How to Choose a Dissertation Topic

Instructor: Adam Nystrom

Adam owns a Master's degree in Professional and Digital Media Writing. During his time as a graduate assistant, he developed lesson plans for upper-level English courses.

Choosing the right dissertation topic is important to your academic and professional career. It can also determine how easy it is for you to write the paper. Get some helpful advice on the best way to choose the best dissertation project for you.

Use Existing Field Research

Read some of the scholarly articles in your field, and look for areas that could possibly pose new questions and require additional research. Can you find something that not only grabs your interest, but needs elaboration or a challenge to old ideas? Could you take an opposing stance to a topic and provide compelling arguments? Finding your own niche is an important part of the dissertation process, and you could even pioneer a new area within your chosen field.

Listen to Your Mentor

Some professors who guide students through the dissertation process may suggest a few worthy dissertation topics. Choosing one of these suggested topics can be a huge boost for students because the professor may have a strong understanding of the topic and can suggest possible source material or a solid research path.

It also helps to seek out mentors from one or more departments at your university who have an extensive background in the field you're writing about. Using the experience and knowledge of experts specific to the field can give you a more targeted and accurate perspective of your topic.

Get Specific

To avoid going down a rabbit hole and making your dissertation too broad with unsubstantial arguments, choose a targeted topic within your field and don't stray. Choosing a specific topic helps you stay organized, keeps your dissertation short and succinct, and allows you to really focus your arguments in the most persuasive way. However, unlike any other paper you've written during your program, your dissertation requires much more complex research, writing and organization. Although your topic should be specific, it should also be well-rounded enough to provide comprehensive and meaningful arguments without a bunch of repetition throughout the document.

Look for Grant Opportunities

If you need more incentive, check out topics that are given financial preference in the form of grants. Don't stray too far from your path just because of the potential money, but if you see an offer related to your area of interest, you could find yourself in the best of both worlds.

Research Your Passion

This should go without saying, but we can't emphasize it enough: make sure you enjoy the topic you choose for your dissertation. It will take you years to produce the completed project, and if you are suffering through material you'd rather throw in the trash than research any further, several years of your life will be miserable.

Improving Your Research

Get some help with how to conduct research for your dissertation with the following resources:

The following resources can help you outline, write and polish your dissertation to make it clear, engaging and persuasive:

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.