What Makes a Good Dissertation Topic? A Free Checklist

Choosing a dissertation topic is not exactly a walk in the park. A simple decision you make right at the start of your dissertation journey can have fundamental implications for your research, thesis, and even your future career.

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A well-chosen dissertation topic sets the stage for a robust and meaningful research project. But get it wrong and you could be on the path to frustration and inefficiency.

In this article, we provide an overview of the factors that help make a good dissertation topic and offer guidance on how to select a topic that is both impactful and feasible. Drawing upon examples from various academic disciplines, we illustrate the importance of originality, relevance, and alignment with the researcher’s interests and expertise.

Furthermore, we provide practical strategies for identifying potential dissertation topics, including conducting thorough literature reviews, brainstorming ideas, and seeking guidance from mentors or advisors. Additionally, we highlight common challenges and pitfalls to avoid in the topic selection process and offer advice on overcoming them.

Remember, when you’ve finished writing your dissertation, you should always get it checked over by a professional dissertation proofreader.

The Importance of Choosing the Right Dissertation Topic

There are several reasons why it is very important for you to invest time in selecting a dissertation topic when you’re at the all but dissertation stage in your academic life:

  1. Alignment with Your Academic Goals: Your dissertation is the culmination of your academic endeavors, so it’s vital to choose a topic that aligns with your interests, goals, and expertise. A well-chosen topic will keep you motivated and engaged throughout the research process.
  2. Contribution to Knowledge: Your dissertation is an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to your field of study. By addressing unanswered questions or proposing innovative solutions, you can advance the boundaries of knowledge in your discipline.
  3. Relevance to the Field: A topic that addresses current debates or emerging trends will attract interest from your peers and potential collaborators. Choosing a relevant topic ensures that your research has an impact and contributes to ongoing discussions in your field. For some inspiration on specific topics, take a look at our guide to example dissertation research topics.
  4. Career Implications: Your dissertation serves as a showcase of your research skills and intellectual abilities. A well-executed dissertation on a relevant topic can enhance your credibility and open doors to job opportunities, research grants, and professional networks.
  5. Feasibility and Resources: It’s essential to choose a topic and SMART research question that is feasible within the constraints of time, resources, and data availability. Consider whether you have access to the necessary literature and resources to support your research.
  6. Personal Fulfillment: Above all, your dissertation should be personally fulfilling. Choose a topic that resonates with you on a deeper level, one that excites your curiosity and passion. This will sustain your enthusiasm and motivation throughout the research process.

A Checklist for Choosing a Dissertation Topic

Personal Interest:

  • ☑ Does the topic align with your academic interests and passions?
  • ☑ Are you genuinely curious and motivated to explore this topic further?


  • ☑ Is the topic relevant to your field of study and academic discipline?
  • ☑ Does it address current debates, gaps, or emerging trends in the field?


  • ☑ Do you have access to the necessary resources, literature, and data to support your research?
  • ☑ Is the topic feasible within the constraints of time, funding, and available support?


  • ☑ Does the topic offer opportunities for original research and contributions to existing knowledge?
  • ☑ Does it offer a unique perspective or approach that sets it apart from existing research?

Clarity of Research Questions:

  • ☑ Have you formulated clear and concise research questions or objectives for your study?
  • ☑ Are the research questions specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART)?


  • ☑ Does the topic address significant issues or problems within your field?
  • ☑ Will your research contribute to advancing knowledge, addressing challenges, or informing practice in your discipline?

Alignment with Academic Goals:

  • ☑ Does the topic align with your academic and career goals?
  • ☑ Will the research help you develop skills, expertise, or connections relevant to your future aspirations?

Consultation and Feedback:

  • ☑ Have you discussed your topic ideas with your academic advisor, mentors, or peers?
  • ☑ Have you sought feedback on your topic’s feasibility, relevance, and potential contributions?

Ethical Considerations:

  • ☑ Have you considered any ethical implications or considerations related to your research topic?
  • ☑ Will your research involve human subjects, sensitive data, or potential conflicts of interest that need to be addressed?

Personal Fulfillment:

  • ☑ Does the topic resonate with you on a personal level, sparking your intellectual curiosity and passion?
  • ☑ Will researching this topic bring you a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction in your academic journey?

Pitfalls to Avoid When Choosing a Dissertation Topic

To ensure you choose the right dissertation topic, be aware of the following pitfalls to avoid:

  1. Choosing a Topic Without Sufficient Interest: One of the most common pitfalls is selecting a topic solely based on its perceived academic value or relevance without considering your personal interests and passions. Avoid choosing a topic that fails to engage or excite you, as this can lead to disengagement and lack of motivation during the research process.
  2. Narrow or Overly Broad Topics: Beware of choosing a topic that is too narrow or too broad in scope. A topic that is too narrow may limit the depth and breadth of your research, while an overly broad topic can make it challenging to focus your study and formulate clear research questions.
  3. Ignoring Available Resources and Feasibility: Before finalizing your topic, ensure you have access to the necessary resources, literature, and data to support your research. Ignoring resource constraints or feasibility issues can lead to delays, frustration, and ultimately, subpar research outcomes.
  4. Lack of Originality and Contribution: Avoid choosing a topic that lacks originality or fails to make a meaningful contribution to existing knowledge in your field. Your dissertation should offer new insights, perspectives, or solutions to unresolved problems, rather than rehashing existing research or ideas.
  5. Ignoring Ethical Considerations: Ethical considerations are paramount in research, especially when working with human subjects, sensitive data, or potentially controversial topics. Avoid overlooking ethical implications or failing to address potential risks and safeguards in your research design.
  6. Ignoring Feedback and Guidance: Don’t hesitate to seek feedback and guidance from your academic advisor, mentors, and peers throughout the topic selection process. Ignoring feedback or failing to consult with experienced researchers can lead to blind spots and missed opportunities for improvement.
  7. Failure to Consider Career Implications: Consider the potential career implications of your chosen dissertation topic. Will it align with your future academic or professional goals? Will it enhance your credibility, expertise, and employability within your field?
  8. Underestimating Time and Resource Requirements: Be realistic about the time and resource requirements of your chosen topic. Avoid underestimating the amount of time, effort, and resources needed to conduct thorough research, analyze data, and write up your findings.
  9. Choosing a Topic Based Solely on Trends or Fads: Avoid selecting a topic solely based on current trends or fads in your field. While it’s essential to stay informed about emerging research areas, prioritize topics with long-term relevance and sustainability.
  10. Failure to Revisit and Refine Your Topic: Finally, don’t be afraid to revisit and refine your chosen topic as you progress through the research process. Stay open to new ideas, insights, and feedback that may lead you to adjust your research focus or refine your research questions.


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