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As I know that many of you are still studying, I have decided to share this post with you guys. Whether you are doing a master’s of research or considering starting a PhD, there is one thing that absolutely MUST be on your mind: your topic. When you embark into the beautiful adventure of writing a thesis, you absolutely need to know what topic you want to study. Today, I would like to help you understand why choosing the right topic for you is important and how you can actually find that topic by asking yourself a few honest question. Ready? Let’s find that topic!
A few reasons why you must choose the right topic for you
I wanted to start that post by reminding you of reasons why it is important that you choose the right topic as there is a gigantic misunderstanding in the mind of many students. First, let me remind you that I am French and that thesis in France are a little different but altogether, the work is quite similar even though the method differs.
You will need to write A LOT, so you need to be interested in the topic.
For a master’s thesis, you need to produce between 90 and 150 pages and for a PhD thesis, you come closer to 500 pages on average. If you do not genuinely love your topic, it will be very hard to hit that number as inspiration will just never come. Sorry, it is hard to swallow but better now than 2 months after choosing the wrong topic.
You will spend a few years of your life working on that topic.
As you will spend at least two years working for a master’s thesis and up to 6 for a PhD thesis, you’d better love what you are doing. In the same way that you should not choose a job you hate or you will end up hating your life, you should not choose a research topic you hate or you will (soon) start hating research, and thus your life (as a thesis always takes so much more time that planned).
The topic of your thesis may be decisive for your career.
Let me take my own example. I am currently working on a thesis about the impact of children’s literature on the development of bilingualism in young French children. Thus, after the completion of my thesis, I will be a specialist in that area and will be particularly able to work with children in libraries for instance, or else I could follow a career in linguistics or childhood studies. However, if I had chosen to focus my research on the study of one particular novel and decided to study a character, I would have become a specialist of that novel and would have been able to give conferences on that topic and become a Literature teacher or researcher. There is no “wrong” or “right” topic, just a topic that is “right for you” so you’d better find it before getting into a thesis.
Ways to make sure your research project is right for you
In the same way you need to make sure your partner is right for you, we saw earlier that you need to make sure your research topic is right for you. Even though these steps may be hard to take, make sure you take at least one of them to really make sure you are making the right decision.
If you have absolutely no idea, take a year off.
I am not telling you to do absolutely nothing, but maybe take a year to travel and learn a new language or do tutoring. These skills will always be valuable both personally and for your career so do not think you are “losing time”. Maybe research is right for you but are just not ready yet, which is not a problem at all. We are all on our own schedule and you do not need to compare yourself to others. Never. There are things that only time can tell, and a research topic is something you just can’t rush. Take your time, one year can go a long way.
Be honest with yourself: do you really want to do research?
Sometimes, we just need time to find the topic but we know that research in general is “our thing”. However, some of us are pressured by teachers or parents to do research because “it is an elite thing”, and that is a wrong reason to go into it. Of course, a PhD looks great on a resume, but above all, a happy life looks great on you. Thus, do not feel pressured to take the leap and if you feel like it is not for you (even though you do have wonderful grades), just don’t follow that path.
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If you have too many ideas, brainstorm.
That was my personal problem: I had a dozen of research topics ideas and just could not seem to choose one among the list. Thus, I decided to write them all down and, once more, to let time do the thing. Every other day, I looked at the list and decided that this or that topic was not that appealing to me anymore, and I crossed it off. That can seem like a childish way to choose a research topic, but that worked for me. Once you see all your potential topics on the same page, there is necessarily one that really stands out in the course of a month or two.
I really hope these tips will help some of you as I know how hard it can be to choose a research topic. The most important thing here is not to rush it: you will eventually let your topic find you if you are truly made for research.