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How to choose the theme of dissertation?

Whatever degree you are studying for, probably the first thing you see when you see the title of the article – why should I care now? I am of the opinion that it is never too early to think about a thesis – it can only be too late (a far more common case). What a piece of that thesis I wrote in this post, and now it’s time to take a deep look at its subtleties.

You might be surprised, but one of the most important things when working on a thesis is not the topic of the thesis, but the supervisor of the thesis. The higher the degree, the greater the importance of the supervisor. The best students are grabbed before the teachers in charge ask for a supervisor. My suggestion is to look for a guide for undergraduates at the end of autumn – early winter, for graduate students as soon as you enter or in the early days, for doctoral students as soon as you realize you want to enter a PhD. Well now it’s time to get back to the topics of this thesis.

Bachelor’s theses are usually very mundane, and students often bring them from firms that practice in their fourth year. Sometimes the themes are even alike – one year there was a variety of mobile gadgets on the wave, as before everyone was developing a variety of frameworks by convention, and there was a boom in the development of smart accounting systems. Of course, having a more interesting, unique theme is okay, but I’d suggest trying to make the final project as complete as possible (“don’t look too big”). Having a product you create is used or used by famous companies or institutions is also a big plus. I was easily defended in the Forum cinemas cinema advertising management system, and a student who presented a comprehensive examination system at the LSMU easily defended itself. For fun, there are some 2016 topics with work defense entries.

Another good source of topics is your personal or group projects that you did during the semester. I defended my bachelor’s thesis (or humor website with an integrated content management system) in my own time, which I started doing in my spare time as a third year student (by the way, I did the same work in at least three modules;). It is true that working on a road to one project is a bit harder to turn it into a thesis (there are some subtleties), but among bachelor’s theses, usually about one third of the projects presented were done on the road.

However, if you do not come up with a topic and you are practicing in a very boring firm, remember the Bachelor’s Guide – it will always come up with something to do (usually not only the list of executives but also the topics they offer). It’s also good if you already have a topic – the supervisor will be sure to advise you whether the project you choose is too small (or maybe too big) for a bachelor’s thesis. However, I will tell you from practice that undergraduates usually have no major problems with the idea of the topic, so most of the communication with the supervisor is about the requirements of the undergraduate work and various standards for the description of the project.

The topics of the master’s thesis are, of course, more complex than those of the bachelor’s. I will remind you that the aim of the master’s thesis is not to create something final product, but novelty (improvement of something, improvement, creation of a more efficient solution) by using partially or fully functioning product (algorithm, system, skeleton, etc.). What is more, one of the highlights of the Master’s thesis is the research, which is aimed at proving the goodness of one’s decision, comparing it with existing solutions. Some examples of topics include: a better image recognition algorithm, a faster architecture of distributed systems, and a combination of encryption algorithms or solutions that have never been tried before for better results. It may sound very abstract, but the subject names always reflect something you plan to improve or introduce as an innovation.

Master’s theses also include projects created by students themselves or on their own, but they were less visible compared to bachelor’s theses. This is where the importance of the Master’s thesis supervisor is highlighted. If you have an idea or are already working on an interesting project, but do not know how to turn it into a master’s thesis, a supervisor will help. The most difficult task is usually the development of the scientific side – without the supervisor it is difficult for the students to do it, so communicating with the supervisor during the master’s thesis is often necessary and desirable. Therefore, if bachelor theses are more often invented by students themselves, master theses are more often proposed by the supervisor.

In general, the topics of the master’s theses can be divided into two categories – scientific and engineering. Master’s theses deal with various scientific (often fundamental) issues, and research is usually carried out using prototypes. It may sound boring, but Master’s theses are just ideal for those planning to enter a PhD, and writing them properly is really easier to defend. There are significantly more topics in engineering work. These works also aim to improve or offer something new, but they are often related to the work of graduate students and the products they create or develop in companies. It is easier to write the work itself, but quite often the weak point of engineering work is research, which is simply “stretched”. Thus, engineering works can be a little harder to defend.

Interestingly, the master’s studies (seemingly in all study programs) include a separate module of the master’s thesis, during which students are introduced to the specifics of the work, the characteristics of research and similar subjects. However, this is only an appendix – the biggest source of information, in my opinion, is the job guide, which is always worth contacting when you have questions or difficulties. By the way, if your bachelor’s thesis is only a semester long, your master’s thesis is written all two years, so it’s worth choosing a supervisor that you would love to talk to all those two years   If you choose a supervisor feel free to change the manual – I wholeheartedly recommend it.

But a bachelor’s or master’s thesis is just a “flower” compared to a doctoral thesis, called a dissertation. You can read more about PhD in a separate article of mine, so for now I’ll just talk about choosing a work topic and a supervisor. Here is the interesting side of the PhD – the dissertation must necessarily be led by a professor and the topic is closely linked to the professor’s research. In other words, when choosing a guide, you also choose the narrow area in which the manager works. It is also interesting that at the time of admission to the doctoral program you will be asked if you have a work topic and whether you have already agreed with the topic (ideally, if the topic is related to the topic of the master’s thesis, it is a continuation). So if you’ve been unintentionally tempted by a career at university, it’s worth thinking about finding a supervisor as early as possible during your masters degree. Admittedly, my knowledge of enrolling in the doctoral program is somewhat old, but I am confident that the general characteristics of my studies have remained the same.

By the way, dissertation topics are incredibly narrow, but infinitely deep. This means that, throughout the years spent at the doctoral level, doctoral students strive to delve into one tiny aspect of something and make a discovery, but at the same time must have a good understanding of what is going on around them. However, it is much harder to describe in words than it seems at first glance, so for the sake of relaxation, this small comic that very aptly describes the essence of your thesis and PhD