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2.2 Finding a Good Thesis Topic

No matter how enthusiastic and determined you are, it can be difficult to come up with an impressive research topic. The following tips should help you to discover an effective thesis topic for your Ph.D. proposal by suggesting ideas you can pursue:

  • Concentrate on the area that has interested you most during your previous work – if you are enthusiastic and focused, your work will be more impressive
  • Read widely in the area you have selected – ideas can come from the reading itself (see the section on analysis of substantiating evidence in this guide)
  • Don’t expect your research to be groundbreaking – very few of us are capable of Nobel prize-winning originality – concentrate on individuality of approach.
  • Aim to look for a new perspective on a familiar topic, new light through old windows can be as original as a new discovery if written enthusiastically and well so try above all to develop an individual perspective in your thesis.
  • Read both the old and the new and try to find out what has already been said in your area of research.
  • Try analysing a section of text – fictional or critical – to identify specific angles that might be areas of possible development.
  • When you are reading, take as much – if not more – notice of what hasn’t been said as what has – you might be able to fill that gap with your own research.
  • Look for areas that might be of interest both now and in the future i.e. topics that are not just to be completed by present research but might be capable of sustaining future work, too (see the section in this guide on the conclusion).
  • If this is the case, give some indication of it in what you say in the conclusion to your proposal (see above) - that might just make all the difference in getting your proposal accepted and that is your main aim at this stage, after all.
  •  Make a list of areas you are interested in and follow these up first – you’ll find that ultimately enthusiasm is the best source of success in a thesis!

"Remember that you are aiming all the time for originality, whether that comes from a new idea or from a new perspective, so try to aim for something you want to know and you think others will want to know but that the books don’t tell you - yet!"

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