11 Tips on How to Find Fresh Ideas for Your Dissertation

The dissertation is one of the greatest challenges you’ve faced so far. In terms of your educational journey, it’s the peak. It’s the final project, which will grant you the PhD degree.

But many candidates get stuck before they even start writing. Are you wondering why? The mere process of identifying research problem imposes a struggle. This is not just another paper you’re writing for a grade. It’s the final proof that you reached the maturity, knowledge, and research potential to deserve that PhD title in front of your name.

what to do defending dissertation

When choosing a dissertation topic, it has to be something you’re interested in. However, the topic should also bring value to the academic community from your niche. You’re not going to research what’s already been written and just paraphrase that content. Oh; no! You’re supposed to deliver new conclusions and make connections between issues that no one made before.

We’re not just talking about diligent research and great writing skills. We’re also talking about creativity. That’s what the committee focuses on when PhD candidates present their dissertations and theses from start to finish.

So what should you do before beginning the research process? Simple: you should get creative! We’ll give you 11 essential tips that will help you find the right angle, which works both for you and for the PhD committee.

11 Tips on the Correct Way to Write PhD Papers

  1. Understand What the Project Calls For

You already completed a thesis to get your MA degree, right? You were having doubts between different thesis topics, but you chose one and you were successful. You might think that this will be a very similar, if not equal, project.


The dissertation definition is different. The PhD dissertation presents original research, which the candidate performed prior to writing the paper. This is just the final result of a broader postgraduate research process.

If we compare a thesis vs dissertation, the difference will be obvious. The MA thesis still requires plenty of background research. However, it is mostly based on extensive references from earlier work. There’s originality in it, but the scope of the candidate’s own discoveries is much narrower.

Another important difference between a thesis and dissertation is the length. The MA thesis is a much shorter paper. The candidate’s original ideas are expected and welcomed, but the main point of completing a thesis is to obtain technical expertise from the niche. The PhD paper is based on original research. You’ll have to be aware of the different types of research methodology, choose the right ones, and use them to come down to your own results.

When we compare the thesis vs dissertation, we’ll find similarities in the academic style. And that’s about it.

So first you have to be aware of the challenge. Only then you can approach it from the right angle.

  1. What’s Your Passion?

One of the biggest mistakes that PhD candidates make before they start working on the project is thinking about defending dissertation. That final moment is constantly in their imagination. That’s why they are focused on choosing topics that would impress the committee members.

That’s a mistake, since it usually leads to overly complicated dissertation topics that you won’t be able to handle. Resist your need to impress at this point. If you choose a theme you’re truly passionate about, you’ll definitely make a good impression during the presentation.

Brainstorming is your starting point.

research dissertation topics

  • Take a piece of paper. Focus! You’ll be writing whatever comes to your mind, without trying to discuss the ideas you get. You’ll do that later on.
  • Think: what aspects of your subject area really awaken your passion to research?
  • What motivated you to study when you faced challenges during your educational journey?

Through brainstorming, you’ll be making the first step towards identifying research problem you’re passionate about.

  1. What’s the Latest Research in Your Niche?

You don’t have to wait to get your PhD degree to become interested in the emerging issues in your niche. You’re already an academic. During your education, you certainly explored the latest trends in your area. Go through them again.

Are there any issues and questions that get special attention? If, for example, you’re studying dermatology and you notice hype around a herb that’s supposed to cure vitiligo, maybe you can focus your research on that?

Try to identify the trends in your area of study and write them down. Can you connect any of them with some of your passions? If you find such a link, it will be the starting point for a really creative dissertation problem statement.

  1. Go Through Some Suggestions for Dissertation Topics

Let’s say you’re writing your doctoral paper in the education niche. After the brainstorming process and your research for some trends, you can proceed by checking out some dissertation topics in education. Just as an example, here are few suggestions that might get your attention:

  • The importance of technology pre-exposure for children’s learning potential
  • Computer-assisted instructions as an essential aspect of homeschooling
  • How a child’s creativity is positively and negatively affected by technology
  • Personalization of homeschooling
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of a flipped classroom

Whatever your niche is, you’ll certainly find several topics to get inspired. However, you must never copy something entirely off the web. Just get inspired for setting your own dissertation problem statement.

  1. Talk to People

Do you know what topics other candidates consider? No; you won’t steal their topics. That’s out of the question. However, through conversations with other candidates, you might get inspired to connect the dots between their research and the current base of knowledge in the field. Maybe you’ll discover a missing link that needs to be filled in.

In addition, you can discuss some of your ideas with other candidates. Don’t worry; they already have their own ideas. Their passion is different from yours. They won’t steal your flame, but they might give you interesting comments that will help you narrow down your focus.

If you don’t have enough connections with other PhD candidates, you can always turn to online forums. If there’s a specific forum focused on your niche, you can go through the discussions and engage in conversations.

You can also talk to Reddit users. That’s a surprise, isn’t it? Well, Reddit has plenty of categories. You’ll certainly find the ones that correspond with your interests. Go through them and observe the conversations. You might get really cool ideas that way.

  1. Read Dissertations from University’s Databases

Plenty of candidates already obtained their doctoral degrees from your university. Your inspiration may be within those resources.

These dissertations show you what the committee is looking for in successful projects. They have already been accepted well, so you’ll get inspired by the style and the overall approach.

how to do a dissertation research

However, each dissertation also contains a section for recommended further research. No researcher gets to the bottom of the issue with a single dissertation. The research can always be extended, so the gaps can be filled in by other academics. There, you might find creative inspiration for identifying research problem.

  1. Trust the Critic Within

You’ve come so far in your studies that you’ve surely mastered your critical thinking skills. It’s time to implement them. Throughout the PhD program, you surely got in touch with research you were skeptical towards. Maybe you consider the arguments invalid. Maybe you think there’s need for further research.

That’s your inspiration, right there.

You can choose a topic that will bring clarity to the issue. Through various types of research methodology, you will question the results of that study and you will discover your own results.

  1. Discuss Your Ideas with Your Mentor

Many postgraduate students don’t understand the role of their mentor. They think this is an academic who is in charge of checking if everything is fine with the first draft.

Yes; they will do that. They will check your first draft and guide you through the revisions. But their responsibilities are not limited to that. The mentor is supposed to provide support every step of the way.

If you went through the stages that we listed above, you ended up with a narrow list of topics. Before choosing a dissertation topic, you should discuss these options with your supervisor. They know the field. They know what research other academics have done. They will be able to tell you what idea from your list holds the greatest potential for a masterful PhD dissertation.

In addition, the mentor will give you few tips on how to write a dissertation proposal.

  1. Stick to the Standards

When you want to be creative with the topic, it’s easy for you to get on risky territory. Of course you can do something away from the official norm. But you have to be careful, since you still have to meet the same standards as other candidates.

If you plan to use an unexpected format or structure for your doctoral paper, the committee might like the experimental approach. For example, you may write a chapter as a fictional story if you could fit such an experiment in the topic. But that’s also very risky.

It’s okay to be very creative. But make sure your mentor and the committee approves of your methods.

  1. Develop a Timeline

So what do you do once you have chosen a topic? You should start thinking about the practical implications of this choice.

In other words, you will develop a dissertation timeline. You will think about the needed field work, equipment, cost, and study participants. You will plan how much time this research would take.

If you realize that any of the planned methods are impossible to achieve within a reasonable timeframe, you might need to go back at the initial stages of the process and choose another, less challenging idea.

  1. Make It Flexible

When you choose your topic and you discuss it with the mentor, you’re not bound to finishing dissertation at any cost. Be very mindful during the beginning of your research. If you encounter any obstacles that make the completion of the project impossible, it’s best to act on time and shift the approach.

The topic is not definite. When you’re writing the research proposal, you have tons of flexibility to experiment with different angles. So do it! Find a topic that makes you feel passionate, but also safe about completing a dissertation.

Are There Any Definite Rules?

No; there is no one correct way to write PhD. Each candidate acts with their own creative potential. That’s the beauty of academic research. When you infuse your personality in it, it never gets boring.

When you don’t choose the right topic for your doctoral project, it will get boring, eventually. Maybe it’s a really important issue for the academic community, but you’ll ruin it with your lack of enthusiasm about it.

Don’t let that happen.

Find your inspiration and work hard on the idea-generation process. That’s where it all starts.