Are you one of the many prospective PhD students who are considering PhD programmes and discovering PhD topics for their PhD applications? You know you want to pursue doctoral studies, you know what is your target field, but you have many ideas and interests within your research area and don’t have a proposed research topic in hand yet? You are not alone!

Choosing the right dissertation topic is daunting enough when you are already a PhD student. It is even harder if you are considering PhD programmes in Europe that often require a research proposal. The same could be said about pursuing a PhD in the US which requires to write a statement of purpose about your future projects. But, have no fear. By breaking this Phd topic selection process down into smaller steps and finding the right guidance and insight, you’ll soon be well on your way to finally narrowing down the right topic. In this blog post, we’ll show you how to conduct research to discover a great doctoral research topic with an easy-to-follow step-by-step guide. So join us as we dive in – let’s get started!

Concentrate on your passions and professional goals to reach the utmost success.

When selecting Phd topics, it’s essential to pick something that genuinely sparks your interest. After all, this decision will set the tone for your future and influence where you go from there in life. Remember—a full-time PhD program usually takes 5-7 years to complete with some unexpected hardships along the way. Without enthusiasm for your research topic, these roadblocks can seem insurmountable as motivation wanes over time.

(Would you like to know what PhD admissions committees are looking for? Watch this quick video to find out key elements to highlight in an application)

Your research topic should be aligned with your career aspirations to ensure future job opportunities.

When exploring PhD topics, it is important to ensure that the topic aligns with your professional goals. By researching topics that are relevant to your field and interests, you will be better prepared for future job opportunities or projects. Additionally, working on research related to your field can be a great way to gain experience and build your resume.

For example, if you want to pursue a career in academia after completing your PhD studies, then selecting a research topic that will help you develop the necessary expertise and connections can be beneficial. Additionally, if you plan to pursue a career in industry after completing your PhD, selecting the dissertation topic related can help you better prepare for future job opportunities outside academia. Taking into account what types of skills and knowledge may be of benefit to you in the long run can help you make an informed decision when selecting a PhD topic.

To have a strong PhD research topic, understanding one’s academic and professional background is necessary.

Forming a strong PhD topic requires an understanding of one’s academic and professional background. It helps to have a clear idea of what field you are interested in researching, as well as the overarching theme that will drive your research forward. Additionally, it is important to search for gaps in existing knowledge, in the current literature, or areas that need further investigation. Once these areas have been identified, a clear research question should be formulated and the scope of work properly defined. It is also helpful to consult with your supervisor if you are already in graduate school or a professor who can offer guidance and provide valuable feedback throughout the ideation process. Ultimately, having a strong chosen topic will drive your progress and ensure that all your efforts are directed toward achieving your desired outcome.

If you have written papers that stood out during your undergraduate studies or master’s degree, these could serve as a springboard to outlining a PhD project. Similarly, if you have work experience that is relevant to your target field, considering this experience might lead to developing questions that could potentially be answered through rigorous investigation and analysis within the context of doctoral studies.

Enrich your Knowledge by Reading Dissertations and Scholarly Journals.

A great way to find inspiration give yourself some time to conduct your own little literature review by reading dissertations and articles published in journals to identify potential research topics. This type of analysis can provide insight into what other researchers have found interesting and valuable, allowing you to build on that existing knowledge and develop potential thesis topics. By seeing the different strategies used by other researchers and the results they were able to achieve, you can gain an appreciation for the type of research that could be meaningful in your own target research area. You can also see how different research questions are asked, what data is collected, and how it is analyzed. Furthermore, by reading dissertations and journals you can also become familiar with the language used in academic circles and the types of research methodologies that are most commonly utilized, allowing you to better understand how to create a research project for yourself. Ultimately, this type of reading can provide invaluable guidance when it comes time to start brainstorming and exploring potential research topics.

Researching a Topic Require to Seek Out Potential Mentors

Researching dissertation topics related to your future research goals should also involve soliciting the help of mentors and identifying the resources necessary to achieve success in your PhD application. By seeking out the opinions and experiences of those already in your field, you can begin to build relationships with professionals who can act as mentors and offer advice. Additionally, this type of investigation can provide you with access to new technology, books, conferences, or other formative resources that can help you on your journey to the PhD. Furthermore, when it comes to career paths, your search can help you identify trends and opportunities within the workforce and allow you to develop a more unique approach to reaching your goals. All of these advantages can give you the edge you need to ultimately be successful.

Attending Academic Conferences is a Great Way to Identify Potential PhD Research Topics

Academic conferences provide a platform to network with experts and like-minded professionals, as well as the opportunity to become exposed to issues with the literature and learn about cutting-edge research and new developments in your area of interest. Many conferences offer workshops, panel discussions, and other interactive learning opportunities that provide a deeper understanding of PhD topics at hand. You can also exchange ideas and gain perspectives from your peers and mentors.

Brainstorming PhD Research Topics Ideas with a Professor Can Often Ensure Optimal Outcomes

When looking for a research topic, a good strategy is to discuss the ideas you have with your supervisor and other professors in your program. Talking about your research interests is an important step in determining the gaps in knowledge within a field, as well as any potential overlaps between your proposed research and ongoing projects in your target research area. Professors can help you evaluate and refine your ideas, suggest ways to explore potential topics more in-depth and identify any potential problems or issues you may encounter while conducting research in the future. Your supervisor can also point out any existing research studies that might be of interest to you and provide guidance on how to develop your proposal. Through this collaboration, you can ensure that your research is both relevant and feasible.

An experienced academic or practitioner who has produced a dissertation can provide invaluable insights and help you to identify any potential weaknesses or shortcomings in your ideas for a research topic. They can also guide you towards more tangible aims and objectives, enabling you to develop a clear plan of action. An experienced mentor can help you to think through potential challenges and devise strategies for mitigating any risks, as well as helping to ensure your research topic is rigorous and meets the highest standards. Ultimately, such conversations can be invaluable in ensuring your research topic, PhD application, and future dissertation are successful.

Stand Up for Yourself and Fight for Your Chosen Topic

Although getting feedback from professors is a great way to develop and refine your research topic, and start working on your PhD applications, and even envision what your future dissertation might look like, it is important to be in control of the topic selection process. Giving in too easily to other people’s ideas may limit your creativity and stifle your ability to explore a topic of personal interest or professional relevance. Additionally, if you are not particularly passionate about the topic chosen for you, it may be difficult to be convincing in your statement of purpose or research proposal, and ultimately become deeply engaged with the research and produce a high-quality dissertation. If you are feeling stuck and need help deciding on a research topic, it is better to discuss potential ideas with professors rather than allow them to decide for you. Doing so will ensure that your research is unique and meaningful and that you are motivated throughout your doctoral studies.

Seek Out Advice From Other Students

Talking to other PhD students can be an invaluable source of advice when it comes to understanding the value of a strong research topic and the work involved in producing a dissertation. They can provide insight into the additional coursework that your research topic might require, the different steps necessary for the development of a research project once you are admitted into a PhD program, and the overall workload associated with the writing of a dissertation. Additionally, they can offer experienced advice and ideas on how to successfully navigate the dissertation writing process and provide helpful strategies for staying motivated.

Moreover, they can provide an understanding of the support systems available to students and offer advice on how to make use of them. They can also provide information about potential scholarships and other financial aid options that may be available to help you reach your research goals. Talking to someone who has completed a PhD programme can also give you ideas of the kinds of career options available after completing the program.

What are the characteristics of a good PhD research topic?

There are some key factors to consider when selecting a good topic.


Firstly, your research topic must be focused and relevant to the existing knowledge within the target field. It should have the potential for meaningful research and for becoming a strong dissertation. As such, it should be a project that could potentially extend beyond the dissertation and be aligned with current and future industry trends.


Secondly, the topic should be challenging but achievable within the time available and the resources at hand.


The dissertation topic should contain an element of originality or creativity to demonstrate your understanding of the subject and to stand out from other candidates.

In Conclusion

We hope this blog post has helped you understand how to discover a great PhD topics. If you found this guide useful and would like assistance taking the next steps in your PhD journey, The Admit Lab is here to help. We offer a range of services to support prospective doctoral students, from coaching to editing and formatting services. To learn more about what we can do for you, check out our services or sign up for a free consultation today.

With a Master’s from McGill University and a Ph.D. from New York University, Dr. Philippe Barr is the founder of The Admit Lab. As a tenure-track professor, Dr. Barr spent a decade teaching and serving on several graduate admission committees at UNC-Chapel Hill before turning to full-time consulting. With more than seven years of experience as a graduate school admissions consultant, Dr. Barr has stewarded the candidate journey across multiple master’s and Ph.D. programs and helped hundreds of students get admitted to top-tier graduate programs all over the world.

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