Possible dissertation Topics
The suggestions made are generally considered reasonable
Most academic journals, especially all quality journals, are peer-reviewed. This means that the journal articles submitted for publication were reviewed by other experts in the field. Since a majority of the articles that are submitted by academics to a journal are rejected, only those that reviewers judge to be of sufficient quality are finally accepted for publication. The Limitations and Future Research section(s) of these journal articles is no different. They have been subject to the same peer review process. As a result, other experts in the field have examined these limitations and suggestions for future research. Whilst acceptance into a journal does not necessarily mean that the reviewers agree with the arguments made by the authors throughout the article, including the Limitations and Future Research section(s), it does imply that these ideas are considered to be reasonable by other experts within the field. As a result, the topic ideas that you will get from the Limitations and Future Research section(s) of these journal articles is a good starting point when coming up with a dissertation topic.
You can more easily identify why your research would be significant
Understanding the significance of the research you are proposing is a critical part of the dissertation process. Does your dissertation topic?
- Capitalise on a recent event
- Reflect a break from the past
- Target a new audience
- Address a flaw in a previous study
- Expand a particular field of study
- Help an individual, group, organisation, or community
These areas of potential significance are important because if you don't have a good answer to the question, Why is your research significant?, your dissertation is likely to come in for much criticism, reducing the potential for a high mark. Whilst dissertations are rarely ground-breaking at the undergraduate or Master's level (and are not expected to be), they should still be significant in some way. The Limitations and Future Research section(s) of journal articles set out (sometimes in detail) the limitations of their own research, as well as potential ideas for future research. Therefore, it can be much easier to identify why your research would be significant when reading the Limitations and Future Research section(s) of journal articles rather than trying to evaluate how your research is significant when you came up with an idea on your own.
The journal article provides a platform for your research plan
The Limitations and Future Research section(s) of a journal article is based on the research that has already been discussed in that journal article. This is an obvious point to make. However, it is also important because it means that the journal article can provide you with a platform for your own research plan.
Whilst some of the future research ideas suggested are very broad or far reaching, a significant proportion of these tend to be simple extensions of the research that was carried out and explained in the journal article. In the case of the limitations of the research that have been identified by the authors, which are often a good starting point for a new topic, these most certainly focus on the research carried out and explained in the journal article. This provides you with some advantages:
- When you look through a journal article, especially ones involving primary and/or secondary research, you can often see those core components that will help you with your own research plan: the research aims, questions and/or hypotheses, the concepts and theories discussed in the literature review, the research design used, the study's findings, discussion, and so forth. Where your proposed dissertation topic addresses one of the limitations of the research identified by the authors, or extends the research in a way proposed by the authors, the formula for carry out your proposed dissertation topic is partly set out for you [see the article, Turning a research limitation or future research suggestion into a potential topic idea].
- Specific components of the journal article can provide you with a good starting point for your dissertation. For example, the literature review and reference list at the end of the journal article may be particularly helpful in identifying where to look for new research or simply the articles you need to read to familiarise yourself with the subject you are interested in. In some cases (although many journals are not good at this), the journal article will provide you with the data collection procedures you could use, the actual coding and/or measurement instruments (e.g., questionnaires, interview questions) that the authors used, and so forth.
You can get an insight into the potential achievability of your topic
When you have never done a major piece of research before (e.g., a dissertation at the undergraduate level), it is easy to come up with a potential dissertation topic, think that it is a great idea, and believe it will be achievable. It is often only during the research process (i.e., when you get started); perhaps even after your dissertation proposal has been accepted, that all the hurdles you will inevitability face become clear. Wouldn't a little foresight be nice?! This is the benefit of choosing topics based on the Limitations and Future Research section(s) of journal articles.
As the article, How do I know whether my dissertation topic is achievable?, shows, issues of access, money, data availability, researcher knowledge, access to the literature, analysis skills (qualitative or quantitative) help you to judge from the outset whether a dissertation topic will be achievable. However, since you get a greater sense of what may be required of you when drawing on an existing study, building on the ideas that come from the Limitations and Future Research section(s) of journal articles should provide you with greater insight into the achievability of your dissertation topic.