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As a doctoral candidate, your procedural formalities are no longer dictated by faculty. If your topic is simply your professor’s pet area, you should be aware the topic may lose appeal before it’s even “housebroken.” Furthermore, if your professor moves on to another interest area, you will be stranded and possibly unable to complete your work.Rather, you must examine the selected topic, create a timeline for its development, and alter your lifestyle to assure its completion. Remember, this is a topic that should keep you engrossed and motivated for at least one to two years. Many students may spend a year researching a topic before finally selecting one for their dissertation.Honestly, you need only come up with a question that, when answered, would shed new light on what others have done before – but the idea is for that new light to truly have us look at things in a whole new way.
Much of my work has revolved around the figure of Jean-Philippe Rameau, who was both a leading theorist and composer.
I keep hearing very similar tales from graduate students: once they find a topic they thoroughly enjoy and acquire the necessary skills to tackle, they seem to thrive as scholars.
Be sure your time is not monopolized studying new research at the expense of analyzing your own. Evaluate your constructs and obtain references to support your construct definition. While reviewing the literature, determine if your completed project will “fit” the Zeitgeist of an existing journal. Certainly your topic must be important to you, but it must also add to your field of interest. Your dissertation committee will establish either a direct or de facto relationship with both you and your topic.
If your definition veers from the accepted literature, be prepared to defend the definitional defiance to your committee and reviewers who may later, hopefully, publish your results. You should be able to place yourself in the desk of a reviewer and assess, with minimal doubt, whether or not your dissertation would enhance the integrity of a reputable journal. Your topic should offer additional insight into an existing problem, and offer an opportunity to demonstrate your level of expertise and quality of scholarship. Obtain feedback from committee members if they can offer specialized support or, if individual members have an area of interest that can be incorporated as a hypothesis subtopic, try to include a discussion of this somewhere in the dissertation. A timeline will further assist you in selecting your topic.
) Envision the whole of sociological knowledge as contained in one big dataset, complete with keywords and subject headings.
Surely, you would contribute something to the dataset that would ostensibly fit under a subject heading, and possibly a set of existing keywords, but to push the envelope your topic should meet meet three criteria.
GSAS is starting a community-wide discussion on the subject of how to pick a dissertation topic.
Share your thoughts on Facebook and Twitter (#dissertation), and look for advice from faculty and deans in the next GSAS Bulletin.
When the term was used in aeronautics, it referred to the outer curve describing the limit of an aircraft’s performance.
Test pilots were encouraged to push the envelope in order to test the aircraft, and the phrase made it to the common lexicon in Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book about test pilots, The Right Stuff.