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Approaches to choosing a thesis topic

Where shall I find thee...? The Quest.

2. Approaches to Choosing a Thesis Topic

Choosing a thesis topic can be a pain in the neck if you haven’t been immersed in such a fashion work environment where you have been exposed to feasible working and organisational practices and a market-driven approach. The valuable insight you gain at work can help you strive for a great topic.

While some students come to their research project with a clear research question to address - mostly based on their previous work-related experience - many others arrive at this point with several ideas, but with no specific research question. Some of them are waiting for inspiration to mystically appear. As Ray Martin stated: “They might believe great ideas come from moments of inspiration; walking in the park, backpacking in the mountains, or sitting in quiet places to contemplate learn a lot about parks, backpacking, and contemplation, but little else.

However, waiting for inspiration is not the best approach to topic selection.

Thesis topics do not mystically appear.”

But then, how on earth do we find them?

Well, no worries, there are several ways forward.

In the light of the lingering pressure to get started fairly quickly, (e.g. the pressure that one of your teachers is putting on you hereby) you can do quite a lot of things to avoid anxiety and panic at the start of your next semester when you have to hand in your most suitable thesis topic.

The most effective ways to select a topic:

1. Become steeped in the relevant literature and materials available online

2. Engage in discussions with specialists and experts in your field

3. Compile a list or draw up a mindmap on your topic to help crystallize and organize your ideas

Commonly, students consider three to four potential topics before finally settling on one. It’s completely acceptable to scrap your first topic in case it turns out to be unsatisfactory or infeasible.

Where to Look for Potential Topics?

As I said earlier, dissertation topics rarely emerge out of the blue, you must proactively search them out.

Here are some potential resources:

1. Your own professional interests

First and foremost, consider what excites and energizes you? What topic do you find most interesting? Examine if it could be developed into a research project. What career goals could be enhanced by studying a particular topic?

Be critical: has there been anything in your studies or during your work so far that you have been sceptical about, or which you think would need further scrutiny?

2. Faculty members, professional colleagues and fellow students

Talk to others: what topics are other students considering? Does this spark an interest? Don’t wait until you have a fully formed research question before discussing your ideas with others, as their comments and questions may help you to refine your focus.

3. Professional journals or online magazines in your field

This is where you can find out the hot topics of the day and for the near future. Most of our daily reads include BOF but have you ever bumped into Apparel Magazine or Drapers Online? They are worth a try.

When you read about an interesting topic ask yourself the question ‘Why?’ This may help you identify a research question you could address.

4. Library

I know that visiting libraries might somehow sound an outdated and old-fashioned concept but try to run a database search on some of your topic of interest. Most of the searches are available online for anyone. Make a list of key words and phrases to initiate the search. The results of a computer search should help you discover whether a dissertation is possible on this topic or whether the topic has been “done to death.” Look at other writing: set aside some time to spend in the library, skimming through the titles of research papers in your field over the past five years, and reading the abstracts of those you find most interesting. Just to mention one example in Országos Széchenyi Könyvtár:

5. Dissertations/Theses

Review previously written dissertations. Most of them are available in the school library (aka. Réka’s Office) Look through the dissertations of previous students in your department: the topics may give you inspiration, and they may have useful suggestions for further research.

You can also consult several online dissertation sites and request or just simply download a dissertation from their database.

Believe me, this one is going to be your incredible treasure trove!!!

I can assure you, you will LOVE this:

One of the largest resource bases:

Or this one:

Another example:

Some PDF-s are directly available here after registration:

Well, now, to save the best for last, just to please you a bit more....:

You can find all AMFI (Amsterdam Fashion Institute) theses here:

Start browsing....

6. Your current job setting

If you are lucky enough to have a hands-on and insightful position at a company or business where you can get easy access to database, statistics, reports - it might spark an idea in you and ignite the drive to elaborate on it.

Are there problems that need solutions in your workplace? Your boss might have a pet topic that could enhance your career opportunities. However, be cautious. If you think a topic might not catch your strong interest, though reasonable it might seem, you are better served not to conduct this research. A dissertation is an extensive, scholarly endeavor, and the topic should be one in which you have strong interest

+1 Your friend: Google

Believe it or not, there is always some information and document freely available online which might be invaluable for your research. Such as annual reports of luxury fashion houses.

Like this one:

or this:

Always assume that you can find ANYTHING on Google! :-)

Next blog post on the topic: Part 3: Criteria for Thesis Topic Selection

Literature consulted for writing this post:

The Dissertation Journey: A Practical and Comprehensive Guide to Planning, Writing, and Defending Your Dissertation, by Carol M. Roberts.

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