English Dissertation: General advice on choosing a topic
1. Develop a topic that has interested you throughout your undergraduate career.
For some people this is obvious. Some students come to the dissertation knowing exactly whom they want to work with and what they want to write about. For others, the dissertation is part of the process of exploring. It may help to look for your patterns of interest.
2. Think about the top three issues you want to study and turn them into questions.
Sometimes we know the broad topic we want to write about, but need help getting an angle or determining the research questions we want to assess.
3. Look for what other scholars say needs more study and conduct preliminary research.
You must of course find out what other scholars have said on a topic first. Then, you can begin to determine if the topic is exciting enough to you to grab your attention for a full years work. Then, decide where you can enter the conversation. A colleague of mine found that she had to narrow her topic because she had selected two nineteenth-century women authors to write about, but found herself engrossed by one and avoiding the other. Preliminary reading can, thus, awaken you to your own passions and interests.
4. Replicate somebody else's study.
Sometimes older, classic studies can be re-examined in a new context or with a more current methodology. But be careful not to enter into a debate that has long been resolved.