If you are in a Ph.D. program, you are probably required to complete a dissertation before your degree can be awarded. Choosing a dissertation topic or idea can be challenging and difficult. Your dissertation topic and ideas have ramifications for who is on your dissertation committee and where or how you collect your dissertation data. As such, you must choose your dissertation topic and idea carefully. Given the importance of your topics and ideas, there are several things you should consider before choosing your dissertation topic. Choosing a Dissertation Topic or Idea Based on Interest
If you choose to study a dissertation topic you are not interested in, your will move at a snail’s pace. In order to find a dissertation topic or idea you should think about research you have already completed in a class, as a part of your research program or employment. You should choose a dissertation topic and idea that is similar to work you might have already done. Choose a dissertation topic or idea you are already familiar with. Choosing a dissertation topic related to scholarly literature you are familiar is a time saver. If you take this route for your dissertation topic you will save time when it comes to retrieving the literature you need to review. You will also save time writing the dissertation literature review, as you will be familiar with this body of work.
Choosing a Dissertation Topic or Idea Based on Feasibility
You should choose a dissertation topic and idea that is feasible and can be completed in a timely fashion. Many students fall behind because they choose a dissertation topic or idea that is too broad or too big for a dissertation. When choosing your dissertation topic, remember that the dissertation is a scholarly exercise not a 5-volume series of books. Choosing a dissertation topic or idea that is unfocused will prevent your dissertation from being completed in a timely manner. Remember that your dissertation chair and committee want to see that you are capable of completing all phases of your dissertation, from conceptualization through dissertation completion. They also want to see that your dissertation idea and topic can contribute to the scholarship in the field, even in a small way.
So when choosing a dissertation topic or idea you MUST choose a manageable topic. Choose a dissertation topic or idea that you have the resources to complete. Dissertation resources refer to intellectual, time and financial resources. Finally, examine dissertations recently completed by people in your department. Seeing the dissertation topics and ideas others have focused on will give you a good sense of what your department will find acceptable for your dissertation topic.
Choosing a Dissertation Topic Based on Convenience
You should also choose a dissertation topic or idea that is convenient. Ask yourself several questions before choosing your dissertation topic: 1) Are there people in your department readily available to help you develop your dissertation topic and research? 2) Is there a faculty member who would be interested in working with you closely on your dissertation topic, ideas and research? If you choose a dissertation topic that faculty in your department are unfamiliar with, you will have a hard time finding dissertation support. This could make your experience frustrating and extremely difficult to complete. Also, a disinterested dissertation committee member or chair may not offer you the time and attention you will need to complete the dissertation.
If you choose a topic that a dissertation committee member or chair is familiar with and/or interested in, they will be more invested in the timely completion of your dissertation. They will probably be more likely to offer you the advice and dissertation assistance you will need throughout the dissertation process. In addition, dissertation committee members may have some data you can use for your dissertation or might allow you to add your instruments to an ongoing study. If this is not the case, you might want to reach out to an organization that is data driven to explore the possibility of choosing a dissertation topic or idea related to a pre-existing data set. This could save you a lot of time and effort when its time to collect data for your dissertation. Changing a Dissertation Topic or Idea
Changing or refining a dissertation topic or idea along the way is expected. You may decide you want to add or refine certain aspects of your dissertation topic. Such dissertation topic and idea changes are expected especially when the changes will help you finish the dissertation sooner. Finally choose a dissertation topic or idea that will help you meet your long-term goals. For example, if you know you would like to work in the area of elementary school education, your dissertation topic should somehow be related to elementary school education. In addition, dissertation coaches routinely help doctoral students with choosing and developing their topics and ideas.