Searching for the perfect doctoral dissertation topic? Consider these four fundamental questions.

Your dissertation is the culmination of your doctoral degree. Whether you’re pursuing your PhD degree online or on campus, choosing a dissertation topic is exciting, but it can also be difficult.

While it’s essential to select a doctoral dissertation topic you’re passionate about, it’s also essential to ensure it passes a research “litmus test” that answers four fundamental questions. These questions all revolve around a core doctoral-level research problem that helps to establish whether or not your dissertation contributes new data to your field or discipline.

Question 1: Is your doctoral dissertation proposal justified?

While your doctoral degree program may have helped you discover a passion for a particular area of interest, it’s not enough to be passionate about a dissertation topic. There must be significant, scholarly evidence—statistics, published scholarly research, and so forth—that your proposal will address an urgent issue in your field.

Question 2: Is your dissertation topic grounded in academic literature?

Your doctoral dissertation must either build upon or counter previously published academic research on the topic. A good idea is not enough. You must develop your proposal on a strong foundation of published research that you can contribute to your original research.

Question 3: Is your dissertation proposal original?

Your doctoral dissertation must make a truly original contribution to the field, either by creating a new point of view or generating data. For research-based doctorates (PhD degrees, such as a PhD in Management or PhD in Health Services), your dissertation topic must reflect a meaningful gap in academic literature. For professional doctoral degrees—such as a Doctor of Education (EdD) or Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) degree—your proposal must address a meaningful gap in practice.

Question 4: Is your dissertation topic amenable to scientific study?

Whether you’re pursuing a PhD in Health Services or a DBA degree, all good dissertation proposals must be framed in the context of a methodical inquiry that permits multiple possible conclusions. To arrive at those conclusions, a scholarly, systematic method of inquiry—much like the scientific method many of us learned in high school or as undergraduates—must be applied to address the problem.

Passionate about a particular field of doctoral study? Inspired to write a dissertation of your own?

Discover how Walden University, an accredited online university, helps working professionals reach their full potential with rigorous online doctoral degree programs. Walden University even hosts a cloud-based library called ScholarWorks, a repository of publications that showcases the university community’s collective scholarly and creative thought leadership.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

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