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Dissertation proposal help

Dissertation proposal help: finding an interesting topic

Nov 06, 2012 - Posted to  Dissertation Writing
Selecting a topic for your dissertation as well as preparing the proposal are the first stepping stones to carrying out the all-important dissertation. Many students suffer with not only the prospect having to accomplish this momentous task, but also from the inability to get past the first step-topic selection. This anxiety is rightly due as unlike a college essay, in which a topic can easily be brought about through simple brainstorming and listing, the dissertation topic is a hefty one and requires a great amount of thought and effort. The main reason for this is that the quality of your topic, as well as the proposal that houses it, is crucial to your career and the fulfillment of your long-awaited academic pursuits.

Your dissertation topic

When attempting to select a dissertation topic several things should be considered.One of the most important of them is to settle on a topic that is not only relevant and viable to your field but also seizes and sustains your interest.

Does the topic really interest you?

It goes without saying that dissertation proposal writing and your topic should be something that interest you. But often times students may lose sight of this very early on (especially when frustration sets in and a suitable topic is far from sight). You may find yourself settling on a topic that you are not pleased with due to the material that is readily available to you or due to outside pressure from other individuals. Despite any surrounding issues that may come up, think about time investments, and choose something that will sustain and engage you as a writer and a researcher.

Is it a problem worth solving?

A good question to ask yourself is, Why should I care? As this is also what your readers will be asking as well. The research question you pose or the problem that you would like to answer should be considered something noteworthy and respectable in your field of study. Browsing and scanning previous research and writings in your particular discipline can provide you with a measuring stick of which issues are considered priority or worth acknowledging and which issues have been previously explored or would not be considered top choices by professionals in the field.

Hunt out the theories

Instead of choosing the topic and then the theory that it addresses, a smart way to choose a topic would be to reverse this order and research particular theories in your field to guide you to a suitable dissertation topic.
*For example if you are writing a Sociology dissertation, and enjoy the concepts present in Marx's conflict theory, after researching this theory further you can develop a broad question that relates to this theory. For instance the correlation between class and race, or more specifically African-Americans and socioeconomic status, disparities and gaps in social justice etc. With this method of topic selection you already have a theory in mind to connect to other theories and have significantly narrowed down your research goals and objectives.

Attend seminars or lectures

In addition to getting out of the library, and into some fresh air, attending scholarly seminars and lectures in your field can provide you with a substantial amount of useful information that may be hard to find elsewhere. Along with overviews of major concepts and ideas educational seminars by current professionals in your discipline may also give you a window into the current 'happenings' and 'hot topics' being discussed amongst colleagues. This is another great way to gain useful information and insight into possible dissertation topics and dissertation proposal writing. And the next idea would be to converse with advisors, tutors, and professors on the best topics to choose for dissertation purposes.

Get to chatting

Your advisors and teachers are experienced in the field that you plan to research and have likewise performed similar investigative task in the past. Though they may not all be so willing to provide their time in some cases, you should at least be able to obtain some viable tips and advice to help push along in the process. Additionally, it would also be wise to discuss possible ideas that you have been pondering over with your advisors and ask for a bit of direction with regards to which topics are worthy of consideration and which are not.

Browse other dissertations

This technique is similar to others in that you are reviewing the literature on your particular subject of interest. This can help to spark ideas and give you a general outline of what topics may work for your own research. A lot of times we may think of books and scholarly articles only when it comes to literature reviews, leaving dissertations out of the loop. But dissertations, at least ones from reputable universities, are scholarly works in their own respects and should be sought out as well for ideas and suggestions. You may find in another person's dissertation a gap in findings or an interesting point that was not fully developed- you can capture these opportunities as a basis for your own problem or question.

Additional tips and advice

In addition to the techniques mentioned above the following are some useful tips to also consider when identifying a suitable dissertation topic and writing a dissertation proposal.
  1. When reviewing the literature for your subject matter, take notes to remind yourself of why a particular statement or quote stood out to you. Its likely that after the fifth article you've forget the significance of that highlight or asterisk.
  2. Make sure your topic is realistic and manageable. Some of the best dissertations are concise literary works. A massive topic is hard to contain and may result in a poorly developed proposal.
  3. Think career. It wouldn't hurt to choose a topic that can also assist you in obtaining your dream job. One way to do this is to target or pinpoint a specific subject that you know would play favorably on your curriculum vitae.
  4. Be diligent in your search for a suitable topic. Don't give up easily and settle on a meager area of investigation. This may result in your proposal being rejected and a lot of time being wasted.
  5. Choose something that you feel is compelling and adds to the field. This was discussed in part earlier but is basically a reminder to write something that matters and can be of a benefit to others.
  6. 'Hot' and current topics are good to choose because they show that you are engaged and on top of the field that you are studying in. But also try to avoid overly written topics as you may run the risk of boring your review committee or being rigorously compared to other candidates with similar topics.
Lastly, remember that your dissertation proposal is not your dissertation. This is often one of the biggest pitfalls graduate students fall into when preparing a proposal. Your dissertation proposal writing should definitely mirror your actual dissertation but should in no way resemble it in length and depth.
Also if you are seeking a grant or funding for your research be sure to detail cost specifications in the methods section of your proposal. After the hard work of selecting a compelling dissertation topic your next hurdle will be to convince your reviewers that your topic is worthy of acceptance. This will hopefully not be difficult to accomplish if the above mentioned precautions are taken when initially selecting a topic for investigation.
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