Selecting Your Thesis Topic

Updated: Nov 9, 2016

This article describes some easy steps that should be taken in order to narrow down the search for a topic for your thesis.

Choosing a Thesis Topic

Not at all to be confused with the argument put forth in a persuasive essay, or the thesis in a paper’s “Thesis Statement,” a thesis or Term Paper is a type of dissertation paper reserved for students pursuing a Masters degree. Writing, then submitting one for evaluation, involves evaluating and interpreting gathered information on a specific subject or collection of subjects, and then drawing conclusions from this information to be used to develop a solid, unique argument – often one that is essentially a long (book-length) essay or dissertation. (This is not to be misunderstood for the kind of dissertation required for a student to earn a doctorate in a specific field).

Like a persuasive essay – only much, much longer and more specific and advanced in scope – the thesis paper consolidates information from several sources (books, primary/secondary sources, library catalogs, academic journals, etc.) to argue a point, the overall theme of this extensive academic paper. It dissects a certain topic, arguing for or against something in particular, often with a purpose to add new perspectives on previously published issues or topics. (Its aim is to also demonstrate to one’s professor or instructor that the student looking to earn their Masters degree has the necessary writing, researching and critical-thinking skills traditionally expected of earning such an advanced degree).

However, selecting a topic is often the most crucial step in the overall success of the thesis paper. 

7 Steps to Find a Winning Topic 

STEP 1. Start by developing a topic that interested the student in their undergraduate years or thus far in graduate school. Though this may seem obvious, it takes some work. A student can look at their old papers that examined certain topics that were most interesting to them; a student may also ask what topics, issues, and questions have continually held their attention since the beginning of their academic career. 

STEP 2. Think of several issues or subjects that would be interesting to study and turn them into questions. Do these ideas seem like credible, potentially promising topics? Are there any that seem researchable and workable that could be used for a dissertation proposal? Ask what makes a good research topic. Those examining the thesis paper (and those who must approve the topic and research direction before allowing the student to fully commit to the project) will be looking to make sure the student’s research, approach and understanding of the project is original, and that the thesis paper’s topic is set in the context of what existing research says about the topic, and that this project can be executed in a competent manner.


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STEP 3. If need be, discuss these ideas with one’s professor or instructor. Professors are there to help and do not expect the Master's degree-seeking student to have a complete understanding of how to write a thesis paper. 

STEP 4. See what other scholars are writing about the topic or subject, and conduct some preliminary research. This will indicate if the topic is worth pursuing or not. Preliminary reading may help to evoke one’s passions or interests, as well. Also, what topics have been covered in the course? 

STEP 5. Look at studies that similarly covered the subject. In many cases, older studies and published dissertations can be reexamined in a new context.

STEP 6. Choose a feasible topic. Be realistic in terms of one’s expectations in covering a certain topic. 

STEP 7. Get an approval of the person who will be monitoring your work on thesis paper.

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