Jump to content

Master's thesis- finding a topic?


Recommended Posts

I'm actually in a 2-year M.S. program, and as part of the requirements, we write a thesis. I have to basically pick a topic in the next 1-2 weeks, or at least have a very good idea of the topic. I'm at a loss (and I think I'm overthinking it as well). Since I'm only in a 2-year program, my adviser suggested that I poke around and ask all the other grad students what sort of data sets we have laying around and if I can look at them, and then use them for my thesis. I understand why he is saying that- he thinks I can get a much more comprehensive and thorough thesis if I use a large dataset versus trying to design and execute my own mini study (like a survey or something like that). But I've run into a few issues:

(1) How do you go around asking people about datasets they, in a sense, "own"? I don't want to step on any other grad student's toes, or be presumptuous at all. I'm assuming that I'd have to look at whatever they don't want to look at, and only after they're done analyzing what they're analyzing. Our lab is fairly large and a bit separated by studies/professors/students- it's not like we have datasets that are just sitting around waiting to be accessed, these are things I have to track down and ask people about.

(2) Is this the right way to pick a topic? I always pictured doing it top-down, the way I write papers: find an overall topic, read about it, pick an interesting sub-topic, read about it, and design a study that furthers or clarifies issues in that sub-topic.

I'm a bit concerned because my goal is to get into a top tier PhD program when this program is done, and I want to make sure I maximized my chances at every step of the way- and I know my thesis will play a large role in that.

How did you guys pick your thesis topics? Any suggestions for me?

Thanks! :-)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

May I ask why your adviser thinks you can't have a comprehensive self-designed study? It's entirely possible to have one even with "surveys". Also, have you looked at any national datasets that are available for secondary data analysis depending on your research area/interests? Does your advisor have any older data that never got completely fleshed out?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think that he just feels the timeline and scope are too tight for a master's student- I will have about a year to write my proposal, get IRB approval, get funding if needed, run the study and analyze it. I think it's doable, but I think he just feels that for a master's thesis, it isn't necessary.

I haven't looked at any sort of national datasets- where would you find something like this?

He does have older datasets, but they are kinda spread throughout the lab with various people having worked on them. I think that's what he wants me to focus on, and a lot of them do have tons of data and over a long time span. I guess it's just locating all the data, finding the variables, figuring out what hasn't been looked at, and then scoping some ideas out of things that are left?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You can look through the NIH websites. They have the BRFSS(?) . I know some people who do child research look specifically at NICHD. Depending on the organization or dataset it can be free (the BRFSS is) or cost money to gain access. I hope this helps.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. See our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use