Choosing A Question For PhD Theses

A standard thesis revolves around a single statement that the writer typically argues or defends within the context of the complete work. Since it's a relatively simple method to construct a thesis, many students choose to define their thesis based on a statement.

Defining a thesis around a question, however, presents a challenge for most students. Theses based around questions have to:

  • Engage the reader by convincing them to read more.
  • Successfully argue and answer the stated question in the writer's own words.

Due to those defining traits, writing a thesis based around a question requires a little more attention to detail, since the writer has to provide the answers that readers may need to know.

Choosing a question for a PhD thesis

Writing a PhD thesis places a student in a position where they need to effectively communicate their ideas in a doctorate level thesis paper. Therefore, they must select a question that will inspire readers to learn more about the subject they wish to research and incorporate into their thesis.

Don't be too familiar

Many resources actually suggest to avoid choosing a familiar topic as a thesis question. Writing a thesis is more about seeking knowledge while interpreting that knowledge for other readers in your own words. If you already know the answer to that question, you won't be able to pen a convincing case for others to believe that answer.

Do your background research

While you shouldn't select an 'easy question,' it's suggested to become familiar with background information relating to the question that you do select. Information that might not seem relevant is actually relatively relevant to many subjects intertwined with thesis questions. So, don't rule it out if you think you need it.

Become engaged

Think about it. If you want to find answers, shouldn't you be interested in the question you're asking? As mentioned, a thesis represents a 'journey of knowledge' for the writer and the reader. Selecting a question that will keep you engaged will only reflect well on the work that you complete for the thesis.

Approach the question from all angles

Some questions are nuanced, meaning that they have multiple answers. Being a thesis question, you can potentially express many of those answers within the context of your paper. Of course, it's suggested to gather the appropriate resources that will likely be relevant to successfully expressing those answers in the body of your completed work.