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Posted July 29, 2013

Choosing A Unique Dissertation Topic

Choosing a unique dissertation topic is a lengthy and important process. Getting it right will mean you enjoy writing this key piece of work and are well on your way to obtaining a great grade. However, rushing into a title simply because it flows well, or seems unusual, can result in a lacklustre essay and many sleepless nights. Start planning your dissertation well in advance, giving you plenty of time for each stage in the process. For most postgraduate qualifications, students need to submit a comprehensive proposal that demonstrates not only original thought, but a sound foundation and the beginnings of thorough research.

How do you think of a unique idea?

Initially, unique dissertation ideas are often the result of a verbal collaboration; this could be between the student and either a friend or tutor. It’s rare that the ideal topic will just turn up in your head – choosing which path to follow is matter of identifying which question can develop your passion for the subject. It should also have further study potential, possibly encompassing a number of sub-questions. A good unique dissertation idea should be enjoyable to write, whilst also giving you a chance to show off your powers of argument and breadth of understanding. The themes covered by your postgraduate course maybe many and varied, so be open to a variety of topics, without losing sight of the ideas which appeal to you personally.

Be realistic in your goals Next, consider whether you are expert enough in the field to write at the level required. Always set yourself realistic goals, ambition is commendable, but so is handing in a completed piece of work. Spend plenty of time deciding if you have the motivation and time to acquire any new skills, and if this can be done within an allotted timeframe. If not, stick to a topic you feel comfortable and confident with. Remember, the dissertation is an extremely long work, there is always potential for widening or deepening your exploration of the question. So do not be afraid to start with a unique dissertation idea that seems small scale or conventional, so long as the subject has scope, you can diversify and the ideas can be extended.

Do you have the resources to make it a success?

Before committing to a question, consider whether you can research this topic to the necessary standard. You should check what sources are available and how much data can be obtained; starting to write prior to gathering background information may lead to a frustrating dead end. However, finding a few good quality sources is different to having none at all. Try not to let your interest in a marginal topic be dampened by scarcity of information, with enough drive and determination almost any subject can become a success. Past students have investigated ideas as diverse and unusual as the possible existence of unicorns and the significance of Acid House culture, going on to receive a favourable grade from their tutor. Obviously you don’t have to go to those lengths to find a unique dissertation idea, but try to find an interesting topic with the right balance between innovation and workability. Originality is significant so long as you can formulate an effective thesis around your idea.

Don't be daunted Although you have written countless essays and participated in many debates, the final dissertation may still be the most daunting aspect of obtaining your postgraduate qualification. Frequently, students will feel overwhelmed at the task ahead, producing 20,000 words of tightly structured, expertly researched academic writing, is undoubtedly a demanding process. However, bear in mind that you earned your place on a postgraduate course and have confidence in your opinions. If you find a unique dissertation idea that gets you thinking and inspires you, this will be obvious in the finished work.

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David Kalloo Nov. 12, 2016, 3:18 p.m.

I am just embarking on a Masters degree and the advice above was very encouraging and lucid.
It has given me good ideas to go way and give thought too.

Charlotte King Nov. 15, 2016, 2:08 p.m.

That's great David - thank you for your feedback!
Good luck with your studies.

Makgolokwe Malefane June 3, 2018, 10:12 a.m.

This site is very helpful. I've just submitted my MSc research outline. I'm excited but anxious at the same time because I feel like it's all over the place & the informartion's not sufficient for a Master's thesis. I'll definitely recommend this page to those who are in my position.

Charlotte King June 3, 2018, 7:57 p.m.

Thanks for the kind comments - and good luck with your research outline.


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