Writing and Presenting Your
Thesis or Dissertation
S. Joseph Levine, Ph.D.
Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan USA
Note #13 - Hurray! No one has ever done research in this field.
It's not surprising that many students try to find an area for their research which is completely new. In other words, they try to find a topic in which no one else has ever done research. This is often encouraged by the advisor/supervisor. The students understands if they would like to really make a contribution to their field of study they must focus on a very, very new topic - a topic that no one else has focused on previously.
If you think this way you are probably going to have some problems. You will probably go through one topic after another, after another, after another and discard each topic because someone else has already done it. "Why can't I find an original/new topic for my research?" After a while you will probably get very frustrated. "Has everything already been discovered? Isn't there any new topic available for me?"
If you continue with this type of thinking you may never finish your research (or, even worse, you may never begin your research!). So what should you do?
First, you must remember that good research often is that which can build on the research and ideas of others. The challenge is for you to extend the research that has preceded you. By focusing on extending the research of others you will a) become more knowledgeable about research in your field, and b) have a firm foundation on which to build your own research study.
Second, sometimes it may be best to repeat research that has been done by others. The challenge is for you to replicate the research that has been done by others. Rather than doing exactly the same research study as was done previously, you may want to focus on a different population, change one of the research instruments, analyze your data using different methods, etc. etc. If done well your research can provide a broader base for the research that you are replicating.
And third, our understanding of our topic may be very limited at the beginning. Our understanding will grow and develop as we are doing our research. The challenge is to learn more about your research topic as you conduct your research. It is not bad to admit that you may not know a lot about your research topic at the beginning and the reason you are doing your research is so that you will become more knowledgeable. In such a situation you will find it very difficult (impossible?) to understand at the beginning which research topic may be completely new.
There you have it, three reasons why you should NOT try to find an entirely new topic for your research:
* To extend the research that has preceded you
* To replicate the research that has been done by others
* To learn more about your research topic as you conduct your research
If you follow one or more of these reasons and select a meaningful topic for your research (not a new topic) you will find that you will be more likely to achieve the purpose of graduate study - to learn and to grow.
Return to Facebook Notes
Writing and Presenting Your Thesis or Dissertation