Being a Professional in Choosing Dissertation Topics in Psychology

Choosing a dissertation topic can pose some difficulties for new psychology students. Part of the problem often comes from the fact that a dissertation topic generally means something very different in graduate school than topic choices tend to in undergraduate courses. Many new graduate students think that a dissertation is simply a collection of information about a specified topic. Instead, a dissertation topic must be built on a strong thesis statement.

Choosing a Dissertation Topic

A dissertation topic is the theme of the paper. It is also the student’s position on the subject. One way to think of a dissertation topic is as if it were the answer to a question that has been posed. The answer is not accepted yet—the student must support their hypothetical answer in the dissertation itself.

How to choose a dissertation topic: Three steps

  • Choose the subject area to research.
  • The first step is to choose an area of study that the student would like to research for the paper. This might be a subject which already is of interest to them, one which they are curious about but don’t know much about, or it might be something they’re entirely unfamiliar with but is closely related to the course for which the paper is assigned. In any case, the student will choose the basic subject and then narrow the topic down as much as they can. For example, instead of “The Civil War,” they might choose “Women’s roles in the Civil War.”


  • Preliminary Reading & Brainstorming
  • The next step is to do some preliminary reading on the topic. This can mean skimming popular articles on it, encyclopedia entries, or books on the topic. There’s no need to take particular notes at this stage; the point of this step is to raise questions.


  • Choose a good question about the topic and formulate a hypothetical response.
  • Once the student has come up with some interesting questions to be answered about the topic they’re researching, they can choose one and create a thesis statement. The thesis statement should be a detailed, direct, clear answer to the question, in one or two sentences. The student should ensure that the statement is one which they can research and defend using scholarly sources. That’s all there is to it!

Good Dissertation Topics

  • Developmental psychology
  • Emotional recognition
  • Gender differences in psychology
  • Risk factors for psychological disorders
  • Preventative measures for psychological disorders

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