Your dissertation is a labour of love. It requires so much dedication, so much research. Ultimately, this is your contribution to your field, and it has to be amazing – at least this is what many undergraduates think. Then reality sinks in. You realise that not all topics are interesting. In fact, most of them are downright boring. Here’s how to pick a winner that you will be proud of when you’re on your death bed.

Start Your Swipe File

In marketing, a swipe file is a collection of good marketing pieces. These pieces are usually written by top copywriters (ad men or women) and display “the best of the best.” In some cases, a swipe file refers to just the headlines of advertisements, because the headline is said to generate 80 percent, or more, of the interest in the ad and get the prospect to read it.

In this context, a swipe file would be a collection of ideas or topics for your dissertation. Since this is a topic you’ll be working on for many years, spend a lot of time collecting samples and ideas. They will help spark your own creativity. You’re not looking to copy anyone else, obviously, but research topics, dissertation questions, and actual dissertation samples might just push you over the edge and help you come up with that winning idea.

Some research firms, like Ivory Research, can also help you come up with an idea. These companies research, write, and help you refine your paper so it might be a good idea to hire one. It could save you a lot of time and frustration.

Pay Attention To What Needs More Study

Sometimes, your professors already know what needs more attention in your field of study. They can provide you with ideas and research topics that you can flesh out. This makes your job infinitely easier as far as topic selection is concerned.

But, you might not be interested in anything your professor suggests. Weigh his or her suggestions against your own interests. Since your dissertation will likely guide your future career path, don’t just choose a topic because your professor thought you might benefit from the topic. His topic might be something he’s interested in, and that might be very different from what you’re interested in.

 Turn Interests Into Questions

Sometimes, you already have an idea of the broad topic you want to write about. The problem is turning it into a dissertation topic. To turn broad ideas into specific ones, ask yourself questions. Specifically, ask yourself research-focused questions about the broad topic.

Conduct brainstorming or free-writing exercises to get your mental “juices” flowing. Don’t worry about grammar or word choices – just get questions down on paper. Even if they’re nonsensical questions or questions that don’t seem like they would lead anywhere, write them down.

This is very hard for most students to do correctly. What most students do is they write, and then they try to edit their thoughts as they are writing. This simply will not work, and it’s the opposite of what you should be doing. You should essentially have a stream of consciousness on paper when you’re done. Editing and topic selection comes later.

Push The Envelope

“Pushing the envelope” is a phrase taken from aeronautics and popularised by Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book The Right Stuff. It refers to a curve that encloses all other curves in a family of curves. This is the “outer most” boundary or limit of an aircraft’s capability.

Test pilots were sometimes encouraged to “push the envelope” to see what the aircraft was really capable of. This is what you must do in your research. Go outside of the normal or accepted parameters of what’s already been done. Don’t repeat something that’s already in a dataset. Make your paper contain significant data that other scientists or researchers must use to formulate their own research. That is the mark of a truly excellent research topic.

Jenny Wescott is an online tutor and consultant. When she’s not working, she likes to sit down and share her insights with others. You can find her informative posts on a variety of websites and blogs.