Graduate-Level Research: Services, Resources, and Tips

Researching a Dissertation/Thesis Topic

Marie desJardins suggests, "When you first start reading up on a new field, ask your advisor or a fellow student what the most useful journals and conference proceedings are in your field, and ask for a list of seminal or 'classic' papers that you should definitely read."

In addition to discussions with your advisor and strategies such as following your interests and searching the important article databases in your discipline as well as the UCLA Library Catalog, other suggestions include:

  • Read a review article, which you can find by using the "article type" field in an article database. Look at the "future research" section at the end to find possible topics.
  • Use the auto-alert feature that many article databases have, which runs a search you set up periodically and emails you the results.
  • Explore Databases by Subject; sometimes work on a topic is being done in another field or research from another discipline may enhance your work.
  • Search ProQuest Dissertations & Theses to see if anyone has already written on the topic you are interested in. The object is to find nothing—which would indicate that you have an original idea to pursue.
  • Another place to search for dissertations is OATD.org (Open Access Theses and Dissertations),

DesJardins also suggests that you start a journal of your research activities and ideas, keep files of the papers you read, and create an an online bibliography.

  • Use bibliographic management software such as EndNote, Zotero, Mendeley or Reference Manager to create and manage a working bibliography of references; many article databases can format citations. Find out more at an upcoming Library workshop.
  • Cite sources accurately and ethically; find guidelines on the Library's Avoiding Plagiarism guide.
  • Schedule a consultation with a librarian; a list of subject specialists is available online.
  • Email a librarian; the form allows you to specify which library to send the question to, depending on your subject area. You should receive a reply within forty-eight hours.

Other Research Tips

The following are general tips to help as you develop your dissertation proposal and prepare for oral exams and thesis defense.