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How to produce your dissertation questions easily.

If you are reading this then you probably have got to produce a dissertation and you are virtually at the beginning of your journey. You need to choose a topic and then you need to find an angle about your topic that will produce some new insight into it. When you have your angle, you will then be able to consider what your main dissertation question should be. In all of these three steps, you need to constantly be asking dissertation questions. In this article, you will learn:

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The first three main questions when choosing a dissertation topic are:

  • Is your topic broad enough for you to find enough background theory to connect to it?
  • Will your topic be narrow enough so that you can research it thoroughly within the time, word and any financial constraints?
  • Does your topic make you excited enough to want to get out of bed in the morning?

If you refer to these three questions while you are choosing your topic, you will find it invaluable. The next step is the questions that you should ask yourself to give you clarity when choosing a topic. These questions will help you to find a research project that truly interests you. You need to make notes on your answers to these questions. You should end up with a list.

  • List the buildings, films, music, paintings, play and books that you love e.g. St. Paul’s Cathedral; The English Patient; Carmina Burana by Carl Orff; Hamlet by William Shakespeare; Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte and The Scream by Edvard Munch.
  • Do you find yourself constantly returning to a certain theme when caught up in a discussion with other people? For instance, how Brexit will influence the NHS.
  • Does some aspect of your local community fascinate you? For instance, how many Irish people moved into the area while escaping The Potato Famine?
  • Does something in your family history intrigue you? For instance, you are interested in Victorian lunatic asylums because one of your direct ancestors spent a large part of his adult life in one.
  • Would you like to know a lot more about a national figure or even a local one? For instance, if Keir Hardie, the founder of the Labour Party fascinates you, you may want to know more about him.
  • Is there something that you have strong thoughts on? For instance, do you believe that more people are becoming obese because they can’t get access to fruit and vegetables locally and the supermarkets are too far for them to go?

At this point, you will have a list. As you read through your list, start at the top and put a tick or a cross beside each idea on the list depending on whether it will get you out of bed in the morning or not. You may be left a two or three ideas that fit the criteria. However, the chances are that at this point, one topic will really stand out to you as the one that you wish to write your dissertation on.

Let’s imagine that you decide that the topic you have decided upon is lunatic asylums in the 19th century. Remember the earlier questions? At this point you have to double check that your topic fits the criteria for them. You know you find the subject fascinating but now you need to ask if the subject is broad enough for you to find background theory to connect to it. In this case it is, however unless you find an angle, it is going to be too large to fit within the word, financial and time constraints.

In essence, the reason that you are interested in lunatic asylums in the first place is because of your family history and therefore that might be a very good angle to work from. To find your main dissertation question that all your research is going to be based upon, you need to ask yet more questions. Yes, writing a dissertation is all about asking questions. For this particular sample, some questions that could be asked are:

  • Why was your ancestor incarcerated?
  • What was the motive behind the behaviour that caused the incarceration?
  • What evidence is there to suggest that whatever your ancestor was alleged to have done actually took place?
  • What were the effects on your ancestor that was incarcerated?
  • Were the effects beneficial or disastrous for your ancestor?
  • What were the social and financial effects of the spouse and children of your ancestor?
  • What was the attitude of the people that cared for your ancestor while incarcerated?
  • Did your ancestor ever get released?

Asking dissertation questions of this type will give you a clearer picture of where your research might take you. It is essential if you were doing a dissertation on a situation similar to this to ensure that you can answer your questions by having access to the asylum records on your ancestor.

Once you have answered all the questions like the sample set above, you will be amazed at the clarity that you have towards your main dissertation question. You may not immediately see what you want to research because your mind may be buzzing around like a mosquito near a dried cut. However, you will be close to finding that main question.

If we continue with the above sample, you may discover that your ancestor hadn’t done anything violent or bad but had been incarcerated simply for behaving a little out of what was considered normal during that period. If, after reading all the notes written by the doctors, you start to form the impression that your ancestor became more withdrawn and lost his will to live the longer he was incarcerated then you probably will be able to form your main research question. For instance, it could be that “during the 19th century, patients that were incarcerated as lunatics but were essentially eccentric became mentally ill while in the asylum.”

Your next step after that would be to source some more case studies to compare with the case study of your ancestor. Hopefully, you can now see through the use of this example on how to ask questions to lead you to your main research question. However, if you are still unsure of how to go about choosing your topic and finding your dissertation questions then you do not need to worry.

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