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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 96-97

Students' and Research Guides' standpoint in selection of dissertation topic

Department of Physiology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India

Date of Submission16-Oct-2020
Date of Decision28-Oct-2020
Date of Acceptance23-Jan-2021
Date of Web Publication25-Apr-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Arun Goel
Department of Physiology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Rishikesh - 249 201, Uttarakhand
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/JME.JME_105_20

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How to cite this article:
Kulshreshtha P, Goel A. Students' and Research Guides' standpoint in selection of dissertation topic. J Med Evid 2021;2:96-7

How to cite this URL:
Kulshreshtha P, Goel A. Students' and Research Guides' standpoint in selection of dissertation topic. J Med Evid [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 Aug 12];2:96-7. Available from: http://www.journaljme.org/text.asp?2021/2/1/96/314612

  Introduction Top
An 'ideal' dissertation paves the path of a students' career. It encompasses remarkable work and largely a practical implication. Essentially, it is comparable to the 'masterpiece', an essential precondition for a craftsman to be a member of the privileged guild in medieval Europe. The selection of a topic for a dissertation is the most crucial issue for a post-graduate student. The choice of topic baffles initially but certainly has a long-lasting impact on his calling. The gaffe in the selection of the thesis topic is often realised belatedly. In this article, an effort is made to provide an in-depth discourse of the research guides' as well as students' perspectives keeping the lawful ethical concerns and considerations in mind.
  Research Guides' Perspective Top
The onus for the selection of the thesis topic lies on the student and the research guide. On the pretext of time constraints (teaching/research/administrative undertakings simultaneously), the guide may limit the interaction with the student. There are some non-indulgent others who guide with a sink-or-swim approach and provide 'liberty' to the student to choose a dissertation topic himself. Asking a student to search the literature without any concrete guidance is followed by a useless pile of papers and abstracts which does not help him in framing a plausible hypothesis. It may tempt the student to either go for replicating a previous study that defeats the purpose of the dissertation.[1] Recommendation for guides
  • An extensive literature search followed by a formulation of a structured handout, that should not be just a compilation of other peoples' ideas and work, should be encouraged
  • Generous inputs regarding feasibility, utility and originality of work should be given to the student
  • The student should be offered a choice of two or three dissertation topics which interest him with the assurance of all academic support to make sure that the research work is completed in a stipulated time with sustained attention
  • An initial preliminary challenging task in the laboratory and report writing based on the resources available allows him ample opportunity to learn the techniques, research methodology and study designs
  • Getting familiar with his seniors, their work and peers boost teamwork and frequent interactions assure valuable inputs in framing the research questions and objectives
  • Without any pressure of performance, the student should be allowed to participate in the discussion and deliberate freely as sometimes seemingly worthless proposition may serve as the harbinger of a good mind-popping idea
  • The student should be closely and actively given feedback and guided through the period of selecting a research topic and thereafter
  • The student can be asked to unravel the fringes of a core topic to get new ideas.

  Students' Perspective Top
Students adopt various methods for topic selection on the basis of perceived ease, simplicity of the topic, pleasing the guide, personal interest and the likelihood of getting adequate resources to research a topic. We have also seen students selecting their own topics out of zeal that ends up like a futile wild-goose chase in the long run. There is sometimes an urge to incorporate the umpteen number of parameters borne out of greed to gather a large amount of data for multiple publications. An in-depth analysis of the main research question and any important point or observation is generally missed with this approach.[1] Recommendations for students
  • A student should be clear about the following questions:[2]
    1. His major area of interest in the discipline, theories and concepts
    2. The knowledge of research methodology
    3. Availability of necessary equipment and infrastructure in the academic setup.
  • One should read exhaustively including contributions of the thesis guide and other laboratory fellows. A bibliography can be maintained for all research articles, he collects
  • A topic closely related to the previous research of the guide ensures ready availability of academic and logistic support from a close-knit group
  • Data availability should be discussed with the guide as the data collection may be too expensive or time-consuming
  • Formulating a thesis topic should succeed in the identification of a lacuna in the existing data, a plausible research question to steer the study, a method of collecting data and a method of data analysis
  • He should make a dry run of the plan before finalising the topic. Establishing time limits and framing clear objectives help in further refining the hypothesis.[3]
For the students: Practical exercises to select the topic for thesis You must not plagiarise and should avoid shortcuts. One should always follow the motto 'Start small and aim high'. A good topic must be narrow for a time-bound study.[3] E-repository like arXiv should be accessed with caution because all uploaded information is not peer reviewed.
  1. Remember that a theme may be too problematic and hard to explore if it is too:
    1. Locally confined – Example: outbreak of Japanese encephalitis in the Gorakhpur region of India. Such topics may only be covered in these local newspapers. Nevertheless, such topics may be suitable for small studies and guide us towards policy-making tasks
    2. Recent outbreaks – Example: Nipah virus disease in Kerala, India, in 2018. For such recent topics, books/journal articles/websites may not be available
    3. Broadly interdisciplinary/popular topics – Example: How can the fluoride content in the water contribute to ill health in Uttarakhand? Or food fads in urban children. Information for such topics is often wide, vague and superficial.
  2. Choosing the correct keywords – Once you have identified 2–3 topics, think of 5 keywords based on Medical Subject Headings to form the basis of the literature search. Example: Effect of air quality on pulmonary function, autonomic status of patients with causalgia and effects of yogic intervention in diabetic neuropathy
  3. A modified rating scale (originally devised by Earle F. Zeigler) as given in the following table [Table 1] can be utilised for the selection of thesis topic under the active guidance of the research guide.[4]
Table 1: Modified rating scale or selection of thesis topic

Click here to view

  Conclusion Top
A thesis topic must be academically and socially relevant and practically feasible. The target of the chosen work should be of a sufficient breadth and depth in order to permit a thorough examination of the research topic within a set framework of time and ethical considerations. Ample time should be dedicated to a scholastic discussion between the guides and students in order to explore the pros and cons of each topic before narrowing down to specific research questions. Financial support and sponsorship Nil. Conflicts of interest There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

How to Select a Research Topic. Available from: https://www.umflint.edu/library/how-select-research-topic. [Last accessed on 2020 Nov 02].  Back to cited text no. 1
Choosing a Dissertation Topic. Available from: https://tomprof.stanford.edu/posting/1482. [Last accessed on 2020 Nov 02].  Back to cited text no. 2
Bijlani RL. Medical Research: All You Wanted to Know but Did Not Know Whom to Ask. New Delhi: Jaypee Brothers Medical Publishers (P) Ltd; 2008. p. 326.  Back to cited text no. 3
Ziegler EF. The selection of a thesis topic: A recommended rating scale employing selected criteria for use in thesis topic selection in sport and physical education. Phys Educ 1992;49:194.  Back to cited text no. 4


  [Table 1]


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