Selecting a Topic for a Project, PhD or Doctorate


There have been many questions on the forums asking for topics for PhD, projects etc. So I thought to write this especially for those who are seriously looking for a well defined topic for their research. Here you go…

Choose a topic which is not very common

It should be a well defined research topic which is not very common and it should also not be that rare or unique where you will find difficulty in finding material for your research as it can be a hazard that wastes time and disrupts your mental flow and confidence. The availability of material in Libraries, internet, books and various magazines and journals. The topic should not be very vast specially if you are planning to do a doctorate in that subject and neither should it be very narrow. Find three or four topics that interest you, then, go to the library or an Internet-connected computer at home and conduct a preliminary search of each topic. Determine which project idea can be supported with plenty of published material. This way, you will be able to select a final topic that is both interesting and feasible.

Preliminary Searches-

Preliminary searches can be done pretty quickly; there is a lot of need to spend hours in the library. Some people may say that do a research on your own computer. Yes it can also be done but it would not be enough especially in the case where you are selecting a topic for Doctorate. Choose a topic and do basic search, take a note of the types of sources that appear for each topic. You will need a variety of sources, to include articles, books, and encyclopedia references in your dissertation. Don’t select a topic that doesn’t appear in books and articles, as well as on web sites.

Pick a topic that will be helpful in your career path-

If your goal is an academic career, pick a topic that you can easily modify into journal articles or a book, and that will lend itself well to future research. If you want to work at a teaching oriented institution, consider a topic you can use in the classroom. If you are going into industry, choose a topic that will make you more marketable. Hence it will make your study easier once you are clear about your future course of action and plan.

Search Several Databases-

If you find a topic that’s widely researched and seems to be available in a number of books and journals, make sure those are books and journals that you can use. You will need to do some research and reading before you select your final topic. Can you find enough information to answer your research question? Remember, selecting a topic is an important and complex part of the research process.

Be clear about your limitations

The research must be something that one can complete using resources which are available to her or him. For example, there is no point in the student setting out on a project which requires a lot of interviews across a wide geographical area if he or she is limited in the extent to which they can travel or has limited financial support.
The research design must be one for which you have either the methodological tools in hand to undertake, or which uses methodological tools which you can acquire before the project is to commence. For example, it is not good for you to develop a research design which requires a high level of statistical analysis if you are intellectually not suited to it.

Focused research questions or Objectives-

Once the topic is defined and you have narrowed down to one or two of your choice and have found that enough secondary data is available to support your research. Next step is to write down a focused research question or you can say the objective of your study. Why do you want to research on this particular topic, what are you going to study through this topic etc.

Write your topic as a thesis statement-

This may be the answer to your research question and/or a way to clearly state the purpose of your research. Your thesis statement will usually be one or two sentences that states precisely what is to be answered, proven, or what you will inform your audience about your topic. Especially for doctorate dissertation it is very important as most of the admissions are rejected in the initial stages on the basis of not very well written thesis statement.


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