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A Legitimate Manual on How to Choose a Psychology Dissertation Topic

Deciding on your thesis is at once both exciting and terrifying.  You’re finally given the chance to conduct some independent research but you’re time and resources are not limitless.  As a social science there is some room for creativity but there are also number of conventions and procedures that you have to take into account if you’re going to produce a professional paper.

  • Review Your Personal Resources
  • While you may want to try exploring something new it’s a good idea to build up on what you’ve already done.  What research have you done in the past that you particularly enjoyed?  This could be a chance to explore it from a different angle or research it in more depth.

    Be aware of what resources you have access to and what is realistic to attempt.

  • Narrowing the field
  • You’re looking to find a very specific question to write your dissertation on.  It’s not about simply describing a phenomenon or listing facts but actually making a claim about something.

    Always keep in mind the particular discipline you are working within and how it may overlap with others e.g. psychopathology deals with mental health and personality while developmental psychology is about human maturation and development.  These are the big how and why questions within which you will choose your more specific thesis.

    Research in psychology involves two methodological paradigms, each with its own set of conventions which will determine the type of questions that can be asked.  Qualitative research is subjective and questions may be broad in scope, aimed at describing phenomena and looking for common themes. Quantitative research questions can be far more direct in making claims about the relationships between different phenomena in measurable terms.

  • Reviewing the Literature
  • You need to have narrowed your search a bit before you start reviewing the literature or you may find trying to track down all the information it a bit overwhelming.  Writing up a literature review is a good way to familiarize yourself with the subject matter and find a specific area for further investigation.

    Textbooks will provide you with a wealth of theory on any given subject while you can consult journal articles for more specific and current research.  While you are reading make notes on what you would like to research further.  Once you feel you have enough information to decide, try to look for “gaps in the research”.  These are areas that have not yet been investigated or questions which have not yet been asked.

  • Other Sources
  • Psychology is a living science and there should be a wealth of information all around you.  Keep a journal and try to think about your own experiences and how that can be used in your research.  Talk to your friends about things that concern them or simply observe the environment around you.  Read newspaper articles and stories, watch movies, browse the internet and listen to music. While not reliable academic sources all of these are small opportunities for inspiration.

    You can always consult professors, tutors and advisors or anyone with experience in psychology for guidance.