This expert advice comes from Sonja Foss and William Waters - authors of Destination Dissertation: A Traveler's Guide to a Done Dissertation
Everything you've read that's piqued your interest - or not - during your academic career has contributed to the first step of writing a dissertation: selecting a topic. Prepare to spend a total of 10 hours (about a week) engaging in a conversation that brings to light the key pieces of the research for your dissertation that you already intuitively know. This "conceptual conversation," like all conversations, requires a partner. Your advisor is the preferred partner, as she will guide you through the dissertation process as a whole.
What should each of you bring to the conversation? Bring your interests developed during coursework and enthusiasm, along with tools to capture the conversation? pen and paper; laptop; or even a tape recorder. Your conversation partner brings a commitment to spend time with you and excitement about the intellectual journey ahead.
Step 1: Questions to Ask
Once you and your partner have begun cycling through certain ideas over and over again in your conversation, repeating the same ideas with fewer and fewer additions, that's an indication that you're ready to formalize the key pieces of what you want to be a part of your dissertation. These elements will be used to form the proposal for your dissertation.
Step 2: Identifying Key Pieces
About the Authors: Dr. Foss is a professor of Communications at University of Colorado, Denver and Dr. Waters is assistant professor of English at University of Houston-Downtown. They are co-directors of Scholars' Retreat, a program to support progress towards completion of your dissertation, thesis, or writing project.