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What to look for in psychology dissertation topics

If you are unsure about which topic you would like to research for your psychology dissertation, you may have more clarity by reading this article. Discussed below is:

Psychology has got to be the most interesting subject that can be studied. It is fascinating. However, when the time comes to making a shortlist for your psychology dissertation topics, you may feel as if you would like to lie on the couch instead. However, if you remind yourself that it is important to choose a subject that truly excites you, you will be on the road to success. There are also steps that you can take to ensure that you are not carried away by any psychology dissertation topics that will not suit you. Once you have got a shortlist, you may find that it helps to:


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The topic of teenage mothers suffering from stress is well researched and written about. If you run it through a search engine you get more than enough hits and that is before you research in the university library. However, that would be too wide a subject for a dissertation because it has been so widely written about and also it is not offering a solution. However, if you decided to research how Mindfulness helped teenage mothers that would narrow the field down. However, it would still be too wide due to financial and time restraints but if you decided to research ‘can mindfulness combat stress with teenage mothers in your town’, you would have a workable research question. (Your town would be replaced with the nearest town to where you are studying.)

The main difficulty with the above topic would be measuring the level of stress the teenage mothers felt initially. The data could be collected through questionnaires, interviews, focus groups and observation. The next step would be to lead the teenage mothers through a course of Mindfulness. There are many good books that can lead you through the exercises. An ideal way forward would be to attempt to get the teenage mothers together daily for a period of time to get them to practise Mindfulness. As a psychology student if would be good training for you to lead the group. This must be clarified when you write your dissertation. After a measured period of time practising Mindfulness, you would then conduct secondary interviews, questionnaires, focus groups and observation to record any noticeable differences with the teenage mothers.

Many people go through their working lives dreaming of the day when they can hang up their uniform or close their laptop and sit in the garden and relax. However, although work can bring stress and eat up all your time, it also keeps you financially secure, gives you status and also allows you to appreciate your free time. As the older population seem younger and people are mostly living for longer, it is important to discover whether retirement leads to depression because of the growing retired population. If it does, further research needs to be done and solutions sought.

This is a much written about topic so if it interests you, you could narrow the scope down. You may wish to concentrate on a specific age group such as people in their sixties. Alternatively, you might be more interested in retired police people or retired doctors. If you are interested in location, it may wish to conduct your research in a particular town. Before you plan to do it, however, as mentioned earlier, it is essential that you ensure that it is viable. It is no use planning to interview retired doctors and you can’t get any to take part in your research.

Learned helplessness is a term used to describe a theory of psychologist, Martin Seligman. In the 1960s and 1970s Seligman and psychologist, Steven Maier conducted experiments on dogs. Basically, there were two groups of dogs being given electric shocks. One group of dogs could control the electric shocks the other group could not. It emerged from these experiments that when the dogs were given a route out of the boxes, the dogs that had no control over their electric shocks did not try to escape. The dogs that had had control over the electric shocks got out. This led to the term learned helplessness first being used. It means that an individual has learned through their life experiences that there is no point in trying to change their situation. If motivation and learning appeals to you, there is a further reading list below.

Suggested reading list

  • Achievement roles in the classroom: Students’ learning strategies and motivation processes. Authors - Ames Carole and Archer Jennifer. (Journal of Educational Psychology Vol 80 (3) September 1988 (pages 260 – 267)
  • Motivational Processes Affecting Learning. Carol S Dweck. University of Illinois.
  • Motivational and Self-Regulated Learning Components of Classroom Academic Performance. Paul R Pintrich and Elizabeth V De Groot. School of Education, University of Michigan.

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