Narrowing Down a Dissertation Topic
The Dissertation can seem like a daunting task, one that you don’t want to think about because it seems too big and too scary. It means you’re in your final year, and this is the final stretch before you do whatever it is you want to do after you leave university… In Liberal Arts, your Dissertation can quite literally be on any topic of your choosing. Now, this is both great and perhaps not so great: it’s great because you’re free to write about anything which interests you, but you’re also free to write about anything which interests you… you get me? So, I thought I’d share some things which helped me to narrow down my Dissertation topic at the start of this year, when I had no idea what to do!
- Pathways – Your pathway is the first place to look to when you’re stuck for ideas, it’s a great starting point even if you end up doing something which isn’t completely related! My pathway is in Sustainability and Culture, so I began by thinking about the different ways sustainability and culture intersect in the world…
- Essays – Next, think about any projects you’ve done or essays you’ve written throughout your time as a Liberal Arts student to see if there’s anything you particularly enjoyed writing about or researching. Although you can’t self-plagiarise by copying and pasting bits of your own work into other assessments, these can also provide the spark you need to come up with a topic! My favourite part about the Liberal Arts course is that we have the freedom to choose our essay titles, more so than in any of my other modules outside of the department*, this really helped me to find my niche and my interests when it comes to researching and writing. Although I can’t say I’ve never been stressed about writing essays, I’ve always enjoyed writing them because I could choose the topic myself and ended up finding out some really interesting information through my research.
- Personal interests – This goes hand-in-hand with points 1 and 2. Your personal interests should define what you choose as your pathway as a Liberal Arts student, same for your essay topics*. Think about whether there is an intersection between your interests and your academic research. For me, this was visual arts and culture, so I knew I wanted my topic to cover this in some way.
- Your tutor/supervisor – Finally, don’t hesitate to speak to your tutor and your Dissertation supervisor! I know everyone says it and maybe you’re not feeling great about meeting them with no ideas to bring to the table, but they can help you with this. I was lucky enough to have my tutor as my Dissertation supervisor, so he knew me and my interests very well by the time we had our first meetings. However, even if you only have a few floating thoughts, speaking to your tutor and Dissertation supervisor can help you ground these thoughts and turn them into something which has more scope and potential, and something which is less broad, so that you can start your research and develop your ideas yourself!
The Dissertation is your chance to put your well-developed research skills to good use and produce something you’re both interested in and proud of. It can seem difficult at first and very daunting, but there are ways to tackle this, and soon you’ll see it’s not as overwhelming as you may think. I’ve also written a post with my top tips for writing your Dissertation, so check that out!
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. My messages are always open 🙂
(* In my experience of the Liberal Arts modules I have taken, I have been able to construct my own research question)