Writing and Presenting Your
Thesis or Dissertation
S. Joseph Levine, Ph.D.
Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan USA
Note #11 - I've picked the wrong research topic!
What if I start to work on my thesis or dissertation research and I discover it's the wrong topic? In other words, I DON'T LIKE IT!!! It's not what I was hoping for. It just doesn't feel right. Or, worse yet - my advisor helped me clarify my research focus and now it's not interesting for me anymore!
At one time or another you will probably have these feelings.
So, what do you do?
First, understand that you are not the first person to feel this way. These are the same feelings that many of your fellow students have as they embark on this journey into the unknown. And it is interesting to know that if you decide to stop your current focus and begin work on defining a new topic for your research you will probably still end up having the same negative feeling! You will still feel that this is not the best research topic for me.
Second, you will be pleased to know that these feelings will not last throughout your work on your research. These feelings are dynamic and they will change. And, the change that will occur will happen as you progress in your research (not as you pick a new topic!). And best of all - the change will be in a positive direction. You will begin to feel more and more positive about your research.
Third, how is it possible that if I don't like my research focus at the beginning I will change and like it more as I move forward? How can that happen? (I didn't like cooked spinach when I was young and I still don't like cooked spinach!) The answer relates to "ownership." As you begin to work on your research (clarifying your focus, identifying relevant literature, setting a research plan, identifying research methods, etc.) you will find that even the worst research topic begins to feel more and more comfortable because it is becoming YOUR research topic.
So, how do I proceed?
Trust that your research topic will become more and more comfortable for you as you move forward. Don't be too concerned whether or not your research topic is the "right topic". There is a good chance you do not yet really understand it at the beginning. As you move ahead with your research your understanding will develop and you will begin to own it - and like it. You are about to become an expert in the area of your research topic. And it will feel good because your research turned into the "right topic" for you.
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Writing and Presenting Your Thesis or Dissertation