Feb 26

Begin With The End In Mind – Your Dissertation Topic

When I first thought about writing this post, I was going to say that no one enters a doctoral program without having some question they want to answer or they really want to dig down into the nitty gritty of something. Then I thought about a little and realized that I do know some people, not many, who just want the credential for whatever reason. If the latter is the case for you, the advice that I am going to give here will probably not be useful to you.

The basic thing is to “begin with the end in mind.” This is the advice that I give to anyone starting a doctoral program. Hopefully, you are in a department at an institution that has the resources to allow you to pursue your interests and/or answer your question.


As a doctoral student, myself, I observed students who did not know what their dissertation topic would be even at the end of completing their coursework and passing their comprehensive exams. It took them another year or two to decide on their topic. This was time added on to the time to them completing their doctoral program.

I started out wanting to answer the question: “Why they are not more Black women college presidents?” I had observed that at any point there were no more than 35 Black women college presidents of the 3,000 college presidencies in the United States.

In looking at the institutions I could attend I started by asking questions of the faculty I had access to, if in their view that there were support in the department for me to do my research. I didn’t sense any hesistancy on their part and so I decided to proceed.

As I progressed in my program every choice and decision I made was in support of answering the question. Not everything was a straight connection, but I was able to use each outcome to further define and develop my own research. However, your question may change but you will at least have a focus and the change will be from a specific base and hopefully, fueled by your interests and/or question. Bottom line, you will still be engaged in your research and not just doing some research to earn the credential.

So again, “begin with the end in mind” and let that take you were it may with your dissertation.

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