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Doctoral Research & Writing Guide

Developing Your Interests

You (hopefully) already have an interest in some subject-matter or area within your field, but you'll need to transform that interest into a dissertation topic which isn't easy! So how to do we develop our interests into a viable dissertation topic?

The book Demystifying Dissertation Writing suggests considering these questions:

  • How does this work relate to my professional mission?
  • Is there a recent dissertation written on the topic? (If so, this may cause you to shift or change your topic based on the focus of the dissertation.)
  • Is there someone in my department with whom I could work on a project within this field?
  • Would this topic motivate me for the duration of working on a dissertation?
  • Would pursuing this topic serve as a stepping stone to the next phase in my academic or professional career?
  • Do I have the resources to complete this dissertation topic within a reasonable time frame? (p.39)

The best way to develop your topic is to join the conversation by reading the literature (See Critical Academic Reading) and discussing ideas with your advisor, faculty, and classmates. 

Developing Your Research Project

As you develop your research project, you will want to define the key project parameters. In Designing Engaged Scholarship: From Real-World Problems to Research Publications, Mathiassen created a helpful table to aid you in defining and developing your project:

Table: Components of Engaged Scholarship Research (Mathiassen 2017)

Mathiassen, L. (2017). Designing Engaged Scholarship: From Real-World Problems to Research PublicationsEngaged Management ReView, 1(1), licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License.

When you first start your project, you probably won't be able to fully describe each component, but that's okay. Note which components you need to work on. As you develop your project, you will inevitably have to revise these components, so it will be helpful for you to revisit this table often. Below you will find a document with a blank table to help you get started!

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