Grad students who are preparing for their theses seem to get a bit frantic as they look for good thesis topics to consider. They seem to spend a great deal of time wringing their hands, talking with their peers, doing online research, and generally not looking in the right places for those thesis paper topics. Here’s a novel idea – look a bit closer to home!
What is meant by this is that students can find thesis topic ideas within the coursework that they encounter every day. Ask yourself a few questions, and you will probably generate enough thesis topic ideas to fill a couple of pages. Here are those questions:
- What have been your favorite courses thus far in your graduate studies? Within those courses, what have been your favorite units of study? What have you found fascinating or about which you would really like to know more within those units of study? Keep narrowing your focus until you have found specific topics that you know you can get excited about.
- Look through your textbooks. In your readings, which chapters were the most interesting? Within those chapters, in which sections did you develop a keen interest?
- Read through your lecture notes. Which lectures touched upon topics that fascinated you?
- Look at the essays and research papers you have written. Could any of your thesis essay topics be expanded into research questions? Have any of the thesis statements you generated for smaller research papers expand into thesis statement topic ideas for a larger project?
Determine the Purpose
Most students do not think of a thesis as having a purpose other than to determine a thesis topic, form a research question within that topic, and then propose a hypothesis which the research is supposed to support. But that hypothesis will also determine the purpose of the work – informational, synthesis, argumentative, etc. And the hypothesis thus becomes a thesis topic sentence of sorts. For example, consider the following:
- You are a sociology student and have selected the topic of “The American Dream.” Your research question may be something like, “Does the concept of the American differ among various socio-economic groups?” Your hypothesis then becomes, “Dependent upon socio-economic status, the American Dream is perceived very differently.” Your research will obviously be to look at the research of others but, as well, may involve “boots on the ground” interview work. You may even decide to narrow your interviews to high school student, for example, so you go to high schools in poor, middle-class, and upper-middle and upper class school districts. These types of research projects are known as synthesis thesis topics, because they combine, or synthesize the thoughts and research of many on a rather abstract concept.
- Suppose you are looking at potential psychology thesis topics and you want to prove that individuals who are inclined toward anorexia demonstrate certain personality traits. Again, because you are pulling together lots of research from various sources, your thesis topic may also be considered a synthesis one.
- You are a grad student in biology or medicine. You have identified the topic of genetic engineering and your research questions is, “What are the ethical issues related to genetic engineering?” Your hypothesis is this: “There are some significant and possibly dangerous outcomes of genetic engineering which societies and governments must address.” Of course, you will research the most current literature on developments in genetic engineering; however, your hypothesis is an example of argumentative thesis topics that take a position on a controversial issue.
- You are pursuing a Master’s degree in political science, and you have determined that the general area of your thesis will be terrorism. You will now have to come up with a more specific topic and thesis statement (your hypothesis) that will refine what you intend to research. You have any number of thesis statement ideas, but you decide that your hypothesis will be that terrorism has existed since man has occupied this planet. This topic will combine the purposes of definition, synthesis and arguments.
Focus on Your Passions
In the end, you must define a topic about which you have a passion. If you don’t, your thesis project will be laborious and something you dread. Certainly, you can get suggestions from peers, professors, and our advisor, but you are the one who has to do the work, and you are the one who needs to be motivated. As you consider your options, develop thesis statement topics for each of those options – this activity will help you to discover that one topic that is personally compelling.