Advice on How to Choose a Dissertation Topic

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Choose a Subject That You Are Interested In - Your dissertation will show your lack of interest if you are doing it just to pass your course rather than because you genuinely want to find out about it.

Make Up Your Own Mind - Get ideas straight in your head before you allow yourself to be influenced by authorities on the subject. Often it is best to form your own opinions first then look to experts who have proven research to back up your ideas. You can then perform your own quantitative and qualitative research to back up your findings.

Use a Mind Map - A mind map or skeleton diagram is a useful way of harnessing the thoughts and areas that you are interested in and the direction your research might take.

Ask Questions - The aim of your research should be to answer your questions and those of others. You are proposing an argument and will be justifying that argument with academic research methodologies.

Decide on the Scope of Your Research - The dissertation abstract and dissertation proposal should focus the parameters by which your research should be bound.

Methodologies - Do not let your fear of statistics disbar you from carrying out quantitative research. There are many statistical packages available now that will assist you with interpreting and performing statistical analysis and your tutor should be able to advise you of training courses available in for example SPSS. You may well find that qualitative research, in the form of interviews with primary sources, maybe considerably more time-consuming than performing quantitative analysis of existing research.

Set and Review a Timetable - Be realistic about how long each stage should take and draw up a realistic timetable to help you. This will also help you to decide on your thesis.

Research Interests of Your Professors - Do your college professors have a particular specialism in a research area and do you admire them because of it? Have you enjoyed their lectures more because of their enthusiasm for their subject area? If you are enthusiastic about their research, they will be the same about yours. It is flattering for an academic to feel that they have inspired their students.

Choose a Subject That You Can Readily Research - If a subject is difficult to get hard data on, then your dissertation may prove more difficult if not impossible.

Choose a Subject That You Have to Do Primary Research For - If there is little research material on the subject that you are interested in you will be a trailblazer if you have to perform your own primary quantitative or qualitative research. You may as a result of your very own ground breaking research be asked to present a paper on your research with a possibility of being offered further research work and a further career in academia.

What Career do You Intend to Follow - What Will You Specialize In? - Your research for your dissertation should reflect your special interest and should be a showcase for your knowledge and interest in a particular specialism. You should choose a broad topic area to research into and then narrow it down when you have carried out further research.

Do a Literature Review - Find out what materials are available on your possible areas of research. This will cut down on any duplication in your work.

Read Industry Magazines and Journals - Current popular journals in your area of study often indicate what the current thinking is and what research areas are popular. This means that if you are doing a meaningful piece of research, which is relevant to industry need, you will be more likely to use it to get a job at the end of your studies.

Listen to and Take Advice - From previous students, from tutors, family and people who are working in your chosen field. All advice helps to build up a picture of how your research could be applied in the employment arena which should ultimately be your main focus.

Be Wary of Being Too Ambitious - It is important to enlist your tutor's support early in the project. Many students fail to complete their dissertation because they have ignored their mentor's advice on their choice of dissertation topic. Tutors are there to help you and have vast experience in advising students and in their research field. If they tell you, you are going to have difficulties with your thesis because of its direction, Listen! No one likes a rookie who is over-confident. Remember Icarus had ambitious ideas too!

Choose a Dissertation Tutor Wisely - Choice of tutor is vital. If you do not see eye to eye with your tutor, your relationship throughout your developing thesis will be fraught. Your choice should primarily focus on his/her specialism in a particular field of research. If your tutor is not interested in your research topic, they will be able to provide less direction and will be less enthusiastic toward you. Remember, good tutors, are popular tutors and you will need to act quickly to be considered by them as students are often allocated on a first come first served basis and tutors will be reluctant to extend their workload for students who cannot even submit their proposal on time.

Get to Know Key Players - Familiarise yourself with experts in the fields that you are studying. Your university may even call upon these experts to examine you on your thesis if it is a particularly specialist area and there no appropriate academics at your university. If they are the leading light on paediatrics, you need to ensure that you have read their research or risk major insult!

Have Previous Students Carried Out Similar Research? - You need to get a copy of their dissertation. This can be useful starting point as it will also help you to do your initial literature review. Be wary of reading it and feeling overwhelmed by the task ahead, you are as capable as any other student (you wouldn't be on the course if you were not!) and you should set your standards high.

Showcase - Your dissertation should seek to demonstrate your skills as a researcher. It should showcase your knowledge and skills and be the swan song for the culmination of your course and what you have learned.

Schools of Thought - You will likely read sources which advocate opposing schools of thought. It is highly unlikely that at undergraduate level you will be proposing a radically new school of thought. Therefore, you will probably be using your dissertation to prove your argument about why you personally agree with a particular school of thought and the weaknesses of the opposition.

Dissertation Grants - Many charitable organisations fund research into areas which it considers relevant. You may wish to explore this and your advisor should be able to direct you to scholarships. The university website should also have a list of scholarships available for research. You may find that your choice of dissertation maybe heavily influenced by the opportunity to gain funding for your research.

Take Your Time to Decide - Don't take the first suggested research topic that is offered to you. Your choice of dissertation may potentially have an influence on your career for years to come. One of the favourite questions for interviewers to ask is about your dissertation. If you feel that you do not want to talk about your research, the panel may conclude that you were not interested in it and merely did it to pass your course. In which case you would have missed a golden opportunity to impress and enthuse about your work.

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