It’s so frustrating when you can’t find a dissertation topic. You have this huge project ahead of you, and you can’t even get started. But luckily there are a few tips on how to find a dissertation topic that can really help. Whether it’s a business management undergraduate dissertation or a psychology masters thesis, here are some tips and tricks for everyone to use when you can’t find a dissertation topic.

1. Don’t stress


This one is easier said than done, as we all know how stressful it is when you can’t find a dissertation topic. But stress is rarely productive, so try to find a way to relax as much as you can. This will open up your mind to clearer and sharper thinking. Try setting yourself a timer for how long you spend searching for your dissertation topic. If you don’t find it in that time, schedule more time on another day. In between, refrain from dwelling on your dissertation topic as this will only stress you out more.

2. Think about what you’re interested in

Instead of trying to be really creative and impressive, start with what you’re interested in. This is the best way to ensure you end up spending your time researching and writing about something interesting to you personally, as dull dissertations are much harder – trust us! It’s also usually how the best research projects are formed. If you enjoy a particular module, or topic within a module, or have read something interesting, go with it. Read more around it – which takes us on to tip number 3 for what to do when you can’t find a dissertation topic.

3. Read the news

read news to find dissertation topics

One of the best tips on finding a dissertation topic is to read the news. This doesn’t mean just political and current affairs, but day-to-day news or news related to your course. For example, psychology students could try typing ‘psychology news’ in Google and click on the tab ‘news’ to see what people are coming up with. This may provide inspiration on new research, or identify problem areas you could address.

4. Read the limitations and conclusion sections of other research 

This is probably the most useful approach when you can’t find a dissertation topic. Find some recent studies and scroll to their limitations and conclusions paragraph. Most good studies will point to where their research didn’t do so well, or directions for future research. You could easily take this as an idea for a dissertation topic. Just make sure the studies you read are recent, or someone else might have already addressed them.

5. Go for a walk

go for a walk to destress when you can't find a dissertation topic

As mentioned, de-stressing is important to clear your mind. Going for a walk can help you de-stress, but it can also help solidify any interesting ideas you’ve come across. Many people use walking as a tool to focus, plan and get creative. There’s science behind this (apparently), where walking circulates blood around your body, providing more oxygen to get those neurons buzzing.

6. Schedule a chat with your supervisor

If you’re really struggling with pinning down your dissertation topic, talk to your supervisor. It’s what they’re there for after all! Try to do this early on in the process, and simply explain the issue. You won’t be the first or last person who needs help with finding a dissertation topic, so they will be used to it. In preparation for the chat, try to have some potential ideas or areas of interest, which your supervisor can help narrow down.

7. Think small and simple

While it’s good to be ambitious, it’s important to be realistic. This is your dissertation, which serves the main goal of getting you your degree. Supervisors won’t expect you to solve world problems here, so try not to think too big. You need to also consider the time constraints. Published research usually takes years to complete, but your dissertation is a matter of months. We’re not saying don’t be creative or unique, just try to have perspective so it doesn’t become overwhelming.

8. Use a mindmap


Creative visualisations are useful for manifesting. Similarly, mindmaps are a great way for visualising ideas and thoughts. Try putting pen to paper and see what comes out. They’re especially good for narrowing ideas down, where ideas flow from one to the next. So when you can’t find a dissertation topic, try putting the laptop down and getting out a pen.

9. Google examples

It can sometimes feel like cheating, but it isn’t really. Google searches for dissertation topic examples are extremely high, so you know there are lots of struggling students out there who can’t find a dissertation topic either. This is a useful way if you’re really stuck with coming up with some general ideas. It’s always best to find one you like the sound of then make it unique by narrowing it down. For example, if we take the example of this topic: “Assessing the Impact of Sustainability on the Ecosystem”, you could think about more specific sustainability impacts, or particular components of the ecosystem.

10. Speak to other students

Finally, this last tip for when you can’t find a dissertation topic comes with a word of warning. Speaking to other students about their work can lead to comparing where you’re at with them. Don’t do this. Everyone works at their own pace. Instead consider what topics they’ve done and how they have decided to research it. This should be able to give you an understanding of the type of topics that are expected for your dissertation.

Ultimately, writing a dissertation isn’t easy. But there are many ways to make it slightly less stressful. For more handy tips on writing your dissertation, read more about what a dissertation is, and how to write an introduction.