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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  • Thank you Archana,

    Wonderful article, its a must read for anyone who proposes to steer in this direction. I am going to mark this article to all the research based question I answer. Once again hearty congratulation for this !

  • Sweety gupta

    hi my name is sweety gupta right now i am pursuining Mba inHR N FINANCE AS MY DUAL MAJOR SUBJECT i jst want to know after mba i want to do Phd or law . it is possible for me that i can take admission in law ? and i want to do Phd in any subject which is related to HR pls any one can guide me ?

  • Archna Khurana Sharma

    Thanks so much Nabomita. Have gone through so many queries so thought to add this write up. Hope it works for the people. Thanks Again.

  • Alia Fatima

    Hello Friends,
    I am new to this forum.. and want to do M-Phill in HR, could you please help me in selecting the topic, i would like to do Recruitment in Government Organization, Please help and suggest………Alia

  • Rajshree

    Hi, I found this article very interesting. As i wanted to do my P.hd it gives me a correct idea of where to start, what to do first, so on & so forth..I’ m very thankful for the brilliant article you wrote up.

  • zul

    thank you for this article. I’m in the midst of looking for a good title for my work

  • Katllinda

    hi, my name is Belinda. I am new in this forum, can you help me get a topic that is related to robotic and mathematics.

  • shubby

    I am suppose to start my PhD this year but i still dont have a topic. i did my Masters in apllied Mathematics and now i got a studentship in Robotics. Can you please help me get a topic in path planning(Robotics) that will also involve my background.

  • Archna Khurana Sharma

    Hi SHubby,

    My knowledge is limited to certain areas, for robotics i would not be able to suggest anything….Why don’t you look for a guide first and then with his help decide the topic of your choice.

  • Archna Khurana Sharma

    Hey Katlinda,

    This article provides an insight on how we can select a topic…as suggested to Shubby…please follow that….

  • Dinesh Naik

    Dear All,
    I am trying to pursue my Ph. D. In Pshchology. Please guide me regarding the university which provides this.
    Dinesh Naik
    M: 09449457751

  • Aneesha

    Hi Archana, quite insightful.

    Would be able to guide me on the process – step by step for taking up Ph.d


  • Archna Khurana Sharma

    Thanks Aneesha….I’m glad it helped you….

    All the best for your PhD.:)

  • Aarti

    hi im new to this site.this article is very informative .im searching for the topic ‘work life balance specialy in banks’so plz guide me more regarding serach on above stated topic.thanx

  • Archna Khurana Sharma

    I’m glad that you all liked this small effort of mine…hope it will be of help….thanks for your time and efforts for the valuable comments..

  • Archna Khurana Sharma

    Thank you Zul…if it is of help to even one person my purpose is solved….:)

  • Archna Khurana Sharma

    Thanks Aarti..for your inputs…
    Once you have decided on a topic, please seek some guidance from your guide on the methodology and material. He would be the right one to guide you in the right direction. Whatever we will be able to do, we will provide that help.

  • Aarti

    hi archana
    thanks for ur sugestion but i just want to enhance my knowledge as read literature on topic’work life balance’ and what r the various net links for the same.

  • Archna Khurana Sharma

    Hi Aarti..

    There are articles on Work life balance here…just search with the key words…also drop in your email id will send some links for reading…:)

  • Aarti

    thnx for ur response.
    my id is

  • Rakhi B

    Hello I found this article very useful,precise and to the point.Im searching for a topic and am absolutely confused. hope this will give some direction to my search. thank u

  • Aarti

    hi Archna still watng for ur valuable advice. I’m readng matter on work life balance .do guide me or send me some links for the same

  • madamtoo

    i am so thankful for ur valuable informations,especially this point ( Pick a topic that will be helpful in your career path), it helped me alot to make a very important step toward my career.

  • Archna Khurana Sharma

    Hey, i’m glad that our efforts are being appreciated. Thanx so much Madamtoo….keep sharing your experiences with us.

  • Roops8981

    Nice article.i wish to pursue my phd in HRM.kindly suggest me some latest topics for this purpose.

  • Jyotsna chandak

    hello! i have completed my law and mba (hr), pls suggest me related topic which will be useful in educational institute. pls reply

  • Udaymishra1


  • Loandanglt

    ·                                 Thank you Archana,
    I am Thanh Loan. I am Vietnamese.
    I found this article very interesting. I have been studying my PhD for 2 years but I still dont have a topic. I did my PhD in Human resource management. Can you please help me get a topic. Please suggest me some latest topics for this purpose and give me a correct idea of where to start, what to do first, so on… Thanks!

  • boomija

    Hi.I am sudha doing my mphil course in commerce.  I would like to do topic study in netbanking.Is it feasible to do that research.  R else guide me in topics in Human Resource like labour turnover r training and development

  • Muftahs

    Hi Madam,
    Thank yuo very much indded for the good articles. I am over 50 in age, chemical engineer holding MSC degree from UMIST UK 1996. I started my career as process engineer in Oil and Gas, then last 5 years I changed my career to training where I envolved in competency based training for oil and gas operators and engineers and found it very interesting topic. I have avery powerful feeling pushing my towards proceeding with higher education towards Ph.D. I thinking in the topic of emplimentation of Competency Assurance Systems in Competency Based training ways of pridiction of the best method. Forgive me for taking long I need your assisance and advise if you know the right University which giving such programmes by Distance Learning. Thank you again>
    Muftah Hamad

  • Prof. R. Murugesan

    It is a very useful article by Prof. Khurana Sharma. I would appreciate if you can help me on the choice of research process. Thank you.

  • Shubham

    Hello Madam,
    I would be very thankfull to you if you will suggest me a topic to pursue Phd in project management , I completed My ( Electrical )& MBA in project management & now working in a MNC

    Kindly suggest

  • mike

    thank u alot ..iam new here and want to get my phd in quality of worklife ,since 4 monthes try to find new topic pr problem statement i could not find ..i need some help please.thank u for your article it is very intersted.

  • Mahi Vergum

    hi, I am mahi done my MBA in Finance wanted to do Phd. please guide me on what type of topic I have to prepare for intial interview

  • Shrimathidhanapal

    hi Archana… 
    i have applied for M.Phil in Management (finance). Plz guide me with a good topic….

  • Apoorva73

     i want a good topic for phd in commerce field pls guide me. 

  • Yuena

    Hi, I am doing PhD in Project Management.I need help from professionals for selection of my dissertation topic.Can anybody tell me how can I get articles on PM and some sample proposals????????????


    I am so much happy with your article. I have found it helpful . However, I still need some more information on choosing the topic especially when you are among the first sets of PhD students in your Institution with no such previous PhD in Engineering.

  • Sekar S

    Hi friends,
    I am new to this forum. As I want to pursue Ph.D in HR / Management, can any body throw some light on few topics where I can do my research please…!
    Thanks & Regards

  • ashish tagade

    very nicely explained

  • Shalin

    Hello Archana,

    Thanks a lot for such an informative guideline.
    Well, I am a BE, MBA with 4 years of corporate experience and now wish to pursue Ph D in Marketing Mgmt.
    The problem is that, I am too bad at quantitative techniques and research methodology (f Test, T-test, etc.)
    Can you suggest some areas in marketing which do not involve much of the quantitative research methodologies with intense calculations?
    Your help shall be appreciated.
    Thanks again.