, your topic is your choice and your research, but you want to be sure it’s feasible and will be received well by others. Your advisor will be the person to guide you along the way and their feedback will be the most beneficial for you during this process, so it's a good idea to establish a deep, collaborative dissertation process right now.

Your dissertation topic should be unique, relevant to you, and fit a clear gap in the literature. Think about all this when selecting a topic that interesting the most to you, because you have to defend it when you present it to your committee. Use this as a reflection guide to come back to when you are ready to begin the process. Your advisor may be able to help you flush out the details, but you have to start reading the literature and digging deep into the research before you can approach your advisor. So get reading and get that topic fleshed out!!

Wishing you the best on your journey!

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