I’m not sure if I have enough ‘new’ ideas for my thesis

Originality is one of the most important criteria for a successful thesis. Your thesis should be a significant addition to the accumulated knowledge within your discipline, which implies it must be something new. While your thesis will be a big step for you, in most cases, your contribution will be a relatively small step for your field of study as a whole. Therefore, it’s important not to over-emphasise the need for originality – there are various ways in which you can incorporate originality without the thesis becoming over-ambitious or unmanageable.

There are many areas where ‘new’ elements are commonly found. You may choose to:

  • generate new data
  • apply new methods to existing data
  • create new interpretations of existing data
  • provide additional support for existing theories, models or interpretations
  • modify existing theories, models or interpretations
  • critique or disprove existing theories, models or interpretations
    discover new information
  • provide new solutions to problems
  • analyse phenomena in new ways
  • devise new investigative methods
  • sample new populations

By carrying out a thorough review of the literature – particularly of the most up-to-date sources – you will discover the ‘gaps’ or limitations in the current knowledge. These will guide you to fruitful areas for original research. In addition, your supervisor will be in the best position to advise you on whether you have enough new ideas. Finally, there will be opportunities within your faculty for you to explain and explore your ideas with fellow research postgraduates.

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