How to select a suitable research project topic

How to select a suitable research project topic

Whether you’re studying for a Degree, a Masters, a PhD or a work-based qualification, it is likely that you will be required to undertake a research project as part of your studies. A research project, also commonly referred to as a dissertation or thesis, is an individual piece of work where you are given the flexibility to undertake original research of your choice. It is a substantial piece of work that generally ranges from around 10,000 to 100,000 words and takes a considerably amount of time and effort to complete. As such, it is important that you select a suitable research project topic.

A research project will involve a critical review of existing literature, a methodology and an analysis and discussion of data. Usually the project will involve collecting your own primary data, but you can also complete a research project based on secondary data- check with your institution about the specific requirements that they may have. A research project is valuable because it generally has the potential for real-world application, particularly within areas such as aviation.

How to select a suitable research project topic

Why is the research project topic important?

Having a suitable research topic is imperative to the success of your research. I have supervised and graded hundreds of research projects over the past few years- trust me, I know. Having a clear and suitable topic from the beginning will help with the following:

  • Organising the project
  • Giving the project direction and coherence
  • Setting limits for the project and showing its boundaries
  • Keeping the researcher focused during the project
  • Providing a framework for writing the research project
  • Understanding what data will be needed

Criteria for a suitable research project topic

1- Relevance – The topic must clearly lie within your chosen course of study, for example aviation management.

2- Specificity – There must be a clearly developed/defined issue, problem or hypothesis proposed. You can visit this post for more on what makes a good research question or hypothesis.

3- Analysis – your topic CANNOT be a purely descriptive work – there should be elements of interpretation, critical awareness and evaluation

4- Originality – your project should attempt to build upon existing knowledge in your chosen field. This may be accomplished in an area in which there is little research, or a new insight into an area where there is a significant amount of research.

5- Feasibility – your project objectives must be realistic in terms of time and resources (money; contacts; access to respondents) .

6- Scale- Consider the scale of the project. It is important that you are not over-ambitious. 10,000 words might seem like a lot at the beginning but you quickly find yourself exceeding the word count!  

7- Quality– This is more important than scale. For example choose to conduct a local or regional study rather than national or international.

8- Methods– Consider how you might collect data relevant to your project. Is it feasible and realistic?

How to select a suitable research project topic


For an example of a research project, you can take a look at my PhD on TEFL Tourism.

If you wish to cite any of the content in the post please use reference ‘Stainton, Hayley. (2018) Lifeasabutterfly.’