This article is aimed at research scholars in the area of humanity studies. Often, when students of PhD choose fuzzy topics which they lack clarity about, it only leads getting frustrated. Therefore, keep your topic to the point. Most PhD students emerge to start their PhDs with over-ambitious projects which runs into many disciplines (subject areas). The key to ensure success in research is to check whether your big topic can be fit into one central research question. The problem statement (research question) of your study is the most important because it guides you and others involved in the research towards significance of the study. It helps in setting objectives of the research, writing the hypothesis and framing the questionnaire for data collection. The entire research revolves around the problem statement. It helps you to narrow down your focus. It is therefore important to place the topic into a particular context that defines the parameters of what you are going to investigate.
Choosing the right research topic is quite often a tricky and complicated task, especially for new PhD students. I have observed so far that students with five to ten years experience in the either industry or academics are comfortable with the initial process. The PhD supervisor/guide must offer help to decide on a suitable PhD topic in the initial stage. Also, please remember that the research topic must have social relevance. It must be able to satisfy some social problems. Topic selection is the beginning of your research journey.
Each researcher has unique capabilities: Each researcher has a capability of his own; each one traces the research problem from different angles. For instance, some may concentrate on the groundwork; some may concentrate on the cause of the situation; some on the behavioural factors; and some on the historical and current consequences. For example, let’s consider the topic is “Importance of mentoring in workplace.” Somebody might only concentrate on various issues at workplace, somebody may concentrate on different needs and practices according to organizational structures, somebody might give case examples (good and futile) in the workplace, and somebody may concentrate on comparative study between two-three organizations of different nations.
Review accessible literature to choose the right topic: The fact is that there is vast data available on Internet on any given topic; disregarding that data often leads to negative results. The biggest job in research is scientifically reviewing the literature, picking only some information from Internet will skew your research findings. Also please remember that somebody somewhere is also working on your chosen topic and might be working on profound consequences. I see that sooner or later all theses will be uploaded on the Internet; the world will be viewing your work. Therefore, maintaining quality from beginning till end will be essential. Please be aware of that in India, University Grants Commission (UGC) wants scholars to upload their thesis on their online Union Catalogue of Indian Universities called IndCat. UGC also has ShodhGanga – Reservoir of Indian Theses. ShodhGanga is a repository platform available for research students to deposit their Ph.D. theses for making it available to the entire scholarly community in open access. If only Universities and UGC get serious about the process, I am sure we will get a lot of serious research work to view.
It’s advisable to choose a research topic related to your career: When you work on a topic related to you interest area and work area, identifying minute facts, collecting primary data, finding existing research gaps and devising strategies for addressing them becomes easier. A research gap is defined as a topic or area for which insufficient information is available and this creates limitations for devising a questionnaire or schedule for the researcher. When you work sincerely on your topic, basically when you start reviewing literature from all sources such as Internet, news papers, journals, previous research work from University libraries, books and periodicals etc, addressing the research problem by devising strategies becomes easier. And, you can identify the research gaps also easily. You need to read up a lot because only the depth of information that you collect helps in designing your research work. It therefore becomes imperative to choose a meaningful research topic and a well-chosen research question can lead to a persuasive research work.
Researchers who publish a lot during after their PhD work are well-cited and can easily find satisfying jobs in academia or industry. Choosing the right research topic, thus, can open doors to getting desirable opportunities worldwide.
Check these strictures: Is your topic stimulating you to pursue it? And, will it sustain your interest in it till end? Is your research problem solvable? Is your topic contemporary in nature? Will it solve some social issues? Can you manage the vastness of the topic? Can you design research problem easily in spite of its vastness? Is your topic making a novel contribution to the literature in the field? Will your research help you progress in your career? Please ponder on these points before topic selection.
Regular contact with your guide: After your topic selection, it is advisable to brainstorm thoroughly with your guide, established researchers, agencies and industry experts. Attend seminars, workshops to strengthen your network with the right people. Also, discuss with established researchers to get further insights. I advise taking up the relevant coursework (especially for interdisciplinary research areas) to simplify the process of research topic selection.
Conclusion: Choosing the right research question helps researchers stay focused and motivated throughout their career. Meaningful research questions eventually lead to meaningful discoveries and inventions, which is need of this hour.