For some students, choosing a topic for their dissertation comes organically, or it may have even been part of the reason they pursued their PhD in the first place. However, for others, it can be a bit more of a struggle. This can be for a number of reasons. Perhaps you had something in mind at your workplace, but then changed jobs so the population of interest is no longer available for you to sample. Perhaps you discover that a study you had your heart set on involves a vulnerable population and, as a result, the IRB has denied your request to do this study (yes, they can and will do that in certain circumstances).
In order to discover a study topic that is not only feasible but also reasonable, justifiable, and necessary, you may find it helpful to ask yourself the following questions:
What is the specific problem? This pertains more to being able to identify the variables of you chosen topic so that you can devise research questions. This is also an important moment to pause and dig through the literature to ensure that you can identify support for the existence of this problem as a gap in the literature with other (recent) research studies.
What theory can I use to explore this study? Whether you choose to do a qualitative or quantitative study, you will need a theory to ground it.
What methodological approach can I use? Is there an instrument out there that is valid and reliable that you can use to assess your variables? If not, and you are studying perceptions or lived experiences, you may have a qualitative study on your hands.
Who is going to participate in this study? And, more importantly, how will you access them? Can you access them?
Once you are in a place where you can confidently and completely answer each of these questions, you have a solid, defendable dissertation topic. Congrats! Now, you just need to figure out your title – in 12 words or less. Good luck!
We work with graduate students every day and know what it takes to get your research approved.