How do I Come up with Thesis Ideas?

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  • Written By: Diane Goettel
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 27 February 2020
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The best way to come up with thesis ideas is to combine personal interest in a topic with relevant research and guidance from a teacher or academic adviser. One of the reasons that it is so important to incorporate personal interest is that a thesis, whether it is for a master's or doctorate program, will require quite a bit of time and effort. This time and these efforts can seem quite daunting if the research topics that will inform the thesis are of little interest to the student writing a thesis. It is also important to work with a trusted teacher or academic mentor when coming up with thesis ideas. This person can help one to develop thesis ideas into thesis statements and can also offer guidance in terms of research methods.

In many cases, the germs for thesis ideas will come from coursework and independent research that the student conducts as part of class assignments. A graduate student may develop thesis ideas based on lectures that she attended, books that she read as part of required reading for her classes, and research that she conducted on her own in order to complete assigned projects. All of this work will inform the student's knowledge regarding the subject that she is studying. Hopefully this work will spark particular interest regarding ideas or theories that are discovered as part of the learning process.


When coming up with thesis ideas, it is useful to think back on all of the coursework that has already been completed and ask oneself if there was a certain topic or theme that one wanted to know more about. A graduate student in an English program, for example, might think back on some coursework that she completed on Willa Cather and the pastoral novel. Considering this, she might come up with a list of thesis ideas about Willa Cather and the tradition of the pastoral novels and then review these ideas with a professor or thesis adviser.

Once a subject has been chosen for a thesis, it is important to consider the various ways in which that subject can be investigated. The graduate student might think about comparing and contrasting Willa Cather's pastoral novels with her novels that take place in urban areas. Or she might consider investigating Willa Cather's novels as feminist texts. It is best to consider a number of angles before jumping in to the research process.


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Post 3

@browncoat - I know with some universities you have to submit an extensive proposal for your thesis before they will even accept you as a potential student. So you might have to do some research on what they are looking for before you actually submit, because your proposal can definitely affect how much funding they will provide for you.

Post 2

@pastanaga - I don't know if I would honestly undertake a thesis without knowing that I was going to be at least partially funded somehow. Even advanced degrees are no guarantee of work these days and it costs so much to get one that you could end up in debt for a very long time if you can't get work right away.

Often advisers at the university will be able to help you with this kind of funding, but your thesis topics might be constrained by what the university is willing to support.

Post 1

If you are in any kind of science or technology subject, I would take a careful look at the opportunities there are available for funding. Often local companies will provide grants and scholarships for students working on research pertaining to their business, particularly in agriculture or chemicals and occasionally in environmental studies.

They do this to get students to research areas that might not be as popular otherwise. I don't think anyone should devote a large chunk of time and energy to working on something they aren't enthusiastic about, but if you have no strong thesis ideas already, this can help to provide you with a direction, as well as helping you out financially.

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