Your dissertation or research project is a seminal piece of work that enables you to showcase and expand upon everything you have learned during your course. Picking this topic can be daunting, with many students wondering how to approach making this important choice.

Here we cover how to choose the right topic for you, with advice from our University of Bath online course leaders.

How do I choose my topic?

Choose something you are passionate about! You are going to be spending many hours doing a deep dive into your chosen topic, so it is advisable to identify something relevant to your course that interests you and you want to learn more about.

“Choosing a topic you are interested in is absolutely ideal” says Dr Michael Wright, course leader for the Computer Science online MSc. “Then you can work with your academic advisor to really tailor your topic and narrow it down and make it MSc worthy.”

As well as being based on interests, many students also choose to focus on a topic that will push them forward within their chosen industry or career.

It is crucial to look at where your skillsets are and play to your strengths – thinking critically about what you are good at enables you to choose an area of study that will showcase your abilities. Alternatively, you may wish to focus on an area you would like to improve, by picking a topic or project that will enable you to expand your knowledge and hone your skills in a lesser explored area.

What sorts of topics can I choose?

Depending on your chosen course, your dissertation can take different forms.

In the Entrepreneurship Management and Innovation online MSc the course finishes with an independent research project, rather than a dissertation. Students develop a business idea into a viable business model, applying the knowledge and research techniques learnt throughout the course. Projects fall into one of four different types of ventures; independent, corporate, family or social.

“Entrepreneurship Management and Innovation is about creating new things” says course lecturer Professor Dimo Dimov.

“How do we create something from scratch? This is different from managing something that already exists, it’s a different mindset.

“For your research project you may want to focus on your own start up, or work on a something within your own organisation – perhaps they are looking to explore a new venture or launch a new product. Alternatively, you may choose to focus on a family business, exploring how the business can transition and evolve going forward”.

Rather than being solely commercial, Entrepreneurship Management and Innovation students can choose a research project within the social and environmental space, for example encouraging people to use less plastic. “We would call this a social sustainable entrepreneurial project” says Professor Dimov.

Applied Economics (Banking and Financial Markets) online MSc has a 12,000-15,000 word dissertation at the end of the course.

“You can choose to study the relationship between economic growth and, for example, inflation, economic development or the impact of house pricing” said course leader Dr Simona Montagnana.

“As part of the course you have the opportunity to study economic performance globally, so you can choose to study your own country or do a cross section analysis”.

Dr Montagnana suggests that your dissertation can be based on a wider context, like your country’s economics or even the global picture, as well as being based on a more specific context, for example your current role or industry.

Dissertation preparation units

The University of Bath Computer Science online MSc includes research project preparation unit as part of the course to prepare students for making their topic choice.

“The research project preparation unit takes you through the research in computer science and helps you to define a topic that you want to pursue for your dissertation” explains Dr Wright. “The dissertation is at a masters level, where you undertake user studies and system development to tackle a novel problem and submit it as a piece of work”.

“Within the department there are four main research groups; human computer interaction, AI, visual computing and foundations of computation. This covers a significant breadth of computer science research so students have a lot of freedom in choosing the topic”.

Examples of previous dissertations include the use of artificial intelligence, for example using mathematical models to predict a persons’ propensity towards depression based on their mobile phone usage, user studies into gestural interaction which look at the best type of gesture for different situations and research into other collaborative systems.

How do I know if my topic is suitable?

Whatever your chosen course, the University of Bath will help you select the best topic to translate your passion into academic success. Your dissertation is a chance to show your ability to work independently and put all you have learnt into practice. Although you have the freedom to choose your own subject matter, it is important that the topic is addressing a unique area of original thought. To help you to create a project of MSc standards, you will be assigned a tutor who will guide you through the whole process. They will work with you from choosing your topic through to submitting your work. Your tutor will advise if the topic is too broad, or not detailed enough, or too similar to what has been covered before.

“We will support you as best we can to help you succeed” says Dr Wright. “Our objective is to transfer to you the passion we have for the topics we cover.”

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