7 Struggles while choosing a research topic & How to cope up with them

While you strive hard to conduct a perfect research and present it to your committee or chair, you spend most of your time choosing the topic for the same. But is it worth all that time? Can’t we save our time and wrap up with topic selection process as soon as possible? Well, we sure can, if we know the hurdles we are going to face and its resolutions.

Here’s a list of strategies I discovered during my course of time, which might help the newbies to choose the topic without consuming most of their time.

  • Interest

We all are aware of the fact that what's hot now, will be ice later. Thence, you may think that a trending topic would be a good choice for your research but you don’t know how long that topic is going to live. You might face a trouble with your supervisor to choose the most recent topic but it might not be interesting to you. How are you going to cope up with this issue of trend and interest? You don’t wish to be a part of an extinct topic neither do you wish to research half heartedly.

How to cope up with it: Firstly, even I was provided with a topic that lacked my interest by my supervisor. So, I asked him to change my topic as I didn’t have a keen interest to research and discover on it. And secondly, if you have the privilege to choose it you should never run after the trend. Follow your heart and go with your interest. Put your passion in your research and make the best of it.

  • Scope

Even though a topic matches with your interest, you have to consider the wideness of it. You don’t wish to get on and on with a topic that is too wide to explore or that is too shallow to find anything on. Did you think of the areas and journals you would have to explore while researching on it? Is the material too less or too much for you to read? How would you know which topic would have a balanced scope?

How to cope up with it: As you make a list of the topics you are interested in, start to dig deeper in them. While you explore the study material of all those topics, the list gets shorter each time. A brief research on the list of the topics would give you an idea of the scope of your topic. If it has a broad scope you can narrow it down to research and if it has a very low scope, you can either widen it or choose another topic.

  • Lack of knowledge

Anything you work on needs sufficient knowledge of it. No wonder, you cannot have a complete knowledge on the subject even before you begin to work on it. However, you must have an adequate information to stick with your choice. Without an overview on the topic you are proceeding with, you can’t live with it for longer.

How to cope up with it: Since I was given a topic I was not interested in, I still tried to start with it. As I read more and more about it I got firm with my decision to not to stick with it. Because whatever I read was just not getting in my head. A lack of knowledge on the topic would have failed me with my research. With this I am telling you to thoroughly know your topic before you present it to your committee because you don’t want to waste your time later with the topic changing process.

  • Significance

With the complete knowledge, scope, and interest comes the significance of the topic. Do you know how your research would impact the academic strata with just the topic in your hand? Have you already thought of the change it would bring in the existing literature before even you commence the research? And have you thought of what would you do if your research doesn’t bring any change with it? As a naive researcher, you don’t know which topic would bring an impact in the literature of your field. Therefore, significance of the topic is a prominent factor while choosing it.

How to cope up with it:  As a naive researcher, you don’t know what would impact the academic society and which topic would bring the change in the literature of your field. You should also be well acknowledged with how your research would do that. But how would you know that? You can either discuss it with your supervisor or if he’s too busy to examine your topic you can think yourself of the gap your research would fill and how important would that be to your literature.

  • Time frame

You do know that you have a limited time to complete your research? And you won’t get any extra time to complete the process if you choose a topic that needs more time? Right? While I was doing my PhD, one of my colleague chose such a vast topic to explore that she couldn’t complete it in the given time and the committee was not available for the next one year. She just needed a month to complete it although the delay in submission led her to get the degree late. You don’t wish to be her? Do you<

How to cope up with it: The right choice of topic includes the right time frame to complete it as well. Yet again how would you know that this needs this much time? To get it done in the limited time frame you have, make a timetable for yourself. Set up a boundation for reading time and then jotting the points down to include them in your project. If you think that the topic you have selected will take longer than when you should complete it, move onto the next one. Because neither can you afford to extend the time limit nor can you afford to miss anything in your research.

  • Feasibility

You must be aware of the methodologies you have to use as you head your way with your topic. But how feasible would that be? As you pick the topic for the research you might be thinking that it wouldn’t cost much and you wouldn’t require tools for the process but are you sure about it? And what if you require some later that are beyond your budget?  

How to cope up with it: I know that with just the topic in your head you can’t decide with the tools and feasibility of your research. As you study more and more books and journals on the topic try to note down the tools and methodologies as well and consider the use of them in your research. This would help you to know the required tools and budget of your research.

  • The 5 W’s

Your utmost struggle comes when you don’t think of the 5 W’s, i.e, why, what, when, who, and where. While you think of the importance or significance of the topic you don’t think of readers or research community it would reach. Would your readers be as much interested as you with your topic? Would you be able to enlighten them of the void in knowledge you discover through the research?

How to cope up with it: When I was doing my research my senior guided me to keep a track of these 5 W’s and it was the best guidance I was given to choose the research topic. As you make the list of your preferred research topics answer the 5 W’s next to each topic. Why is this research important? What impact would it make? When will it be completed? Who would you target as your audience? Where would you conduct it? Answering these questions would bring a clear vision to choose the ideal research topic.

Despite the struggles to find an ideal topic for your research, consider discussing about it to your supervisor, advisor, or anyone related to the study. Discussing the topic would wider your perspective on it and would provide you with additional ideas through their past experiences and collaborations.

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