read my article, How
to Start and Finish Your Thesis or Dissertation This Year,
you already know the importance of setting a deadline and posting
your goals for others to see. If you haven’t set a start
date yet, take a minute to get started by going to our the commitment page. Fill
out a commitment certificate, print it and post it
on your wall. It's a great reminder to help you reach your goal.
To those of you who have already filled out the commitment
certificate, I want to say congratulations on taking the first
step to completing your degree!
Some Graduate Students Take over Two Years to Choose Their Thesis Topic
Although selecting a topic suitable for your thesis might
seem to be simple and easy, the prevailing research on this issue
finds that some graduate students take over two years to complete
this task — this does not have to be you.
the longer you take to complete this task — the more money
the university makes on your continuous registration. Hence,
educational institutions are not encouraged to help you figure
the thesis process out.
Don’t wait until
you are finished with your qualifying/comprehensive exams to
start thinking about idea for your thesis topic.
Use your graduate
courses to pursue a possible topic. Procrastination in selecting
a topic can sometimes cause gridlock in your graduate career.
Without a topic, you cannot proceed to writing or defending the
proposal phase; and more importantly, you cannot begin researching
or writing your thesis.
I have provided 10 tips to help you develop
thesis ideas and start moving toward your goal of completing your degree:
1. Don’t Panic — Keep
Things in Perspective
Let’s face it, not too many people will read a masters
thesis. A thesis is not the type of document that piques
the general public’s interest mainly because of its academic
rigor and writing style. The topic is generally of interest only
to the student, experts in the field and the student’s advisor
and committee members.
2. Be Organized — Maximize
Your Research Efforts
In order to maximize your research efforts, you must be
organized and efficient in your search efforts. The more organized
you are in the beginning, the more time you will have to write
your thesis. Be diligent about keeping track of your files
in the early phases of your research to reduce your stress levels
later on when your enthusiasm begins to wane. If you have to back
track on your research efforts, being organized from the beginning
will help make the process less painful.
3. Choose a
Subject Area First — Then
a Topic for Your Thesis
The more information you consume in your broad subject
area, the more patterns will emerge. In your coursework readings,
you may notice repeated results and conclusions by more than one
source, or facts that favor one view more than another. Paying
attention to these patterns should help you become more conversant
with the relevant literature as well as help you to narrow your
focus. Narrowing your topic should be done with help from your
advisor and committee members.
4. Consider Expanding a Masters
Thesis Into a Dissertation
If you’re working towards a PhD and you wrote a Masters
thesis, consider expanding on that topic for your dissertation.
You already are familiar with the topic and much of the research
is done. This approach can accelerate your progress towards your
5. Make Sure Your Thesis Topic Is Interesting
It is imperative that both you and your advisor are interested
in your thesis topic. Some advisors are reluctant to suggest
topics because of the implicit responsibilities associated with
guiding a student through the process from start to completion.
Your advisor’s enthusiasm for your topic will determine
his or her willingness to read, support, fund, and provide timely
feedback and direction to your work.
6. Choose a Solvable And Manageable
It is important to select a problem that is narrow enough that
you can address it or solve it in a reasonable period of time.
You should select a topic that can be completed within a two-year
A longer time frame
could allow many unexpected and competing events to occur. If
you find yourself spending an exorbitant amount of time pursuing
and identifying a research problem, it is possible that the problem
is not solvable. With a longer time frame, you also run the risk
of someone else identifying and solving the problem before you
do. Hence, the concept of “original” contribution
to the field is lost and you might have to start over. Moreover,
you run the risk of your enthusiasm diminishing.
7. The Research Problem Must Be
Worthy Of Your Time
Choosing a topic that is compelling enough to sustain further
research is critical. Employers evaluate potential employees
based on the student’s ability to not only finish the thesis
but also make future contributions to the field.
8. Make Your Research Topic Original-
Has It Been Done Before?
The prerequisite for finding a new research topic is to be informed
because most things have been studied before. Staying on top of
the current debates in your academic field puts you in a position
to identify the gaps in knowledge. After identifying the gaps,
all you need to figure out is what kinds of information will fill
9. Hone Your Research Skills
One way to evaluate your research skills and make sure they are
up to par is to pursue a potential topic in your Research Methods
or Statistics courses where you can get immediate feedback from
an instructor. You can use these courses to work out potential
problems in your methodology or your review of the literature;
thus allowing you to work out any kinks earlier in your academic
career rather than later.
10. As You Read — Ask
the Following Questions.
- What is the Research Question in the
- Did the Researcher Focus on the Wrong
- Did the Research Leave Some Group/Something
- Is the Methodology Faulty?
- Were the Findings Faulty?
- Can I Pursue the
for Future Research?
- What Are the Limitations of the Study?
Y. Carter, Ph.D.