PhD Project 101: The Truth about choosing PhD Project Topics
A PhD requires distinct skill sets from a master’s and a bachelor’s. The biggest obstacle for PhD candidates is choosing a project subject or problem statement. This blog article aims to inform readers about how to select and complete their PhD projects. Your inner motivation and areas of interest should be the top considerations while selecting your specialization. Never start a PhD program without getting clarification on the research labs you should choose. For application alerts, while enrolled in your master’s program, register with PhD Portals. Select an interest-provoking subject, then read everything there is to know about it. A successful thesis requires adhering to the “Write, Rewrite, and Write” cycle.
How Do I Choose a PhD Project?
What makes a good phd project, tips to apply for a phd project, tips to write your phd thesis, why tsl-ucn, start your journey to obtaining a phd.
Pursuing a PhD, unlike your master’s or bachelor’s program, demands altogether different skill sets. You have a fixed set of subjects with some open elective and core-elective to study in those programs. But in a PhD program , you are aware of your stream of study like computer science, management, finance, humanities, etc.
But the PhD project topics on which you carry out research are wide open. You are supposed to narrow down to a particular thesis topic idea or field of study. Selecting a PhD project topic or problem statement is the biggest challenge for PhD students. This blog post attempts to educate scholars on selecting a PhD project of their choice and completing it.
Choosing a PhD project topic is the primary work in pursuing a PhD program. It is not like choosing an undergraduate or postgraduate program. It demands patience. So, take your time.
Next, you should be in a position to decide what type of PhD project you want to pursue. Broadly there are three types of PhD projects:
- Advertised PhD projects
- Self-proposed PhD projects
- Professional Doctorates
The Advertised Projects are common in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Medicine (STEM) . Research groups and Well-established laboratories offer these programs.
The Self-proposed projects are common in the Humanities and Arts arena. Here, you are free to choose a thesis topic as long as it falls in the purview of a research topic.
Professional Doctorates in vocational subjects like Business and Management awarded to practitioners are not academic qualifications.
A PhD project should, first of all, have a clear goal. So, it starts with a proposal. A PhD proposal is a clear and concise document illustrating the problem statement and the goals of your work. It should also highlight why it is worth pursuing?
A typical PhD project involves Five steps:
- Identifying a problem statement
- Carrying out a comprehensive literature review
- Conducting Original Research and finding out results
- Producing a Thesis that documents your results
- Writing the thesis and taking up Viva-Voce
Tips for choosing a PhD project and topics
Here you have two sets of Tips:
- Tips to Apply for a PhD project and choosing a PhD project topic
1. Be Aware of Your Niche
Just because you are a computer science postgraduate and AI or Data Science is the trend; You needn’t select these areas. What matters is your interest and inner drive that should be the priority in choosing your niche.
2. Your Comfort Level to Relocate to Another City
Once you have identified your niche and the University/Research Labs, you may have to relocate to a new city. Make up your mind to relocate and also be decisive in making your choice.
3. Identify the Departments and Research Labs Succinctly
You are supposed to conduct a lot of research before boiling it down to a particular Department or University. This is a necessity as it is crucial to identify your core interests and ideas.
4. Obtain Clarity from Your Research Supervisor
Never dive into a PhD program without seeking clarity about the Research labs you are supposed to join. If it is a funded project, get clarification about all facts that are not obvious. Have one to one discussion with your Research Supervisor over Skype or any messenger to seek clarity regarding questions like,
- How many people work in the lab?
- What are their designations?
- Are you supposed to collaborate with any of them?
5. Register with PhD Portals to Get Application Alerts
During your Master’s Program, register with online portals that provide information on PhD programs offered by various Labs and Universities. This helps you to be informed about itineraries of multiple institutes.
6. Seek Seniors and Teachers Help
Ignorance is the biggest culprit that sinks your career ship. Regardless of how small your doubt is, get it clarified from your professors and seniors. Discuss issues like how to formulate an email, cover letter, resume, and other application procedures.
7. Understand the Team Well
It is not only the project that should create enthusiasm; it is also the team you will be working with. The team is vital to complete a project. Before diving into a project, try to understand whether you can get along with your teammates.
8. Different Types of Funding Exists
When you apply for funded projects, you often come across various types. Some are not funded, while some are competition-funded also. Your enthusiasm for getting into the project plays a vital role in the supervisors picking you in competitive funding. So, Love your work to the core.
9. Always Apply for More than One University/Institute
Prepare as many applications as possible and shoot them to different institutes. This process provides a wide array of experience in how to draft an application and approach the institutes. Such skills will help you in the long term.
10. Failure is the Stepping Stone to Success
You might fail once or twice in getting shortlisted or fail to perform in the interview. The number of interviews you have faced will help nurture your interpersonal skills.
Below are the general tips any PhD scholar should follow to be successful.
- While choosing a PhD project topic most crucial parameter is to rely on a topic that is interesting for you.
- Thoroughly read everything about the topic.
- Find a theoretical basis to support your idea.
- Be prepared to shift gears as the research progresses and your presumptions about the outcomes change.
- Be open to taking inputs from others to fine-tune your views.
- Formulate a committee of researchers,
- Be diligent in gathering data.
- The Panache for Effective Thesis Writing is Follow ing the “Write, Rewrite, and Write” Cycle. It doesn’t matter if your writing is good or bad; take tips from professional writers online. Most importantly, Good writing is all about Editing again and again. So, never feel daunted by Thesis writing; enjoy every bit of it.
- Sit with your Research Supervisor and prepare well-structured content with a Table of Content adequately defined. Regardless of being an expert writer or novice, your first draft always needs tweaking. Never be disheartened by re-editing work patience is key here.
- Thesis Writing needn’t be boring and monotony work. Bring in flair to your writing by inserting adjectives, says, expert writers.
- A chronologically written thesis is a misconception. As soon as you complete a piece of experiment or research, document it neatly when it is fresh in your mind. Later it can be integrated into the Final Thesis as per the Table of Contents.
- Once you research and write a chapter, take a break and come back with a critical perspective to discover possible mistakes. This always helps. Do not write in a marathon-style take breaks.
- Plagiarism is the biggest enemy of any research document. Whenever you quote an existing work, paraphrase properly and provide references and citations.
- All universities have their Templates and Preferred Style of References . Religiously stick to the guidelines given by your university.
- Follow the same house style of spellings does not club “-ize” with “-ise” styles. If you prefer to use “improvize,” use it in all places, do not mix up with “improvise.”
- While quoting from other sources, ensure that you do not make spelling mistakes. Copy the quotes exactly.
- Your thesis is the window to showcase both your professionalism and research abilities to the outer world. Work with diligence and give it a professional appeal.
Taksha Smartlabz in association with the University of Central Nicaragua (TSL-UCN) provides various PhD programs with an advanced blended learning system that is designed with working professionals in mind. It provides the opportunity to study from anywhere and at any time.
Taking up a PhD project involves various steps. Initially, you have to identify the domain of your interest and apply for a university or research lab. On getting selected, get involved in the meticulous work of carrying out research, documenting your findings, publishing papers, coming up with thesis work, and defending your work in research gathering.
The process of selecting your PhD project is the most crucial step in the entire process. Understanding whether you are looking out for Advertised/Self Proposed PhD projects or Professional Doctorates is vital in the initial stages.
Enroll now, to reap the benefits of this program, and obtain a PhD in your niche.
Leave a Reply Cancel reply
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Subscribe For Newsletter
Select Category School of Public Health and Social Work School of Business Management and Public Administration School of Research School of Nursing School of IT
Select Program Medicine Public Health Social Work Business Management Business Administration Research Nursing
Master of Public Health PhD in Public Health Doctor of Public Health Administration (DPHA) Master of Social Work (MSW)
Master of Business Administration Executive MBA Master of Public Administration (DPHA) PhD in Management (MSW) Doctor of Business Administration (MSW) PhD in Healthcare Administration (MSW)
Please fill the form and our enrollment advisor will get back to you soon.
6 Essential Research Skills to Excel in a Clinical Research PhD Program
7 time management hacks every clinical research phd student should master , from passion to purpose: how an online phd in public health makes a difference , navigating the benefits of an online master of public health program , know the importance of public health before taking it as a career, related posts, is it necessary to get a phd after mba, jump-start your educational career with a phd in education, how to choose the right university for phd, phd online programs: you need to know the worth, a doctorate degree: what it is & how to obtain one, all about online phd in clinical psychology.
- More Networks
- View all journals
- Explore content
- About the journal
- Publish with us
- Sign up for alerts
- CAREER COLUMN
- 04 January 2019
Six project-management tips for your PhD
- Angel Santiago-Lopez 0
Angel Santiago-Lopez is a PhD candidate at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.
You can also search for this author in PubMed Google Scholar
In my experience, a PhD project sometimes feels like it demands more time than is possible — especially if you were hoping to maintain a healthy work–life balance. In my view, every graduate-school curriculum should carry a course on project management.
Access Nature and 54 other Nature Portfolio journals
Get Nature+, our best-value online-access subscription
24,99 € / 30 days
cancel any time
Subscribe to this journal
Receive 51 print issues and online access
185,98 € per year
only 3,65 € per issue
Rent or buy this article
Prices vary by article type
Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout
Nature 573 , 153 (2019)
PhD supervisors: be better mentors
What makes a good PhD student?
A researcher-exchange programme made me a better doctor at home and abroad
Career Q&A 12 FEB 24
I took my case to Nepal’s highest court to improve conservation
Postdocs celebrate 24% pay boost in one of the world’s most expensive cities
Career News 12 FEB 24
I run a physics lab — and thousands of kilometres a year
Career Feature 12 FEB 24
Could roving researchers help address the challenge of taking parental leave?
Career Feature 07 FEB 24
Two Faculty Positions in Life Science, iGCORE, Japan
The Institute for Glyco-core Research, iGCORE, in Tokai National Higher Education and Research System in Japan (THERS; consisting of Nagoya University
Institute for Glyco-core Research (iGCORE), Tokai National Higher Education and Research System
Attending Physician (m/f/d)
The Institute of Transfusion Medicine – Transfusion Centre headed by Univ.-Prof. Dr. med. Daniela S. Krause is hiring:
Mainz, Rheinland-Pfalz (DE)
University of Mainz
NIH Cancer Postdoc Fellowship
Train with world-renowned cancer researchers at NIH? Consider joining the Center for Cancer Research (CCR) at the National Cancer Institute
Bethesda, Maryland (US)
NIH National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Postdoctoral Fellow (PhD)
Houston, Texas (US)
Baylor College of Medicine (BCM)
Professional-Track Faculty Positions Available!
VGTI is seeking professional-track faculty candidates with demonstrated potential for creative collaborations in infectious disease.
Vaccine & Gene Therapy Institute, Oregon Health & Science University
Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.
- Explore articles by subject
- Guide to authors
- Editorial policies
How To Find A High-Quality Research Topic
6 steps to find & evaluate high-quality dissertation/thesis topics.
By: Caroline Osella (PhD, BA) and Derek Jansen (MBA) | July 2019
So, you’re finally nearing the end of your degree and it’s now time to find a suitable topic for your dissertation or thesis. Or perhaps you’re just starting out on your PhD research proposal and need to find a suitable area of research for your application proposal.
In this post, we’ll provide a straightforward 6-step process that you can follow to ensure you arrive at a high-quality research topic . Follow these steps and you will formulate a well-suited, well-defined core research question .
There’s a helpful clue already: your research ‘topic’ is best understood as a research question or a problem . Your aim is not to create an encyclopedia entry into your field, but rather to shed light on an acknowledged issue that’s being debated (or needs to be). Think research questions , not research topics (we’ll come back to this later).
Overview: How To Find & Choose A Research Topic
- Get an understanding of the research process
- Review previous dissertations from your university
- Review the academic literature to start the ideation process
- Identify your potential research questions (topics) and shortlist
- Narrow down, then evaluate your research topic shortlist
- Make the decision (and stick with it!)
Step 1: Understand the research process
It may sound horribly obvious, but it’s an extremely common mistake – students skip past the fundamentals straight to the ideation phase (and then pay dearly for it).
Start by looking at whatever handouts and instructions you’ve been given regarding what your university/department expects of a dissertation. For example, the course handbook, online information and verbal in-class instructions. I know it’s tempting to just dive into the ideation process, but it’s essential to start with the prescribed material first.
There are two important reasons for this:
First , you need to have a basic understanding of the research process , research methodologies , fieldwork options and analysis methods before you start the ideation process, or you will simply not be equipped to think about your own research adequately. If you don’t understand the basics of quantitative , qualitative and mixed methods BEFORE you start ideating, you’re wasting your time.
Second , your university/department will have specific requirements for your research – for example, requirements in terms of topic originality, word count, data requirements, ethical adherence, methodology, etc. If you are not aware of these from the outset, you will again end up wasting a lot of time on irrelevant ideas/topics.
So, the most important first step is to get your head around both the basics of research (especially methodologies), as well as your institution’s specific requirements . Don’t give in to the temptation to jump ahead before you do this. As a starting point, be sure to check out our free dissertation course.
Step 2: Review past dissertations/theses
Unless you’re undertaking a completely new course, there will be many, many students who have gone through the research process before and have produced successful dissertations, which you can use to orient yourself. This is hugely beneficial – imagine being able to see previous students’ assignments and essays when you were doing your coursework!
Take a look at some well-graded (65% and above) past dissertations from your course (ideally more recent ones, as university requirements may change over time). These are usually available in the university’s online library. Past dissertations will act as a helpful model for all kinds of things, from how long a bibliography needs to be, to what a good literature review looks like, through to what kinds of methods you can use – and how to leverage them to support your argument.
As you peruse past dissertations, ask yourself the following questions:
- What kinds of topics did these dissertations cover and how did they turn the topic into questions?
- How broad or narrow were the topics?
- How original were the topics? Were they truly groundbreaking or just a localised twist on well-established theory?
- How well justified were the topics? Did they seem important or just nice to know?
- How much literature did they draw on as a theoretical base? Was the literature more academic or applied in nature?
- What kinds of research methods did they use and what data did they draw on?
- How did they analyse that data and bring it into the discussion of the academic literature?
- Which of the dissertations are most readable to you – why? How were they presented?
- Can you see why these dissertations were successful? Can you relate what they’ve done back to the university’s instructions/brief?
Seeing a variety of dissertations (at least 5, ideally in your area of interest) will also help you understand whether your university has very rigid expectations in terms of structure and format , or whether they expect and allow variety in the number of chapters, chapter headings, order of content, style of presentation and so on.
Some departments accept graphic novels; some are willing to grade free-flow continental-philosophy style arguments; some want a highly rigid, standardised structure. Many offer a dissertation template , with information on how marks are split between sections. Check right away whether you have been given one of those templates – and if you do, then use it and don’t try to deviate or reinvent the wheel.
Step 3: Review the academic literature
Now that you (1) understand the research process, (2) understand your university’s specific requirements for your dissertation or thesis, and (3) have a feel for what a good dissertation looks like, you can start the ideation process. This is done by reviewing the current literature and looking for opportunities to add something original to the academic conversation.
Kick start the ideation process
So, where should you start your literature hunt? The best starting point is to get back to your modules. Look at your coursework and the assignments you did. Using your coursework is the best theoretical base, as you are assured that (1) the literature is of a high enough calibre for your university and (2) the topics are relevant to your specific course.
Start by identifying the modules that interested you the most and that you understood well (i.e. earned good marks for). What were your strongest assignments, essays or reports? Which areas within these were particularly interesting to you? For example, within a marketing module, you may have found consumer decision making or organisation trust to be interesting. Create a shortlist of those areas that you were both interested in and academically strong at. It’s no use picking an area that does not genuinely interest you – you’ll run out of motivation if you’re not excited by a topic.
Understand the current state of knowledge
Once you’ve done that, you need to get an understanding of the current state of the literature for your chosen interest areas. What you’re aiming to understand is this: what is the academic conversation here and what critical questions are yet unanswered? These unanswered questions are prime opportunities for a unique, meaningful research topic . A quick review of the literature on your favourite topics will help you understand this.
Grab your reading list from the relevant section of the modules, or simply enter the topics into Google Scholar . Skim-read 3-5 journal articles from the past 5 years which have at least 5 citations each (Google Scholar or a citations index will show you how many citations any given article has – i.e., how many other people have referred to it in their own bibliography). Also, check to see if your discipline has an ‘annual review’ type of journal, which gathers together surveys of the state of knowledge on a chosen topic. This can be a great tool for fast-tracking your understanding of the current state of the knowledge in any given area.
Start from your course’s reading list and work outwards. At the end of every journal article, you’ll find a reference list. Scan this reference list for more relevant articles and read those. Then repeat the process (known as snowballing) until you’ve built up a base of 20-30 quality articles per area of interest.
Absorb, don’t hunt
At this stage, your objective is to read and understand the current state of the theory for your area(s) of interest – you don’t need to be in topic-hunting mode yet. Don’t jump the gun and try to identify research topics before you are well familiarised with the literature.
As you read, try to understand what kinds of questions people are asking and how they are trying to answer them. What matters do the researchers agree on, and more importantly, what are they in disagreement about? Disagreements are prime research territory. Can you identify different ‘schools of thought’ or different ‘approaches’? Do you know what your own approach or slant is? What kinds of articles appeal to you and which ones bore you or leave you feeling like you’ve not really grasped them? Which ones interest you and point towards directions you’d like to research and know more about?
Once you understand the fundamental fact that academic knowledge is a conversation, things get easier.
Think of it like a party. There are groups of people in the room, enjoying conversations about various things. Which group do you want to join? You don’t want to be that person in the corner, talking to themself. And you don’t want to be the hanger-on, laughing at the big-shot’s jokes and repeating everything they say.
Do you want to join a large group and try to make a small contribution to what’s going on, or are you drawn to a smaller group that’s having a more niche conversation, but where you feel you might more easily find something original to contribute? How many conversations can you identify? Which ones feel closer to you and more attractive? Which ones repel you or leave you cold? Are there some that, frankly, you just don’t understand?
Now, choose a couple of groups who are discussing something you feel interested in and where you feel like you might want to contribute. You want to make your entry into this group by asking a question – a question that will make the other people in the group turn around and look at you, listen to you, and think, “That’s interesting”.
Your dissertation will be the process of setting that question and then trying to find at least a partial answer to that question – but don’t worry about that now. Right now, you need to work out what conversations are going on, whether any of them are related or overlapping, and which ones you might be able to walk into. I’ll explain how you find that question in the next step.
Need a helping hand?
Step 4: Identify potential research questions
Now that you have a decent understanding of the state of the literature in your area(s) of interest, it’s time to start developing your list of possible research topics. There are (at least) three approaches you can follow here, and they are not mutually exclusive:
Approach 1: Leverage the FRIN
Towards the end of most quality journal articles, you will find a section labelled “ further research ” or something similar. Generally, researchers will clearly outline where they feel further research is needed (FRIN), following on from their own research. So, essentially, every journal article presents you with a list of potential research opportunities.
Of course, only a handful of these will be both practical and of interest to you, so it’s not a quick-fix solution to finding a research topic. However, the benefit of going this route is that you will be able to find a genuinely original and meaningful research topic (which is particularly important for PhD-level research).
The upside to this approach is originality, but the downside is that you might not find something that really interests you , or that you have the means to execute. If you do go this route, make sure that you pay attention to the journal article dates, as the FRIN may already have been “solved” by other researchers if the article is old.
Approach 2: Put a context-based spin on an existing topic
The second option is to consider whether a theory which is already well established is relevant within a local or industry-specific context. For example, a theory about the antecedents (drivers) of trust is very well established, but there may be unique or uniquely important drivers within a specific national context or industry (for example, within the financial services industry in an emerging market).
If that industry or national context has not yet been covered by researchers and there is a good reason to believe there may be meaningful differences within that context, then you have an opportunity to take a unique angle on well-established theory, which can make for a great piece of research. It is however imperative that you have a good reason to believe that the existing theory may not be wholly relevant within your chosen context, or your research will not be justified.
The upside to this approach is that you can potentially find a topic that is “closer to home” and more relevant and interesting to you , while still being able to draw on a well-established body of theory. However, the downside is that this approach will likely not produce the level of originality as approach #1.
Approach 3: Uncensored brainstorming
The third option is to skip the FRIN, as well as the local/industry-specific angle and simply engage in a freeform brainstorming or mind-mapping session, using your newfound knowledge of the theory to formulate potential research ideas. What’s important here is that you do not censor yourself . However crazy, unfeasible, or plain stupid your topic appears – write it down. All that matters right now is that you are interested in this thing.
Next, try to turn the topic(s) into a question or problem. For example:
- What is the relationship between X, Y & Z?
- What are the drivers/antecedents of X?
- What are the outcomes of Y?
- What are the key success factors for Z?
Re-word your list of topics or issues into a list of questions . You might find at this stage that one research topic throws up three questions (which then become sub-topics and even new separate topics in their own right) and in so doing, the list grows. Let it. Don’t hold back or try to start evaluating your ideas yet – just let them flow onto paper.
Once you’ve got a few topics and questions on paper, check the literature again to see whether any of these have been covered by the existing research. Since you came up with these from scratch, there is a possibility that your original literature search did not cover them, so it’s important to revisit that phase to ensure that you’re familiar with the relevant literature for each idea. You may also then find that approach #1 and #2 can be used to build on these ideas.
Try use all three approaches
As mentioned earlier, the three approaches discussed here are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the more, the merrier. Hopefully, you manage to utilise all three, as this will give you the best odds of producing a rich list of ideas, which you can then narrow down and evaluate, which is the next step.
Step 5: Narrow down, then evaluate
By this stage, you should have a healthy list of research topics. Step away from the ideation and thinking for a few days, clear your mind. The key is to get some distance from your ideas, so that you can sit down with your list and review it with a more objective view. The unbridled ideation phase is over and now it’s time to take a reality check .
Look at your list and see if any options can be crossed off right away . Maybe you don’t want to do that topic anymore. Maybe the topic turned out to be too broad and threw up 20 hard to answer questions. Maybe all the literature you found about it was 30 years old and you suspect it might not be a very engaging contemporary issue . Maybe this topic is so over-researched that you’ll struggle to find anything fresh to say. Also, after stepping back, it’s quite common to notice that 2 or 3 of your topics are really the same one, the same question, which you’ve written down in slightly different ways. You can try to amalgamate these into one succinct topic.
Narrow down to the top 5, then evaluate
Now, take your streamlined list and narrow it down to the ‘top 5’ that interest you the most. Personal interest is your key evaluation criterion at this stage. Got your ‘top 5’? Great! Now, with a cool head and your best analytical mind engaged, go systematically through each option and evaluate them against the following criteria:
Research questions – what is the main research question, and what are the supporting sub-questions? It’s critically important that you can define these questions clearly and concisely. If you cannot do this, it means you haven’t thought the topic through sufficiently.
Originality – is the topic sufficiently original, as per your university’s originality requirements? Are you able to add something unique to the existing conversation? As mentioned earlier, originality can come in many forms, and it doesn’t mean that you need to find a completely new, cutting-edge topic. However, your university’s requirements should guide your decision-making here.
Importance – is the topic of real significance, or is it just a “nice to know”? If it’s significant, why? Who will benefit from finding the answer to your desired questions and how will they benefit? Justifying your research will be a key requirement for your research proposal , so it’s really important to develop a convincing argument here.
Literature – is there a contemporary (current) body of academic literature around this issue? Is there enough literature for you to base your investigation on, but not too much that the topic is “overdone”? Will you be able to navigate this literature or is it overwhelming?
Data requirements – What kind of data would you need access to in order to answer your key questions? Would you need to adopt a qualitative, quantitative or mixed-methods approach to answer your questions? At this stage, you don’t need to be able to map out your exact research design, but you should be able to articulate how you would approach it in high-level terms. Will you use qual, quant or mixed methods? Why?
Feasibility – How feasible would it be to gather the data that would be needed in the time-frame that you have – and do you have the will power and the skills to do it? If you’re not confident with the theory, you don’t want something that’s going to draw you into a debate about the relative importance of epistemology and ontology. If you are shy, you won’t want to be doing ethnographic interviews. If you feel this question calls for a 100-person survey, do you have the time to plan, organise and conduct it and then analyse it? What will you do if you don’t get the response rate you expect? Be very realistic here and also ask advice from your supervisor and other experts – poor response rates are extremely common and can derail even the best research projects.
Personal attraction – On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you about this topic? Will addressing it add value to your life and/or career? Will undertaking the project help you build a skill you’ve previously wanted to work on (for example, interview skills, statistical analysis skills, software skills, etc.)?
The last point is particularly important. You will have to engage with your dissertation in a very sustained and deep way, face challenges and difficulties, and get it to completion. If you don’t start out enthusiastic about it, you’re setting yourself up for problems like ‘writer’s block’ or ‘burnout’ down the line. This is the reason personal interest was the sole evaluation criterion when we chose the top 5. So, don’t underestimate the importance of personal attraction to a topic – at the same time, don’t let personal attraction lead you to choose a topic that is not relevant to your course or feasible given your resources.
Narrow down to 3, then get human feedback
We’re almost at the finishing line. The next step is to narrow down to 2 or 3 shortlisted topics. No more! Write a short paragraph about each topic, addressing the following:
Firstly, WHAT will this study be about? Frame the topic as a question or a problem. Write it as a dissertation title. No more than two clauses and no more than 15 words. Less than 15 is better (go back to good journal articles for inspiration on appropriate title styles).
Secondly, WHY this is interesting (original) and important – as proven by existing academic literature? Are people talking about this and is there an acknowledged problem, debate or gap in the literature?
Lastly, HOW do you plan to answer the question? What sub-questions will you use? What methods does this call for and how competent and confident are you in those methods? Do you have the time to gather the data this calls for?
Show the shortlist and accompanying paragraphs to a couple of your peers from your course and also to an expert or two if at all possible (you’re welcome to reach out to us ), explaining what you will investigate, why this is original and important and how you will go about investigating it.
Once you’ve pitched your ideas, ask for the following thoughts :
- Which is most interesting and appealing to them?
- Why do they feel this way?
- What problems do they foresee with the execution of the research?
Take advice and feedback and sit on it for another day. Let it simmer in your mind overnight before you make the final decision.
Step 6: Make the decision (and stick with it!)
Then, make the commitment. Choose the one that you feel most confident about, having now considered both your opinion and the feedback from others.
Once you’ve made a decision, don’t doubt your judgement, don’t shift. Don’t be tempted by the ones you left behind. You’ve planned and thought things through, checked feasibility and now you can start. You have your research topic. Trust your own decision-making process and stick with it now. It’s time to get started on your research proposal!
In this post, I’ve proposed a straightforward 6-step plan to finding relevant research topic ideas and then narrowing them down to finally choose one winner. To recap:
- Understand the basics of academic research, as well as your university’s specific requirements for a dissertation, thesis or research project.
- Review previous dissertations for your course to get an idea of both topics and structure.
- Start the ideation process by familiarising yourself with the literature.
- Identify your potential research questions (topics).
- Narrow down your options, then evaluate systematically.
- Make your decision (and don’t look back!)
If you follow these steps, you’ll find that they also set you up for what’s coming next – both the proposal and the first three chapters of your dissertation. But that’s for future posts!
Psst… there’s more (for free)
This post is part of our dissertation mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project.
You Might Also Like:
I would love to get a topic under teachers performance. I am a student of MSC Monitoring and Evaluations and I need a topic in the line of monitoring and evaluations
I just we put for some full notes that are payable
Thank you very much Dr Caroline
I need a project topics on transfer of learning
m a PhD Student I would like to be assisted inn formulating a title around: Internet of Things for online education in higher education – STEM (Science, technology, engineering and Mathematics, digital divide ) Thank you, would appreciate your guidance
Well structured guide on the topic… Good materials for beginners in research writing…
Hello Iam kindly seeking for help in formulating a researchable topic for masters degree program in line with teaching GRAPHIC ART
I read a thesis about a problem in a particular. Can I use the same topic just referring to my own country? Is that being original? The interview questions will mostly be the same as the other thesis.
Hi, thanks I managed to listen to the video so helpful indeed. I am currently an MBA student looking for a specific topic and I have different ideas that not sure they can be turned to be a study.
I am doing a Master of Theology in Pastoral Care and Counselling and I felt like doing research on Spiritual problem cause by substance abuse among Youth. Can I get help to formulate the Thesis Title in line with it…please
Hello, I am kindly seeking help in formulating a researchable topic for a National diploma program
As a beginner in research, I am very grateful for this well-structured material on research writing.
Hello, I watched the video and its very helpful. I’m a student in Nursing (degree). May you please help me with any research problems (in Namibian society or Nursing) that need to be evaluate or solved?
I have been greatly impacted. Thank you.
more than useful… there will be no justification if someone fails to get a topic for his thesis
I watched the video and its really helpful.
How can i started discovery
Analysing the significance of Integrated reporting in Zimbabwe. A case of institutional investors. this is my topic for PHD Accounting sciences need help with research questions
Excellent session that cleared lots of doubts.
Excellent session that cleared lots of doubts
Wow, This helped a lot not only with how to find a research topic but inspired me to kick it off from now, I am a final year student of environmental science. And have to complete my project in the coming six months.
I was really stressed and thinking about different topics that I don’t know nothing about and having more than a hundred topics in the baggage, couldn’t make the tradeoff among them, however, reading this scrubbed the fuzzy layer off my head and now it seems like really easy.
Thanks GRADCOACH, you saved me from getting into the rabbit hole.
- Dissertation vs Thesis: What's the difference? - Grad Coach - […] we receive questions about dissertation and thesis writing on a daily basis – everything from how to find a…
Submit a Comment Cancel reply
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
- Print Friendly
Finding a PhD
Discover the best places to search for your PhD, learn what you should look for and how to approach a potential supervisor for enquires.
Find Your Perfect PhD
Your PhD starts here. Search our database of available projects and read expert advice on finding, applying for and doing a PhD.
Is Doing a PhD Worth It?
Find out how a PhD can benefit you, from improved career prospects to transferable skills and entry into higher education teaching roles.
PhD in USA – A Guide for 2020/21
A PhD in USA takes 5-6 years, costs between $12-45k per year and has a different structure to UK and EU PhDs. Find out if a US PhD is for you!
How to Choose a PhD Research Topic
From reading publications, talking to supervisors and using your career plans, read our guidance on choosing the right PhD Research Topic for you.
Gain valuable insight from our collection of exclusive interviews with both current and past PhD students. Learn from their best advice, personal challenges and career path after completing their doctorate.
Find a project
- RMIT Europe
- RMIT Global
- RMIT Vietnam
- Study online
- Courses by study area
- Undergraduate courses
- Postgraduate courses
- Vocational studies
- Short courses
- Pre-university studies
- Online courses and degrees
- Entry pathways
- Courses for international students
- How to apply
- School leaver information
- Student services
- Student experience
- Frequently asked questions
- Career advisers
- Study experience
- Student life
- Support for students
- Global opportunities
- Industry connections
- Our strategy
- Governance & management
- Schools & colleges
- Respect for Australian Indigenous cultures
- Our locations and facilities
- Our heritage
- Our research
- Find RMIT researchers
- Centres and collaborations
- Research degrees
- Recruit students and graduates
- Workforce development
- Collaborate with RMIT
- Research partnerships
- Facilities, equipment and services
- Contact Industry Engagement
- Giving to RMIT
- Study in Australia
- Programs for international students
- International student enquiries
- Fees and scholarships for international students
- International student services
- Key dates for international students
How to find a research project
Below is the comprehensive list of research projects available to candidates wishing to apply for a Higher Degree by Research. You will need to provide a research proposal which is aligned to your chosen research area. Use the search fields below to filter the list and find a project matching your skills and interest. Note : This page does not display correctly when viewed with Microsoft Internet Explorer. We suggest using Google Chrome to view.
Found the perfect project?
Click the apply now button below to begin your application.
Acknowledgement of Country
RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.
RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.
- Levels of study
- Single courses
- Applying to RMIT
- International students
- Careers advisers
- Find research
- Research contacts
- Staff development and training
- Facilities and equipment services
- Governance and management
- Schools and colleges
- Copyright © 2024 RMIT University |
- Accessibility |
- Website feedback |
- Complaints |
- ABN 49 781 030 034 |
- CRICOS provider number: 00122A |
- TEQSA provider number: PRV12145 |
- RTO Code: 3046 |
- Open Universities Australia
You're viewing this site as a domestic an international student
You're a domestic student if you are:
- a citizen of Australia or New Zealand,
- an Australian permanent resident, or
- a holder of an Australian permanent humanitarian visa.
You're an international student if you are:
- intending to study on a student visa,
- not a citizen of Australia or New Zealand,
- not an Australian permanent resident, or
- a temporary resident (visa status) of Australia.
How to get a PhD
Study tips Published 5 Apr, 2022 · 4-minute read
Trying to wrap your head around how PhD programs work? We don’t blame you. Sometimes it feels like you need a PhD just to figure out how to get a PhD.
So, with a little help from our academics and some UQ PhD candidates, we’ve broken down the application and preparation process into 10 manageable steps:
- Complete prior research
- Choose your topic
- Find a PhD supervisor
- Write your PhD proposal
- Identify potential scholarships
- Gather required documents and apply
- Determine if you'll continue working during your PhD
- Calculate how long you’ll be researching your PhD
- Develop the traits and behaviours of a good PhD student
- Apply and get accepted
Let’s discuss how to get a PhD in Australia – from choosing your topic to getting stuck into the actual research.
1. Complete prior research (if necessary)
You don’t necessarily need a master’s degree to start a PhD. However, you do need to have completed extensive research. This might involve an academic research program (such as a bachelor's degree with an honours year or a Master of Philosophy ), research conducted in your professional career, or a combination of both. The important thing is that you can demonstrate experience in conducting effective research, as this is a key part of the PhD selection criteria.
Learn more about doing a PhD without a master's degree
2. Choose your topic
Whether you’re developing a thesis on a topic you’ve already worked on or branching out into a new area of interest, you’ll want to know early what kind of topic you want to research for your PhD. Finding a niche that sparks your curiosity is important for ensuring you’ll stay inspired during the 3+ years ahead.
Keep in mind that you generally have two options here. You can complete a PhD by:
- joining an existing research project in an area that interests you
- start a fresh research project that aligns with your specific goals.
Get tips for choosing your PhD topic or explore available research projects at UQ
3. Find a PhD supervisor
One of the essential steps to consider when thinking about how to get a PhD is finding someone to guide you through the process.
Approaching academics about your PhD can be intimidating, but shortlisting and selecting the most appropriate person / team to supervise your research project is important. By choosing your mentor carefully, you can ensure you’ve got someone in your corner who understands your research, has relevant expertise, and will be there to support you throughout your journey.
Learn how to find the right PhD supervisor
4. Write your PhD proposal
Check with your supervisor to see if they require a formal PhD proposal (most will, but not all). If so, with their guidance, it’s time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).
Even if your supervisor doesn't explicitly ask for one, a PhD proposal is a valuable document for outlining the scope of your research and giving your project its initial momentum – so it might be worth writing one either way.
Learn how to write a good PhD proposal
5. Identify potential scholarships
Dedicating yourself to research sometimes means sacrificing your income in the short term, though it can lead to more financial security in the long term . To help support yourself during your studies, you can apply for PhD scholarships and funding.
Learn how to get a PhD scholarship
6. Gather required documents and apply
It’s time to jump online and do the official application process. Aside from your research proposal, you should also prepare to provide your:
- academic CV
- academic transcript
- degree certificate(s)
- English language documents (if needed)
- ID (such as a passport)
- two references / letters of recommendation from people who can comment on your research experience.
Learn how to apply online for a UQ PhD
7. Determine if you'll continue working during your PhD
Some PhD candidates continue doing part-time or casual work while completing their research. However, this isn't easy and may not be feasible in most cases; it takes serious time-management skills to juggle any kind of job alongside a full-time PhD. So, think carefully about whether you’d like to keep working in some capacity or commit your attention fully to your research.
Learn more about working while doing a PhD
8. Calculate how long you’ll be researching your PhD
To complete your PhD within the standard 3.5-year* timeframe, you'll need to be organised with a clear project plan. Of course, the very nature of research is that you'll discover unexpected things and take unplanned detours along the way. So, your plan should include contingencies for any obstacles you might hit to ensure you still complete your research on time.
*In special cases, you may be able to request an extension of your tuition for up to 4 years, but that is the maximum time allowed for a PhD.
Explore how long a PhD takes
9. Develop the traits and behaviours of a good PhD student
We know you’ve already got what it takes, but there are some skills and attributes you could cultivate or practise to make your upcoming journey a little smoother. Between writing your proposal and meeting with potential supervisors, be sure to set some time aside to work on yourself as well.
Discover what makes a good PhD student
10. Apply and get accepted
All the preparation is done. You’ve equipped all the gear, chosen your guide and mapped out your route. It's time to apply and set the wheels in motion.
Submit your PhD application
Share this Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Email
How to decide on a PhD topic
How to find a PhD supervisor
How to write a good PhD proposal
How to get a PhD scholarship or funding
- Visit the University of Nebraska–Lincoln
- Apply to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln
- Give to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Student research days participants sought.
2 days ago · 2 min read
Student Research Days participants sought
Registration for student presenters in the Spring 2024 Graduate and Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Poster Sessions closes at 5 p.m. March 2.
To kick off Student Research Days, students are given the opportunity to present their research or creative work to the campus community across several sessions. Students in engineering and the physical sciences will present on March 26 (undergraduates from 10 a.m. to noon, and graduate students from 3-5 p.m.). Students in the life Sciences, education, business, social sciences and the arts and humanities will present on March 27 (undergraduates from 10 a.m. to noon and graduate students from 3-5 p.m.).
The Spring Student Research Days shines a light on the research and creative accomplishments by NU graduate and undergraduate students. These poster sessions offer opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students to showcase their research or creative activity; to communicate their results to other students, faculty and staff; and to facilitate interdisciplinary work by exchanging knowledge and ideas with other individuals as well as across labs and disciplines. Alternate presentation methods are available if another method would be more appropriate to your work.
Most students choose to present their work with a research poster, but there will be a limited number of TVs and other resources available if you need to present your work through another medium (e.g., a display of artistic pieces). Students can also choose to participate in the poster and creative exhibition competition, where top presenters will win awards and monetary prizes.
All students are welcome to present and there is no cost to register. Student Research Days are hosted by the offices of Undergraduate Research, Graduate Studies and Research and Economic Development.
Learn more information about the graduate event and the undergraduate event .
- Student Research Days
- graduate students
- undergraduate students
Nebraska feels the love during record-breaking glow big red.