Choosing Your Dissertation Topic

Author: , Modified: 16 August 2023


Choosing a dissertation topic sounds easy. You have been given the chance to write about something you like, or at least something you feel is worth studying. It’s not like most of the essays you may have written before, which came with titles already attached.

Illustration of students choosing a dissertation topic

Where Do I Start

So, the starting point to ANY dissertation is choosing a topic. You want to choose something you have an interest in, since you must write thousands of words and read a lot of information about it!

To start getting some ideas together, you could brainstorm a few topics you have an interest in. Think about a module you particularly enjoyed, or an article you read that appealed to you. It could even be something you have never studied before but want to explore further.

Beware, though – not everything you think would be a good topic for a dissertation will actually be a good topic. You might want to look at “Victorian Literature” or “Russian History”, which sound like perfectly valid academic subjects. But they are too vast and will mean that your finished dissertation will either be massively over the word-limit, or else will only skim the surface.

The Next Step

A dissertation is a unique working project which is a real test of your academic skills and is your biggest chance to show off what you are capable of - so you want it to stand out from everyone else's!

Once you have an idea of a topic, the next stage is to see if it is actually worth writing about. The best way to do this is to see what has already been done. You should be checking journals, articles, textbooks, anything that might contain previous work on the subject.

If people have written about it before, then clearly there is some merit to writing more on it.

However, there is not much point in rehashing the same things that have been written about in the same way. If there is a lot of material already, think about how you can tackle it differently to your peers; try and be original!

If there is little, or nothing, that has been written about the topic before, this can be a sign that there is not enough research to base a dissertation on, but equally, it may mean that the research you do could open up a whole new field!

Just remember, almost everything has to have been studied by someone at some point. All the critical writing about Shakespeare did not materialise out of thin air!

You just have to think very carefully and discuss with your tutor whether there is going to be any academic interest in what you intend to study. If there is, you also want to be sure that someone will be able to supervise the work.


Once you have an idea, go and speak to your tutor or potential supervisor. It may be a good idea to seek a supervisor who has completed academic research in that particular topic so they can best advise you, but rest assured: if this is not possible, all supervisors are experienced and qualified in extensive research.

Checklist: Choosing a Dissertation Topic


Well done on completing this checklist! You're doing great.

We can help

If you require assistance choosing the topic of your dissertation, you may want to consider our helpful service which is a great way to get a head start on your work.

Dissertation Topic with Titles Service Dissertation Topic Example

Dissertation Topic FAQ's

Question: How important is it to choose a topic that is original and not widely studied?
The best dissertations make some kind of original contribution to the subject matter, and this is also usually made clear in the marking criteria. Although the task can seem overwhelming, it does provide the ultimate reward. Moreover, being original when choosing a topic and choosing a topic not widely studied means you avoid just copying work that has been written previously by someone else.
Question: How do I know if my chosen topic is too broad or too narrow?
The following two factors mainly determine if a topic is too broad:
  1. You find too many sources - more than you can practically look through.
  2. You're trying to address too many research questions and objectives, or your questions are too open. A topic is too narrow if there is little to nothing written about the topic. Lastly, you should be able to clearly define the scope of your study to avoid choosing a topic that is too narrow or too broad. If you find that you are having to cover too many theories and concepts, it may mean that you need to narrow your topic.
Question: What should I do if I'm struggling to choose a topic by the deadline?
If you're struggling to choose a topic near the deadline, it is important that you don't stress. If you have not found inspiration from reading the news, creating a mind map or from some preliminary research, it is important that you schedule a meeting with your supervisor who can help guide you. If you narrow a list of topics you're interested in, take these to your tutor who can help you pick the most appropriate.

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