Choosing a Dissertation(6 Posts)
Stupid question, but ... how do you choose a dissertation topic?
I'll be writing a 30,000 word dissertation, which ideally will feed into doctoral research afterwards. However, I have no idea what to do it on.
I know vaguely what areas of my subject have most interested me over the past years' studies, but I have no idea which areas might make for fruitful research or how else to narrow it down.
Is it considered acceptable to ask a busy tutor 'I like x vague topic which you taught me on, could you point me to things which might be good dissertation topics within that?' I mean, as an ex-teacher myself, I'm not sure how kindly I would have taken such a meandering, directionless request, but on the other hand I can't see any other realistic way to narrow it down.
I have been scarred for life by my undergraduate dissertation (now well over a decade ago) where I came up with an idea by myself, as requested, submitted and had it approved, went away and studied it only to find it didn't work at all and was a complete disaster but far too late to have any other title approved.
Sounds like you had a crummy ugrad supervisor.
That issue is a bit of a bugbear of mine.
Your plan to get good ideas is a good start but again, where is your PG supervisor in this picture??
Go with what interests you most. You need to be passionate about a topic to find the motivation to write 30,000 words and then take it forwards to a doctoral research project. But yes, I think it is perfectly acceptable to discuss possible topics with a tutor. Other considerations, there needs to be enough information out there on a topic to give you some good material, but you don't want it to have been completely done to death. So it's worth doing an initial literature search on some of your ideas.
are you in arts or science? in science, choosing a dissertation topic is the initial discussion between student & supervisor, and the student often needs to be strongly guided by the supervisor to pick something feasible and useful.
for arts, I don't know but I recommend starting by asking your tutor or supervisor. if they cant help, find a different supervisor for your PhD.
Arts. My course convenor (theoretically my direct contact person) is clearly working for the intelligence services/hiding from the mafia as he is absolutely uncontactable - email, phone, and even standing outside his office forlornly have all failed to find him, and there's no way to change supervisors (although obviously for PhD it will be someone else). There are other tutors in the college who are more useful but I thought I'd check here about the etiquette of bothering them with an ill-defined plan.
The (pre choosing a title) literature search idea I hadn't thought of, that sounds like a good entry point.
The other thing I thought was talking with a couple of acquaintances/friends who are further along in the same field and seeing if they had any ideas.
Thanks for the speedy support all!
Your supervisor should be more available and more helpful even with a very vague idea of what you want to work on. Is there any way you can complain, to the Department Head perhaps?
Pick one of the areas you think might be promising and write a short piece (1-2k) explaining what it's all about and what other people have said about it. This will firstly give you something more concrete to discuss when you do see your supervisor, and secondly, may uncover s direction you want to take.
General things to think about:
- is someone very wrong in their claims?
- is something missing from the discussion you could bring in?
- is there a way to combine two or more existing views into something new?
- can you take a theoretical idea and apply it?
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