Developing a research topic



Finding a suitable PhD research topic is only straightforward if the choice has already been made on your behalf. If, for example, you are joining a project that has been set up by your PhD supervisor, it is likely that the topic will have been clearly defined.  However, this is not the case for most would-be researchers who will need to decide for themselves.

How do you decide your topic? Here are some possible approaches:

  • you feel that there is an important gap in the literature with important questions remaining unanswered
  • you would like to find the answer to a specific question that has been puzzling you
  • you would like to find an explanation for events in your own experience
  • you would like to expand on your previous research

Whatever your reasons, there are three fundamental questions that you will need to consider:

  1. Is my topic feasible? Are there any reasons why I might not be able to do this research?
  2. Is my topic specific? Do I need to narrow it down in some way?
  3. Is my topic significant? Does it have meaning for my intended readers and will they want to read about it?

Both reading and writing have an important role to play in answering such questions.

(To be continued)