When it comes to your dissertation topic, the earlier you can make the decision the better. You want your topic to have personal importance to you. You want to care about the participants and the problem or situation in society. You need to have a passion for your topic because when difficulties arise during your research, and they will, it’s that heart felt commitment, which will make the difference between forging ahead or giving up.
The Key Questions
In order to settle on a research topic, ask yourself these questions: What groups of people do I care about? What condition or issue really gets my attention? What kind of methodology would I prefer to use: quantitative, qualitative, mixed method, historical, or theoretical? After I complete my research, will I want to continue involvement with the topic? Your answers to these questions will go a long way towards helping you make the decision on a suitable topic.
The Target Group
Let’s consider each of these questions separately. What groups of people do I care about? Children with learning disabilities? Women experiencing depression? or Men who are workaholics? or some other group. You will notice that the possibilities I noted are people with some kind of condition or problem. This is just the first step. After you have identified the group you care about, you next need to consider the perspective regarding the group. Are you interested in understanding what they are experiencing? Are you interested in creating a program or training system that could help to minimize their suffering? Do you want to study and test some way of preventing their problem?
When thinking about your topic, you will also want to decide on the type of design or methodology you want to use. If you decide to collect numerical data in the form of test scores from your participants, you certainly would have a quantitative design. Hopefully you are strong in statistics because the quantitative method requires a fairly sophisticated understanding of advanced statistics.
If you are not comfortable with statistical issues, you should seriously evaluate one or more qualitative designs such as phenomenology, case study, or grounded theory. In each of these you will collect data in the form of behaviors, ideas, thoughts, perceptions, and/or feelings which you would report as themes in order to answer your research questions. The important thing to remember as a new doctoral student is that you want to settle on a dissertation topic as soon as you can. One that you care deeply about. When you do this, you will have an advantage in all your coursework because you have established the vision for your dissertation.