Where do graduate students get ideas and topics for theses or dissertations? When you applied to graduate school you might have already had an idea of what you wanted to research. Or you may have chosen a graduate program for the opportunity to study with a specific faculty whose research you had read and admired as an undergraduate. And as you were advised or mentored by your advisor or by multiple faculty members, you began to think of a research project related to your advisor’s research, either a component of a larger project or an original idea for a smaller, related project.
Once you started graduate school you likely read many articles or books focusing on research, theory or critical analysis. These assigned readings, and the related publications you read as resources and citations for the class papers you write, will prompt other ideas as options for your research.
Another source for topic ideas is already completed theses and dissertations. Start local, reading the theses and dissertations completed by graduate students with your same advisor. A much larger repository is that archived in ProQuest Dissertations and Theses and Global, with over 5 million titles and full-text manuscripts from 100 countries. Scan titles. Read abstracts. Begin to read full texts of those that interest you. You will begin to think of other research questions from the gaps or next steps in this literature.
Once you have ideas, begin to consider which one would be the best for you to pursue. How? Make a list of factors and evaluate each option:
How do you decide? Talk to advanced graduate students. Talk to your advisor and other faculty. Once you think you’ve narrowed your topic to one or a few, begin writing. Draft a list of research questions or hypotheses. Write a summary of the literature you have read. Place you own research questions in the context of this previous literature and scholarship. Can you begin to envision this project from start to finish? From conceptualizing to design to methodology to results? If so, and your advisor approves, then you have a research topic!
Congratulations. You can do this!