Saturday, December 20, 2014

How to determine a thesis topic for your master's degree (possibly other theses)

Even though I have had many great ideas for a master's thesis, almost all of them are not feasible within the time period to complete a master's thesis (typically a year, possibly two). For doctoral thesis, this can span many years so I assume one could be more picky about their thesis.

The simplest suggestion I can provide is to just skim through a few theses that you are interested in. All theses have some problems or issues. These will become great sources for your thesis topics. Do not worry too much about sticking to a specific topic but try to keep it as concise as possible. As you do more research, you will be modifying your thesis depending on the sources you are able to find. That's about all there is to finding your thesis topic.

The reason for this method is that most of the ideas you think are innovative, you will find that it is far from innovative. You will also find that the topic will be much more precise than what you initially thought or else your paper will become really long.

But have no fear, although most of your ideas are not new, most of the papers you read will become sources for your thesis. All the sources within those sources will be other sources for your use. I do recommend that you track all the key topics though. I spent a lot of time looking for specific arguments in sources. The temptation to think that I could remember, I did not anticipate the large number of sources that I ended up using (easily used more than 20, read more than 50).

Doing your own research with a survey or test also makes a great source and makes the thesis topic a little more genuine. Before doing this, you should be pretty confident that your thesis will not change (or not change significantly) or else you risk that the research to be just a waste of time. This may be normal for a doctoral thesis, but time is quite the enemy for a master's thesis.

Hopefully this will help someone out there... or perhaps for my future self if I ever decide to get a PhD. GOOD LUCK!

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