The human brain may well be the new frontier for scientists and scholars alike. You may find yourself overwhelmed as you approach a dissertation in psychotherapy or neuroscience, but it will likely be from considering the endless possibilities that research can pursue. You will likely find an interest in discovering how to maximize human mental capacity as exciting as an examination of how grief, music, a television program or even the weather can affect the mind.
One of the simplest ways to narrow a dissertation topic in the social sciences is to identify a demographic study group. For example, an interest in how weight-conscious people deal with obesity, both when they suffer from it and when they encounter it, could lead to a psychological examination of the effects of drastic weight gain or weight loss. Such research could include personal narratives as well as consulting library resources. Other dissertations of this type could include a study of stressors on adults with disabilities, or a discussion of various types of experimental psychotherapy with posttraumatic stress disorder sufferers, including animal-based therapies. In the past few years, for instance, dissertations on the effects of horses in therapy have been written.
Other dissertation topics would include examinations of the effectiveness of various types of therapies. You could study emotion focused therapy, or EFT, which Psychiatry Online defines as important, since "emotions are seen by contemporary emotion theorists as significant because they inform people that an important need, value, or goal may be advanced or harmed in a situation." EFT can be studied in conjunction with spirituality or religion. In a related topic, you could look at the spiritual aspects of a therapy like therapeutic massage or acupuncture. Some students have great interest in researching the elements of memory. These scholars could write on the causes and ramifications of false memories. Finally, you could research, not the type of therapy itself, but the effects of certain types of therapists. Such a dissertation could examine the effects of a therapist's voice and mannerisms on a patient population.
Doctoral students who lean more toward neuroscience can find their bliss in researching the possibilities in creating a computerized model of a functional human brain, or they might prefer to look at a specific neurological phenomenon like how word recognition occurs and varies among individuals in the auditory cortex. Other model-based dissertations could include the study of biophysical neural models. Combining an interest in a user demographic with neurology could lead to topics like the neurobiology of the adolescent or the brain's physical reaction to arithmetic or reading in the disabled.
Finally, many topics in psychotheraphy and neuroscience will appeal to researchers with popular culture interests. Along these lines, you could study archetypes like the widow or the wife. You might also find yourself wondering what the effect of a crime syndicate television show like "Breaking Bad" or "The Sopranos" has on adolescents, or keeping with that demographic group, you could study the social effects of a community organizations like The Girls' Club or of programs like martial arts classes. Other topics would include non-prescription treatments for depression or obesity.
Anthony Fonseca is the library director at Elms College in Massachusetts. He has a doctorate in English and has taught various writing courses and literature survey courses. His books include readers' advisory guides, pop culture encyclopedias and academic librarianship studies.