Most college courses today demand that students undertaking them do some research in the course of their study, typically in the final stages of the course; and then submit a dissertation on that research. In many courses, the dissertation itself counts as a whole course unit, or as a number of courses, and it is therefore accordingly graded and the grade attained in it (after a review of it by academics in the department it is submitted to) aggregated with the grades attained in other units to determine their overall grade in the whole course.
Essentially, then, one’s choice of a dissertation topic is also their choice of a research area in the course they happen to be undertaking. And one’s choice of a dissertation topic is not something to be taken lightly. There have been cases of people who, on the basis of their coursework mastery and the grades they had attained in their early topics of study, were well on their way to attaining first class honors degrees, only to set themselves back with a poor choice of dissertation topics which then messed up their aggregate grades, resulting in lower-level degrees.
Two factors go into a good choice of dissertation topic: namely the learner’s interest and the topic’s complexity.
With regard to the first factor, the learner’s interest, one should ideally choose a dissertation topic in an area of their course in which they have an interest, or better still a passion. If you conduct research in an area where you have a personal interest in, then you are likely to come up with a better quality of work than if you opt to conduct research in an area where you have absolutely no interest in; where you would be going probably just because your friends would be opting to go into that area. You also need to take note that your choice of a dissertation (and hence research) topic is something you might later have to account for to employers; as it is by default seen as a representation of your specific interests in your course of study. It is supposed, in the academic thinking circles at least, that by the time you get to a point in your course of study where you are expected to submit a dissertation, you should have identified what your interests in the field are.
Turning to the second important factor in the choice of a dissertation topic, which is complexity of the topic, you need to ensure (if your instructors give you latitude in this) that you go for a topic that you are comfortable with in terms of complexity. Going through your previous academic transcripts, for instance, can show you areas in your course of study that you have tended to show excellence in; and it would be in your best interest to opt for a research topic in one of these – rather than attempting to research in areas where you have tended to post mediocre results.
Of course, your choice of a dissertation topic is subject to academic superior’s approval; and in case your first choice is rejected, then you should go for the next best in terms of interest-complexity factors, and if that too is rejected, still opt for the third in the series (this time probably with your instructors guidance); with an aim of maximizing on the benefits that a good dissertation topic choice would confer to you.
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