Find a dissertation topic
Select a topic
Here are a few ideas to help you to select a topic and refine your idea.
• Choose an area of study that you already know well.
• Identify a problem that you would like to investigate.
• Identify key terms/concepts.
• Look for a small gap in the research you can fill.
• Check your topic is unique - make sure you are not repeating anyone else's research. You could:
- generate new data about a topic
- take a theory and apply it in a new way
- apply existing research to a different context, e.g. a new location, time period or age group. For example, you may have seen research about the impact of digital media on parents’ interactions with their babies in the UK and decide to apply this to families in another country.
• Make sure your topic is not too broad.
Check your topic
Make sure your topic is viable.
Do a literature search
. See if there are enough relevant and up-to-date materials available. Identify scholars who have written about your topic and identify journals with relevant articles.
• Look at related student dissertations to see how others have tackled the subject.
• Look for journal articles, book chapters, conference papers and authoritative websites on the subject.
• Find ideas for methodologies – see what other researchers have used.
• Make sure your project is manageable within the time available.
• Discuss the topic with your supervisor.
Check other dissertations
It can be helpful to look at theses and dissertations related to yours, for both the content and structure.
To access Masters theses:
• Go to library search > advanced search mode. Put in your search terms as normal. Use a line for searching in any field and type "sussex theses ; m" (with the quotation marks) for Masters theses only.
• MA theses will come up (along with a few other items). Look at the metadata for each one to check if it’s a Masters or doctoral thesis.
• Narrow the list of results by using one of the filters on the left of the page. The Author filter allows you to refine by School, for example, you could select ‘School of Global Studies’ or ‘IDS’.
• You can request items from the store from a member of staff at the Information Hub. There are 2 collection times daily – 12pm and 4pm.
• Decide on your hypothesis/research questions
Research questions include one or two main questions, but no more. You may have sub-questions if you need them.
• Ethical considerations
If you are involving participants in your research, explain its purpose to them. You will need to get their permission and protect their confidentiality. Check the GDPR rules for data protection.
• Write a project proposal, outlining what your dissertation will cover.
‘Talk to your lecturers, your supervisor, your course mates. They offer the chance not just for a fresh perspective, but also for you to develop your reasoning.’
(Josie, Third-year Global Studies student)
‘Remember that you have made it to the last term of third year [or beyond]; you have got this far because you are a capable and talented individual; use the confidence you have earnt from this to bring flair and originality to your work.’ (Ghaleb, Third-year Geography student)
Imagine a friend asks you what your dissertation is about. Sum up in one sentence, for a non-expert, what it's about. If you can do this, you know you have refined your idea.