How to Choose a Topic for a Thesis

How to choose a topic for a thesis or dissertation is an important issue. This post answers a question from a student (you know who you are!). It’s mostly a compilation of experience about visualization, proposal and creation of your thesis or dissertation. Some students fear (or panic) when the time of thesis arrives. I’ve even met people with the EBT (Everything But the Thesis) syndrome, but that is a very complex problem and I’m no psychologist. Please, keep reading if you are not afraid of the document we refer to as “thesis”, and you are determined to succeed. Effectively, the thesis or dissertation represents a written expression of your specialized knowledge, with an scope scarcely above that of the toughest work you fulfilled during your studies (sometimes not even that). Nothing out of the ordinary. It is a document in which you express, typically as the last requirement for the degree, your command over a concrete subject. Often, the thesis is a document of regular transcendence.

How to choose a topic for a thesis or dissertation.
How to choose a topic for a thesis or dissertation?

The problem lies in the huge load of stress students have to endure, stemming from the academic and social environments: you have to deliver a work with superlative quality (and has to distinguish you from your peers), the haste to innovation, the won (or lost) prestige, the opportunities, the castles in the air, the afterward, failure poking its head out of the window, the defense, among other factors. But sometimes, to tell the truth, it’s simply that the student has acquired no significant skill in the career’s subjects (not so unlikely as it may seem), or suffers from a traditional chronic laziness. Nevertheless, for the time being we will focus on the essence of the document. Upcoming posts (perhaps) will touch on those surrounding topics.

1. How to choose a topic for a thesis?

Let’s try to unravel the document’s mistery. Best dissertations are done by those researchers very knowledgeable about their topic and about research techniques and methodologies. They know that every study should start by investigating the studied object. In our case, we must first establish what a thesis is, and what its purpose is. Here the average student answers, with praiseworthy self-confidence, that a thesis is a document whose exclusive purpose is to achieve, finally, the degree. Bravo, it’s impossible to be clearer, but we must never forget that, in life, milestones or stages are not as important as the paths and transits between such stages. Yet, something stands out in such answer:

You have to realize that your goal is to fulfill an academic requirement

However, this by no means allows you to take a lot of liberties, or to face up to your research half-heartedly. It’s but a reason to act with humility. There are three key words for thesis’ success:

Humility, Communication and Balance

Irrespective of the importance that you confer to your investigation, at no time you should work thinking of drawing international attention to you, or dreaming of that incredibly remunerated job you will obtain, or about the avalanche of trophies and medals. If you distract your mind with this, at some time you are going to lose your concentration, and the project will just slip out of your hands. Please, remember that the thesis represents, simultaneously, discipline and learning exercises, and you must assume it like so. The composure and integrity you show while walking your paths is more important than the path itself, and than the destination. Finally, realize that a thesis is an exercise of communication. And, never give too much, never ask for too much.

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