Criteria to help you decide

Choose a topic you like

This may be the most important criteria. It is often not an easy decision and requires time you have to invest in order to decide on your topic. Your (quality of) life will be much better if the hours spend on your project are spent enjoyably. What’s more, the quality of your research, writing, and arguments will be much better if you feel a genuine passion for your work. Choose a topic you find both fascinating and significant.

Seek feedback

Discuss your ideas with peers and others, make your ideas explicit and seek feedback. Know that the thesis is a major project, but it isn’t your life’s research. Adequate feedback should help you narrow down your topic to realistic proportions.

Consider your future career

Select a topic that will be helpful in your career path. If your goal is an academic career, pick a topic that you can easily modify into journal articles and maybe lends itself well to future research. If you are going into industry, choose a topic that will make you more marketable.

Select a manageable topic

Use the expertise you have gained in you study and avoid exploring a completely new idea. Do your research and find a topic that fits into existing bodies of literature, but that builds upon theory and expands it. In doing so make sure this topic has not been done before. Finally; think carefully before you choose a controversial topic, think carefully about whether it might restrict your employment, tenure, or publishing opportunities.

Theoretical background

A simplified but very usable technique based on this theory consists of listing the advantages and disadvantages of each option. The list will result in a T-model in which you indicate all the positive points of an alternative on the left side and all the negative points on the right side. Subsequently, you value each aspect by grading it with a number. Eventually, you count the numbers together for the two lists and you will see directly whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

Questions to ask yourself

  • What are my major interests?
  • What major personal experience relative to my discipline do I have?
  • What courses were most exciting?
  • What theories and concepts are interesting?
  • What do I want to avoid?
  • What data do I need?
  • What research methods do I like?
  • What are my career goals? (Articulate and answer your individual questions too.)

Otto Taborsky model

The following model by Otto Taborsky displays stages you should go through while choosing your thesis topic.

  • Realise you have to choose
  • Accept the uncertainty of the decision you will have to make
  • Freely explore
  • Compare
  • Make a decision
  • Execution of your decision