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Writing dissertation in psychology

Psychology Dissertation Topics

4 min Read|April 23 2023
|Written by:

Thomas Babb


Choosing a dissertation topic is an important choice for undergraduate students. An easier option can help you complete your education quicker, while a more challenging topic can accelerate your chosen field’s personal brand and career prospects. This article looks at how to (and how not to) set about creating a psychology dissertation topic, some common titles, and formulating a strategy for getting the best grade.

Avoiding the easy option

Picking a psychology dissertation topic that you think your tutor will like or you will be able to complete quickly is not the approach to take. Your tutor will have seen everything in their main field of expertise. Besides, they may move on, retire or find a new area of interest during the time it will take you to complete the work. The best advice is to choose something original and important to keep you interested over the period of several months. Look at existing research in your field of study and identify gaps in existing topics that could be taken further. By taking this approach, you will enrich your field of study and demonstrate your ability to challenge or extend existing findings. 

Do your homework

When choosing your psychology dissertation topic, do not limit your search to published works. Check with key researchers and organizations in your field to see if anyone is working on the same or similar topic as your dissertation proposal. Also, carry out some keyword searches of the main academic databases from time to time. Doing so can enrich your study with the latest research breakthroughs and current data. However, searching for this can be time-consuming, so be disciplined in how much energy you put into this.

Common topic ideas

Because psychology is such a wide-ranging field, it can be difficult to know where to start planning your topic. To help, start by thinking about which of the main branches of psychology you are most interested in. These are some popular topics to give some food for thought:

  • Social psychology topic ideas:
    • Qualitative and quantitative research methods in social psychology.
    • The role of gender in marketing and branding.
    • The continued relevance of cognitive dissonance.

  • Clinical psychology topic ideas:
    • Individual experiences and eating disorders in adulthood.
    • How are obsessions or compulsions linked to clinical and demographic factors?

You can also peruse the leading journals for research that has become dated or you feel could be developed in another way.

Build the foundations

Many academic fields have hotly-contested terminology and definitions. Psychology is no different. Even apparently, simple constructs such as ‘intelligence’ or ‘memory’ can mean different things to different people in the field. Establishing your interpretations and their reasons is vital from the outset, even as early as choosing your psychology dissertation topic. As an added measure, try to seek out support for your proposal. Sound out some of the reviewing committee members to find out their views or another dimension they feel could add further value. Doing so will get people fighting your corner and feel invested in your work. It is important to get the academic community onside with your proposal since they are likely to be involved in its publication later.


On the topic of publication, consider which journals and sites you envisage carrying your work. Although the objective of dissertations is to challenge norms and push new boundaries, think about your topic in the context of the main literature of the field and whether it will suit their modus operandi.

What is your timeline?

Considering the timeline is an important factor in deciding on your topic. You need to allow sufficient time to gather data, analyze it and write up your findings. If there are factors that mean you need to complete the project in a shorter time frame, factor this into your thinking.

The finer points

There are also some external factors involved in your choice of psychology dissertation topic. These include:

  • International Review Board approval - this is essential for research involving human subjects.
  • Will your topic qualify you for funding? If so, who are the key stakeholders you will need to get onside to make this happen?
  • What format of research design will be required?
  • How will you organize your statistical analysis?

In Summary

Choosing your dissertation topic is, in some ways, one of the hardest aspects of the entire project. With so many different subjects available, it can be difficult to shortlist and focus. Consider your options carefully, and remember you will need to defend your choice before a panel of experts. Whatever psychology dissertation topic you settle on, do your homework and be realistic with your choice. Above all, this will allow you to be assured in your choice and proceed with confidence knowing you have considered all angles.

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Professional tutor and Cambridge University researcher

Thomas Babb

Written by: Thomas Babb

Oxford University - PhD Mathematics

Thomas is a PhD candidate at Oxford University. He served as an interviewer and the lead admissions test marker at Oxford, and teaches undergraduate students at Mansfield College and St Hilda’s College. He has ten years’ experience tutoring A-Level and GCSE students across a range of subjects.

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