by Lynn Riskedal | September 14, 2009
Situation: Beginning of the doctoral program, coursework.
Answer: “I have no clue”
The question: “What topic are you focusing on for your dissertation?”
Mostly, that answer is o.k. when you are at the beginning of your program and may, in fact, be desirable.
[ If someone comes into coursework with a set topic/idea, they are less likely to allow other variables, or totally different topic, to enter their thought processes. As I like to say, let education happen. Have an idea, but be willing to shift and change as you learn new perspectives in your courses. ]
IF you do the work to determine the focus and narrow to a topic throughout your coursework.
IF you are open to thinking and pondering throughout courses.
IF you network with faculty and professional colleagues.
Let’s start with the ‘I have no clue’
Sure you do.
Narrow it down:
Say you are in education. You can dismiss the rest of the world that doesn’t have to do with education.
Say you are in k-12. You can dismiss training, adult education.
That narrows topics even further. So, your topic will have something to do with k-12. This is your context.
If you have no clue, or if you have an idea, proceed throughout coursework to identify a topic of interest.
Now, do your work–over time–to identify possible topics.
- During each course, ponder on the content that piques your interest. Or resonates with you. Or makes you curious.
- As thoughts occur, write them on a 3×5. Cards are easy to shuffle/read and then pair with other topics. Keep them in one spot….like on your desk in a folder.
- Read journal articles, noted scholars, on this topic. Keep the article. Make notes. Ponder: in your context, what applies/fits? what doesn’t apply/fit? What challenges your field?
- As you ponder a topic, how would that topic be impacted if you brought in another topic? would it make the combined focus larger? or narrower?
- Talk with your colleagues (Capella colleagues and professional colleagues). Do they understand your focus? What are their concerns? What are their ideas to add to/remove from your topic idea?
- Take a break. Don’t ponder, consciously, 24/7.