PICKING A TOPIC When deciding your topic, keep in mind that you will undoubtedly spend the next few years immersed in it, says psychologist John Cone, Ph D, a professor emeritus at Alliant International University (AIU) and co-author with Sharon Foster, Ph D, of "Dissertations and Theses from Start to Finish" (APA, 1993).
Cone advises the following steps to pick a topic: To narrow your focus, identify what within your chosen topic area interests you, says Foster, a psychology professor at AIU.
Ideally, dissertation advisers say, students identify a research interest in the first or second year of their program and then use that general area as a theme throughout their coursework.
Instead, experts encourage students to view the dissertation as a teaching exercise, in which they learn how to conduct, design and analyze independent research. "The topic is the foundation for everything-with a good topic and research question, you'll be set to go," says Melinda Stoops, Ph D, a director of the counseling center at Framingham State College in Framingham, Mass., who has spoken at APA conferences on writing the dissertation.
"It is helpful to choose a topic that builds upon past work you have done," Ernst says.
"I think this makes the process of identifying the big questions much easier because you are already familiar with the relevant literature." But, make sure you have passion for the topic.
Experts offer the following advice on tackling these beginning stages of your dissertation-from getting organized to narrowing your topic to identifying your problem and research questions.
Then, take it one chapter at a time, dissertation advisers say.
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