Handbook for Doctoral Students in Education/Selecting a Manageable Dissertation Topic

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Selecting a Manageable Dissertation Topic[edit | edit source]

The first thing to remember when considering a dissertation topic is the purpose of your dissertation. The Dissertation Handbook says, “The goal of the dissertation is to make a significant, original contribution to knowledge. In every respect, the document is to of publishable quality. A dissertation should represent, where appropriate, the most advanced or recent methodologies, theoretical advances, and innovations in the discipline.” With that in mind, you need to first of all choose a topic about which you are curious and can foresee spending a considerable amount of time exploring. Many people will have ideas for you, but you need to choose something that gets you excited! You also need to choose a topic about which you can contribute new information. You do not have to make ground-breaking discoveries (though you might!), but you do have to look at your topic in a way that no one else has. Also keep in mind as you work to choose a topic that your dissertation does not have to be your life’s work. You will have your entire career to be a researcher. Start with one, focused, doable topic for your dissertation and work to be the best researcher and writer you can be. Then you will have that strong foundation to take with you into your career as you pursue other research. Also, it is often very helpful to talk with your Research Advisor and other graduate students as you work to select a topic. Often, outside perspective will help to focus and frame your topic and research questions.