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What to Consider When Deciding on a Dissertation Topic in Education


Your dissertation is one of the most critical aspects of completing an EdD program. It allows you to contribute novel research to your field, potentially providing a foundation for future academic research. A good dissertation can also inform your career prospects because employers may seek out graduates with specific expertise.

However, the dissertation process is mystifying and stressful for many incoming students. Perhaps that’s why so many graduate students end up leaving school before completing their thesis.

At SNU, we understand that dissertations are a common barrier to EdD completion. That’s why we offer intensive support to help our students finish this important piece of scholarship. The dissertation is integrated into the curriculum so you can steadily complete it throughout your SNU tenure, and the process begins with choosing the right topic. Here’s what you should consider while exploring your options:

What Topic Should I Choose for My Dissertation?

A good dissertation topic contributes novel research to the field. So before you begin your research, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with what is already published. The SNU dissertation process begins with your dissertation advisor, who will help you brainstorm topics.

Here are some hallmarks of good dissertation topics:

  • They contribute new and innovative research to the field.
  • They cover a topic people are likely to be interested in. It’s even better if the topic is timely and relevant to current trends in the field. For example, an educator might write about the effects of COVID-19 on early learning and socialization.
  • They are informed by past research. It’s not enough to speculate on what you think might be true. You must conduct a thorough literature review so your topic can build upon ongoing innovation in your field.
  • They anticipate objections and alternative perspectives. Your dissertation will be strongest when you can be charitable to alternative views. Doing so enables you to make a more compelling argument.

How to Choose a Dissertation Topic in Education

The field of education has undergone many changes in recent years, including the COVID-19 pandemic, new economic challenges, and increased awareness of the importance of diversity. These changes have nurtured fertile ground for a wide range of dissertation topics. You may find that the challenge isn’t so much finding a good topic, but finding one that’s relevant to your research interests and talents. Some things to consider when choosing a topic include:

Your Interests

Make sure you choose a topic you are passionate about. You will write better and have more motivation to stick with your dissertation if you’re interested in the topic.

Your Skills and Knowledge

If you’ve already conducted some research in the field or gained career experience, consider building upon those experiences with a related topic. For example, a special education teacher might write about reintegrating neurodivergent students into classroom settings after a year or more of virtual learning.

Your Career Aspirations

Your dissertation topic will not determine your career and is unlikely to limit it. But the right topic may open career doors, particularly if you intend to go into academia or educational research. Can you expand on your topic for the duration of your career? If so, it might be a great choice.

Trends in the Field

The best topic is one you enjoy. However, consider your audience and the larger climate in which you write. What are the current trends in your field? What are people interested in learning more about? If you can answer a question your colleagues are asking, your dissertation will gain a wider audience.

Characteristics of Good Dissertation Topics

As you brainstorm dissertation topics, you will likely come up with some general themes and a few broad topics you would enjoy writing about. Next, it’s time to narrow these topics into a clear and specific dissertation thesis. Some characteristics of good dissertation topics include:


Dissertations either contribute novel research to the field, correct prior research, or expand meaningfully on preexisting research. It’s critical to ensure your topic does not replicate recent research.


Your topic must be clear and specific. “How did the pandemic affect children?” is too broad and nonspecific. “Did virtual learning improve kindergarten readiness skills?” offers more specificity.


You should be able to summarize your dissertation topic in a single sentence or question. Otherwise, the topic may be too wide-reaching or lack clarity.

Empirical foundation

Your topic should have a firm empirical foundation. Dissertations are scientific. You must be able to answer a question rather than endlessly speculate.


If your dissertation involves an experiment or research project, it must be well-designed. You will likely need the approval of an institutional review board before conducting research that involves human subjects, especially children.

Struggling to Choose a Dissertation Topic? How to Get Help

The right dissertation topic builds the foundation for years of academic research. So if you’re unsure about your dissertation topic, it’s important to get help early. SNU’s dissertation process uniquely equips you to survey your options, narrow down your topic and choose the right subject.

Here are some signs it’s time to get help:

  • You feel poorly equipped to write about your topic.
  • You can’t boil your topic down to a single sentence or two.
  • You keep finding research that contradicts your original theories or suggests your topic is not viable or interesting.
  • Your literature review is turning up very little or has revealed dissertations with topics substantially similar to your chosen topic.
  • You find your topic boring and are losing motivation.
  • You’re considering changing your dissertation topic.
  • You’re falling behind and not hitting dissertation milestones.

SNU’s Unique Dissertation Process

At many schools, the dissertation process is an independent activity. This might explain why so many students fall behind and complete their studies without completing their dissertation.

SNU offers something different. We provide comprehensive dissertation support from the time you enroll through graduation. Much of the writing and research is integrated into your coursework, making your classes more relevant and engaging and ensuring you get help if you run into trouble.

Dissertation Topic FAQs

Students considering a dissertation at SNU should consult the admissions office or a dissertation advisor to get clear and detailed answers to their specific concerns. Some of our most frequently asked dissertation questions include:

  • Can I change my dissertation topic? Yes, but the longer you wait the more time it will add to the process. If you are far into the process, it might be better to take on another research project later rather than shifting your topic.
  • What if my topic is rejected? If your topic is rejected, your dissertation advisor will work with you to refocus your topic or select a new one.
  • What happens at a dissertation defense? A committee will ask you to defend your dissertation research. They may ask about prior research, methodological holes, and the role of your topic in the broader academic field. This is your chance to prove your expertise and demonstrate critical thinking and reasoning skills.
  • How long does it take to write my dissertation? At SNU, you will begin writing your dissertation during your first semester and continue for the duration of your education. You can finish in as few as 32 months.
  • Do I have to write a dissertation to get an EdD? Yes, the dissertation is integral because a doctoral degree shows that you are an expert in the field. Writing novel research is a part of gaining that expertise.

SNU is committed to helping every student succeed. We balance academic rigor with exceptional support so you can delve deeper into your chosen topic, become a true expert and contribute something of value to the field.

We support adult learners with flexible scheduling and online and evening programs. To compare your options and learn more about what we offer, check out our free infographic, “Choose Your Path: Online vs. On-Campus Education.”

online vs. in person college

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