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A Simple Beginner's Guide to PhD Research Topic Formulation

Hey guys,


Are you puzzled as to how you need to formulate a topic for your PhD research work? Feeling obscured under a lot of articles or books that you’ve read which only led to confusion? If it’s been more than a weeks’ time since you started, and one idea after another is running through your mind without any hint like how to mold one idea into a proper research project – you’re certainly feeling the burden!

We are here to help you in bringing up an appropriate approach for a workable research project. In addition, we have a provided a comprehensive 6-step-guideline for “Finding out a good and original PhD research topic”.

What is a ‘PhD research topic’?

There are some misinterpretations and uncertainty around the word ‘topic’, and many PhD scholars thinks that they require a general topic to get started with their research. However, it is not right. Normally, a PhD research topic is the heart of your research project which simply exposes the complete idea of your research work and further by using it, the dissertation/thesis needs to be framed out. In practice, deciding on a research topic and working out your research questions goes hand-in-hand.

Below six steps will guide you in formulating a good research topic for your PhD

Step 1. Research the state-of-art in your interested research domain

  • Initially find atleast 5-8 appropriate keywords for a literature search.

  • Further postulate your search regarding literature survey databases which you search, its publishing dates, topographical areas, or applied methods and techniques.

  • Summarize all the articles which you read and keep reference number for the same, so you can always revisit articles.

Step 2. Breakthrough your project ideas

  • Identify and write down all the project ideas which comes to your mind. Just gather your thoughts, without critically assessing them.

  • Find a quiet spot and write out all project ideas that come to your mind. Just collect all your thoughts, without critically evaluating them.

  • After few days, revisit your ideas and start reviewing and crossing out research ideas which are not worthwhile.

  • Continue adding new ideas and refine your list, as you go on with the reading process.

Step 3. Slender down your research ideas

  • After working on this, go through your formulated list and gradually narrow it down to 2-3 best research ideas.

  • Further to it, start in brainstorming each promising research idea, may be atleast one per day.

  • Pen down all possible and clear research questions, problem gaps, ideas for experiments/analysis, how to gather pragmatic evidence, hypothesis you’re having etc.

Step 4. Develop a “project work sheet”

  • Create and maintain a page “project work sheet” that surface out the specifically more about your research project in terms of approach, methods, techniques to be used of and expected outcomes of the research work taken.

  • The purpose of maintaining this project work sheet is to test how do you feel about the research topic-either positively or indifferent? You have time to work on the research topic for the approaching years. Preferably, you’re passionate about it.

Step 5. Discussing with your research guide/supervisor

  • Present all the formulated research topic to your supervisor would be always the best choice as they will help you in knowing whether the topics suggested is good to move ahead or need to work upon.

  • Now, based on their opinion (regarding time, funds, facilities & methods available) move further with any one of the research topics.

  • Integrate all their feedback on your “project-work sheet” to further polish them.

Step 6. Decide and develop statement of objectives

  • During this process, you might have decided one topic which is better and stands out with more potential. Go for that and start to further analyze the pro’s and con’s of it. But finally make a decision and move forward.

  • For the finalized research topic, create atleast 3-6 objectives which briefly gives the research project’s goal. Include research questions to answer or the hypothesis you’ll work with.


If you’re one among those PhD candidates, it is most important to find your goal for doing PhD, now identifying the goal is your goal! We know that finding a research topic is a harder part, however the above mentioned six steps will definitely guide you in cracking and bringing about a good research topic.

Hope this article will be helpful for all the readers who are in the beginning stage of your PhD research work. In case of any queries related to this post, feel free to reach us through your comments or visit our website.

1 Comment

Research P
Research P
Aug 28, 2021

Very useful.

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