How did you come up with your thesis topic?

posted 3 years ago in College
Post # 3
Member
1137 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: May 2014

woah! Public health that’s so cool!

Can you change advisors? 

I just asked a few of my PhD teachers what kind of research they are doing and I am currently on the process of picking one of the researchs to help and then that will be my thesis topic.

I wanted to do original research but it was too much for me ATM. 

Post # 4
Member
1867 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: March 2013

For my PhD dissertation, my research really evolved over the first two or three years of my program. I went from my very large research interest and read a TON of work until a few things started to be more interesting.I did do original research, and honestly doing that research and being in the field is what triggered my very specific research focus – I came across details in my fieldwork that suddenly became very important to my work.

(If you want specific details on how I narrowed down from the large area to the specific focus, PM me – my work is really specific and would give me away to anyone who knows me).

For your research, are you interested in global public health, public health in the US? Are you interested in epidemiology, health behaviors, health policy? Differences between sub-groups of the population? Specific diseases? Things that are big right now for public health are things like nutrition (especially obesity), health risk behaviors (smoking, alcohol use), HIV/AIDS (both internationally and within the US), environmental health, social determinants of health, maternal and child health, immigrant health. What is interesting to you? What appeals to you from your coursework?

Post # 5
Member
729 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: October 2013

@BluePeaches:  I’m working and struggling on my dissertation now. Maybe we can start a support group for fellow bees in the same boat? I meet with a friend in my program every week to review questions and drafts since my advisor pretty much hasnt replied to my emails in 2 months…..

Post # 8
Member
6880 posts
Busy Beekeeper
  • Wedding: March 2014 - A castle!

@BluePeaches:  I literally have read hundreds if not thousands of publications in my field. Everytime I read a paper, I write a small abstract (I guess you could call it) summarizing the objective and results along with the good and the bad in the paper. Oh, and I add it to my Mendeley Library. 

To figure out a hypothesis, it needs to be an unanswered question that your research will try to answer. I’m in the hard sciences and like kittyface my thesis is evolving as my research evolves. Because you can’t do experiments or anything I would just say read all the papers you can until you find something that interests you, and then make your hypothesis as focused as possible to avoid going down dead ends.

And don’t let distance discourage you from talking to your advisor. That is what he’s there for. If you send him 30 e-mails a day it shouldn’t matter because he is committed to you. I’m not sure if he is tenured or not, but if he’s not your graduation will definitely matter for his tenure package, so he should be equally invested in you. If he is tenured, then you’ll just have to ride his ass and don’t feel bad doing it. Lots of schools have Graduate Student Unions you can reach out to if your advisor is being a PITA or unhelpful. They might also be able to put you in touch with others in your major.

Post # 10
Member
3016 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: July 2014 - Prague

My BA thesis was on Eastern European History, so I can’t help you actually decide, but I just wanted to tell you that it wasn’t easy to decide!!! I started in one place and slowly got to my actual thesis topic through following my curiosity down different paths. I’m sure my advisor helped steer me a bit, but he wasn’t very communicative or enthusiastic in general, so mostly I just explored until I found something that really really intrigued me.

I will say, writing my undergrad thesis was one of the most pleasurable academic experiences. (I can’t say the same for my Masters’ 🙁 ). I loved being able to explore a topic I truly was interested in.

Post # 11
Member
1197 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: August 2014

We had to write a full length NRSA-style grant proposal for one of our qualifying exams (one of  many!).  This really helped me delve into the current literature and figure out exactly what I wanted to do.  That being said, my project has since taken a different course, which is competely OK.  

I think what you should do is (1) figure out a more general topic of interest (2) come up with a few holes in the current literature (3) pick the one you want to work on best (4) come up with a plan of attack.  That being said, be flexible and don’t let your original plan stop you from pursuing other avenues related to your field.  Part of getting a higher degree is to become an “expert” in your field, which only happens from working on different aspects of it. 

My advisor is very hands-off, so I’m sorry I can’t be much help there.  He mostly lets me fend for myself, which is very frustrating at times, but at the end of the day is very helpful.  Do you have classmates or friends in the same field?  Try picking their brains to see what they have to say.  Collaborations can be extremely helpful.  

Post # 13
Member
6880 posts
Busy Beekeeper
  • Wedding: March 2014 - A castle!

@BluePeaches:  Mendeley is amazing for managing your citations. What I do is keep a word document with citations and my “abstracts.” I make sure to rewrite everything in my own words after I read the paper so I can literally just copy/paste it into documents when/where I find suitable.

Start at sciencedirect.com. One disadvantage you’re going to have is that you’re not on your schools IP network, so you might ask if there is a way you can remote desktop in to a campus computer so that you’ll have rights to look up any publication you want without paying a fee. Some articles can be $30 and up. DO NOT PAY FOR THEM! If you can’t find a copy thru your school, ask your school’s librarian and they should get you an electronic copy of the article.

Trying to think of a hypothesis before doing a full on literature review is putting the cart before the horse. You need to find out what has been done so you can come up with something novel, and how will you know whether your hypothesis is novel if you don’t know your field?

Definitely start by reading a TON of publications. I print out all my publications too (bad I know) and then sort them based on category. Am I looking for an article about shear stress? Done. Am I looking for something about matrix remodeling? Done. I know exactly where to find my sources. 

Also, get familiar with the researchers and authors in your field. You could be asked something like, “Who did the study on blah blah blah and why did you think it was important?” during a thesis defense. Plus you should know these names if you ever travel to conferences you’ll be great at networking.

Post # 14
Hostess
9910 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: May 2014

@BluePeaches:  I had a really hard time picking my honours thesis topic too.  I was torn between 2 subject areas.  Ultimately, I knew I had to go with what my ultimate passion was, if I had to do/study 1 thing every day for the rest of my life, what would it be and that was my topic.

Post # 15
Member
1867 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: March 2013

@BluePeaches:  One thing I’ll suggest if you want answers on specific requirements – don’t ask your advisor, ask your program’s admin person. I’m also long distance from my program now so I feel you – if I need an answer, I email the people in our department office whose job it is to stay on top of requirements of the department and the university. That might help at least answering your questions re: length and other technical questions.

@FutureDrAtkins:  is definitely giving great advice on lit reviews and keeping track of what you’ve read – I do the same thing, by writing short notes on everything I read and putting all the citations into EndNote. It makes it a lot easier to go back and see what ideas you found where.

Having really broad interests *does* make it difficult. That’s definitely how I started it out and it really did evolve other time, especially through all my reading and talking with my husband (also a PhD student in a similar discipline) and my friends in my program. You definitely want to be familiar with what’s going on in your overall discipline, but it’s important to start following the research on what you’re really into. What’s been written on the ‘One Health’ concept? What aspects of it are most interesting to you? If you’re interested in infectious disease, there’s a lot within the ‘One Health’ area that looks at that kind of thing.

One thing that might help you sort out how theses in your program should be written is to look at those of students who’ve graduated recently. Most schools have these available (usually through ProQuest) or you can ask your department admin. They’re usually freely available, so you can look through some and see how others have structured their work, whether it was more technical or more analytical, etc.

Post # 16
Member
729 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: October 2013

@BluePeaches:  

My friend is semi-familiar with my topic I guess. We are in the same program both getting Psy D’s with a concentration in child and adolescent psychology. My dissertation is on the parenting experiences of latino parents of children ith autism whereas hers is on the correlation between exposire to sexual material online and child sexual abuse. So from my perspective it’s pretty different yet compared to yours I guess there are more similarities…

Anyway, what we did is we traded proposals and I showed her my methodology chapter. It’s helpful because we are not familiar with each other’s topics so we can read it from a frewsh perspective. We can ask questions to make the writing clearer. And at the same time even though the topics are differnt we can kinda serve as a “template” for eacch other. I think that one of the hardest things about dissertations and thesis can be that we have no idea what it’s supposed to look like and at least in my school they act like its a big secret and like they cant tell us. Its so wacky.   What I started doing is looking at several dissertations that were similar in scope to mine with similar methodology and basically use them as a template and also a place to find more references. 

 

Another thing that has been helpful for me personally has been to read through my articles and highlight relevant pieces then to rate each article 1-10 according to how useful I felt it was. Then when I go back to start putting things into my dissertation I can choose which articles are more important and should go in. I also write down notes on each article at the top. I created an outline of what I think my dissertation is going to be like and then I just start typing in the quotes into each section. So basically right now I have several word documents (a folder for each chapter, docs for each section) and have been plugginng away. Then when I have enough I form it into eactual paragraphs. 

 

My research was an oroginal study in which I collected data for a pilot program that my original chair wrote a grant to run. She was amazing but passed away and now I’m with this new chair who hasn’t responded to my emails in 2 months. Ugh. But if  yuo want to use a secondary data set and not bother with collecting original data sources  there are plenty of places that have data sets available. You can just enter in different variables and find something they havent looked at. 

 

Hope this helps. I’ve been so lost with mine it’s nice to have a place for support where maybe the info that has been so difficult for me to find can be helpful for others and where I can hear how others are doing in this journey! 

So in summary: 

1. It’s okay to get help from people not familair, in some cases more helpful

2. look at other dissertations from your program/field. Use them as a loose template

3. Outlines rock my socks

4. Rate each article’s effectiveness and make brief summaries. I plug in info directly into my outline

5. Secondary data is the way to go because original data collection took me over 144 hrs. you can find secondary data: 

http://www.scra27.org/wiki/secondarydatasources~2


http://WWW.ICPSR.UMICH.EDU

 

http://WWW.CHILDHEALTHDATA.ORG

 

http://WWW.RESEARCHFORUM.ORG

 

http://WWW.NDACAN.CORNELL.EDU

 

 

Leave a comment


Sent weekly. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Find Amazing Vendors