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Dissertation Subject Guide

including systematic reviews, literature reviews and scoping reviews

Choosing a topic

Choosing a topic area for your dissertation is the first step. 

  • Choose an area that you are interested in related to your coursework/practice/profession
  • a question that you would like to know the answer to
  • lack of knowledge in a particular area


Creating a question from your topic area

Your question should be clear.

Narrow your topic down to an area that you would like to know the answer to, or interesting or worth investigating

Think about:




Checking for current research

Before continuing, you need to check if a review has been recently or currently carried out on your question that you're thinking of.


search in Cochrane Library for already published reviews on your subject area

Search PROSPERO for any planned or ongoing systematic reviews. Scoping reviews and literature reviews that use a systematic search are not included in PROSPERO.

If your research question idea already exists in PROSPERO and/or Cochrane.

  • Is it more than 7-10 years old? Would it be beneficial to do an updated systematic review?
  • Think of a different angle e.g. home setting or acute setting? different age group? 

Qualitative vs Quantitative

During your scoping searches, it might be worth considering if you'd like to look at Qualitative or Quantitative research for your review.

Qualitative vs Quantitative Research
collecting and analysing non-numerical data objective measurements: statistical, mathematical, numerical analysis
concepts, opinions, experiences gathering numerical data & generalising across a group of people or explain a particular phenomenon.
first hand observations, interviews, questionnaires, focus groups, participant-observation polls, questionnaires, surveys, using pre-existing statistical data
recordings made in natural settings, documents, case studies etc large sample sizes representative of the population

felt more than measured

not based on measurable terms but the impact of satisfaction and worth

usually gathered using structured research instruments. Research is replicable.

Used to generalise concepts more widely, predict future results or investigate causal relationships.

Babbie, E.R. (2014) The practice of social research. Fourteenth edition. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning; Muijs, D. (2011) Doing quantitative research in education with SPSS. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.

Qualitative Research Methodsnull