I recently received the following comment:
My problem is that I can’t find a suitable subject for my thesis.
Since the difficulty in defining a thesis subject is not uncommon, I am outlining here a few questions you can ask yourself as you develop a proposal for your thesis research and planning:
- Which gaps exist in the literature in my field? To start identifying topics to study, you need to explore the literature in your field in depth. Perhaps you already have some direction in your research from your master’s that you can use as a starting point.
- Which topic from this gap excites me most? If you are going to spend four years studying a topic, you better select a topic that excites you and can keep your attention for a long time.
- Which topic seems reasonable to address for the duration of my PhD journey? While a PhD long, the time you get to finish is not infinite. So, you will need to craft a research question that is well-defined and addresses a topic that can be tackled in the available amount of time.
- Which methods would I use to address this topic? Does my university lab have the tools for these methods? Avoid the mistake of writing a research question without thinking about your methods. If your university does not have the tools you would need to address a certain question, then it would not be a suitable topic.
- Which recommendations do my PhD supervisor, fellow PhD students, and post-docs have? Talk to those around you to get some better ideas on the topics that they selected, their experience with the process, ideas that they have floating around that could be good research topics, and make sure you bring your ideas to your meetings with your supervisor to sharpen your research question.
How did you select your PhD thesis research topic?