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Dissertation Research

Dissertation topics are a special subset of research topics. In selecting your dissertation topic consider whether it is interesting, feasible, relevant, and worthy. Here are some considerations to keep in mind when choosing a dissertation topic:

  • Access to the primary literature relating to your topic
  • Access to secondary and supporting literature relating to your topic
  • Access to the surveys and assessment instruments that you will need
  • Access to the study group to conduct your study
  • IRB or Human Subjects Review approval for your study
  • Access to equipment for your study, if needed

Research Planner: This tool is designed to guide you through your research project.

Research Methods & Design

Once you are well into your literature review, it is time to start thinking about the study you will design to answer the gap you identified. Which methodology will you use to gather the data for your research? Will you use a qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods methodology? You will choose a research method that best aligns with your research question.

To evaluate which type of methodology will be most appropriate, you will work closely with your Dissertation Chair. However, as you are reading the literature, take a look at past studies that focus on your topic, or a similar topic. What kind of research methodology do you see being used most often? Once you have an idea about the general methodology type that would suit your research, consult with your Dissertation Chair on the possibility of using that methodology.

Finding a research design strategy is similar to the research process as a whole: first, locate general information on research design and methodologies, then gain background knowledge on the methodology you feel would most appropriately address the type of data you will be collecting, and finally choose a methodology and test/measurement to use in your research.

Discovery Search

The simplest way to discover instruments relevant to your dissertation research is to carefully read the methods sections in peer-reviewed journal articles. A dissertation will build on a field of study and you will be well served by understanding how the constructs you are interested in have been measured. For example, if you are interested in depression, as you read articles take note of which depression inventories are used and why.

Start by conducting a keyword search on your topic using the WilmU Ebscohost Search. Using this tool searches approximately all Ebscohost databases, so it is a great starting point for any research topic. Use advanced search techniques like subject searching, truncation, and Boolean operators to make your search more precise.

Limit your results to scholarly/peer-reviewed articles. Enter keywords from your topic on the top one or two lines and a string such as (test or survey or measurement or instrument or scale) on a separate line. Limit this line to the AB Abstract of the article, as shown in the example below.

Tests & Measurements

If you are doing dissertation level research, you will also be collecting your own data using a test or measure designed to address the variables present in your research. Finding the right test or measure can sometimes be difficult. In some cases, tests are copyrighted and must be purchased from commercial publishers. In other cases instruments can be obtained for free directly from the authors or can be found within published articles (in the methods section or as an appendix). The Library can help you with obtaining publisher or author information along with test reviews, if they are available.

One important decision you will eventually face in the dissertation process is whether to use an existing instrument, to modify an instrument, or to create your own instrument from scratch. The latter two will require extensive testing and are not generally recommended. Whichever decision you make should be thought over carefully and discussed with your mentor or dissertation chair committee.

You will need to either purchase the test from a publisher or contact author(s) to obtain the test along with copyright permissions to use it in your research. When contacting an author for copyright permissions you will often send a permission letter.