Choosing the right topic for your dissertation will either help set you up for success or failure. Chances are there are a lot of factors that will play into it—what your background is, what your program specializes in, what your advisor is working on, what there is funding for, and what you eventually want to do with your degree. You topic will likely change considerably between when you are applying for the doctoral program or first present it to your advisor, and when your research is complete, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
The first thing to keep in mind when picking a question is to focus on something that you are interested in personally. You are going to be spending years on this research, and it will probably help to determine what direction you’re going in with your career. So make sure that it is something that matters to you, that you find important, so that when you hit a road block or start to get bored, you can remind yourself why you chose your topic in the first place.
Determining the appropriate scale for a dissertation project can be difficult. You need to keep in mind how long you have to complete the research, about how many pages you will have to write it, and how complicated your methodology is. Then use that information to estimate what scope, or how many data sets you can deal with.
EXAMPLE: If you are interested in examining an environmental phenomenon, you will need to define the geographic area and timeframe for which you will define the phenomenon. It would be very difficult to do this for the whole globe, or even for a whole country, especially if you are using detailed data. Instead, choose a region or state. This will make the scale of your research much more manageable.
A common mistake when creating a dissertation topic is to try to ask a question that the research methodology you are able to use won’t be able to answer.
EXAMPLE: If you are looking for a correlation relationship between height of people and their maximum education level reached, your research question can’t be why do people of a certain height go farther in school, because your data can’t answer that for you.
As you work on your project you should have goals in place to motivate you to finish in a timely manner. As you complete parts of your work you are getting closer to finishing your work according to your schedule. Maybe you can entice yourself to finish sooner if something was waiting for you upon completion. Make it something fun and enjoyable. It helps if it is something you may not usually enjoy. Make things interesting to encourage yourself to finish faster. You can at least consider trying to get your work done a week or so before your deadline.