In an example of self-sabotage, many doctoral students have a low commitment to their dissertation topic because they put little thought or have only a passing interest into the topic they decide to research.

The Key Component

This is a huge mistake, since so much time and effort will go into the subsequent dissertation process. It is important to pick a topic that you care about and have a passionate for. This will help you to stay committed and focused, and it also will keep you from questioning your choice later when or if difficulties come up.

Think of the Future

It is also helpful to choose a topic that could be part of a larger area of future interest or expertise. You can consider how this topic will enhance your career development or be the focus of an article or book publication in the future. If you are having difficulty deciding on your topic, you can review your previous courses or books to find an area of interest. If you discover a topic that you feel is too general or too large now, you can always limit or redefine it later.

Probing Questions to Help You Find the Topic

To help you in the decision-making process, ask yourself these questions:

  • What groups of people do I care about greatly?
  • What problem do I see in society that I feel passionate about?
  • What methodology would I feel most comfortable using?
  • What courses have I had that were really fun?
  • What books have I read that stirred emotions in me?
  • What recent news stories do I have a high interest in?

When the answers to one or more of these questions sincerely create an emotional response for you, it is safe to say you have found a topic worth researching.

Again, you need to have a sincere passion for the topic and/or the type of subjects/participants that you will be studying. This sincere passion will make it easier to go through the difficulties you will face in this research project. When you see the bigger picture, you will have a passion for it.

Many students jump in too soon and select a topic that means nothing more to them than a means of completing their dissertation. If you are passionate about the topic, it could lead you to a whole new area of expertise.

On the contrary, how discouraging will it be to invest an enormous amount time, effort, and money on a dissertation only to have the end result be simply a completed dissertation and nothing more! You want to avoid this.

You want to feel that after completing your dissertation you are an expert in a new dimension of your current or future career. This will be the case when you can sincerely say to yourself, “I love my dissertation topic.”