Choosing the research topic is the most challenging part of any research because it is the base and it is the starting point of the research. If you don’t choose a research topic appropriately chances are that you might end up leaving the research altogether.
I have seen a lot of students who struggle with their research topic; take up anything, start doing their research and towards the end of their PhD they find that their guides have altogether rejected the topic and they have to begin again by choosing another topic which is more appropriate or else if you have not chosen a specific appropriate topic, you might yourself leave the research because you don’t know where to go, what to do, how to justify the topic.
The first important thing that you must remember when you decide to choose a research topic is your interest area. You should always remember the fact that the research topic should be from your interest.
Research topic is very individualistic. You need to see your topic, you need to choose a topic which appeals to you. So, you need to always remember the fact that if you’re not happy, the learning would not occur. So, the first prominent factor in any field of study is your interest area.
The first important thing that you need to understand here is that look into the vast field of literature into the ocean of literature and beside what is your interest area. It can be a particular literary movement like transcendentalism, romanticism, modernism. It can be a particular literary theory. For example, Marxism, psychoanalytical criticism or maybe feminism. It can be a particular author; maybe you are a big fan of Shakespeare or Jane Austen or maybe Jerri Pinto. So, you can even take up that writer and you know look at that writer from a very new angle.
Another important area where you can do your research is any literary art form. For example, paintings, cinema all these important art forms are nowadays incorporated in research. So, if you are really interested in knowing more about cinema filmatography, cinematography in that case take up a book and its adaptation.
You can take up a movie and the book on which that movie was phased and then do a comparative study that would be a great thing or you can take up a particular literary genre; may be crime, fiction, detective or maybe if you’re interested in children’s literature. So, by knowing your interest area you actually know what you would like to invest your next three years into.
The next important thing that you must do in order to finalize your research topic is background study. Let’s first look at the aim of research.
Aim of research is either to find out some new facts or to revisit the existing fact and look at it and see if they’re still valid today. So, basically, research aims at adding something new to the existing body of knowledge.
If you take up a research topic on which a lot of work has already been done, then you would just be copying from a place and pasting it in your research and that will not be called as a research because you are not adding anything new in the existing body of knowledge. So, it is very important for you to do a background study of all the works which has already been done on that particular topic.
A research gap is areas which will left unexplored in the previous researches and from that particular research gap, you will get your topic. So, make it a habit before choosing a research topic, you go through different articles, journals and existing research papers and then figure out the research gap and finally you take up either a totally unexplored area or a partially unexplored area and begin your research.
This background study is going to help you a lot when you will be writing your synopsis or you will be writing an introduction to your thesis because in your synopsis, you need to justify your topic and also mention the previous works which have been done in that particular topic. A review of literature is an essential part of a research and if you don’t do it then your research is not complete and finally another important thing that you must understand before you decide your research topic is to limit the genus.
What do you mean by limiting your genus? If you take up a very bulky topic for example exploring symbolism in the poetry of WB Yeats. This seems to be very simple and a very sweet research topic but you cannot understand how bulky this topic is. There have been more than 250 poems written by WB Yeats and each poem contains millions of symbols. So, how are you going to present all of this in a research paper or in a PhD thesis of about 250 pages?
So what is important is to become specific after you know your interest area, after you know the research gaps in the previous researches, you need to make your research topic extremely specific or else you would find that if you’ve taken a very open-ended research topic, you are going to go haywire and you will never reach a definite conclusion at the end of the research and you might find that your entire PhD thesis was concluded to be nothing at the end.
In that case, what is important is that you know a very specific topic and how would you get to a specific topic, either take up two or three authors or take up few selected works of one particular author. If you take up five authors and you’re researching on ten works of each of them, you would find that in a PhD thesis of 250 pages, you would just be summarizing and giving an introduction to all of these works and that would not be a PhD thesis.
Become very selective in what you are choosing. Also, understand that whenever you are doing a background study, you should always take up works which you have read and also you must note that it’s not just that the work you would be talking about in your entire research. You would also be bringing a lot of different associated theories.
You need to bring all these different and associated theories and look at these theories as well as their interpretation on the work that you have picked up for your research.
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