Make your thesis meaningful

We will connect you with a coach who will help you find a thesis topic with high potential to significantly improve the world.

Who will benefit the most from this service? Is it for you?

The advice about what to focus on with your thesis will differ based on your career plans. First, we discuss what might be a good strategy when you plan to take research-heavy careers and then we move to advice related to non-research careers paths.

If you’re considering pursuing a career in research, you should make it a priority to build your research skills. In order to have a substantial impact, your research will need to be excellent in quality. There are several ways you can improve your research skills: you should consider using methods you haven’t used before, and which are harder to carry out (or which will allow you to get better at technical skills like data analysis and methodology). You should also make sure to choose a skilled supervisor with a good reputation in the relevant research community who will give you a good deal of feedback and care. The goal of your thesis at this stage is not so much to come up with new findings, but rather to build research skills and test your fit with this type of work.

You can get a general sense of what the academic career is like and whether you'd be a good fit for it here.

Ideally, you can build skills in directions that seem highly valuable (see our priority areas) in order to learn more about them and make it easier to contribute later. However, if you can’t find a supervisor who will help you hone your research skills in one of these directions, you should choose an area that allows for greater skill-building, and come back to more valuable directions at a later stage. You will likely have a chance to switch topics and start focusing on something important and meaningful when you choose the area of focus for your PhD.

Please let us know if you plan to work on any of our priority areas or if you’d like help with figuring out what might be most valuable for you to focus on. We can support you in your research direction and connect you with others working in these areas.

Even if you don’t expect to pursue a research career, there are still opportunities for your thesis to help improve the world - you can focus on some of the problems that seem most important and use your thesis to learn more about them with the aim of working on them directly later in your career. If this is your goal, you should optimise not for generating new insights about the problem, but rather for gaining a more thorough understanding of it and how to tackle it. To learn more about which careers we think improve the world the most, see this guide.

PhD

If you are about to apply for your PhD (Europe) or are already enrolled and are about to choose your topic and supervisor (US), it’s probably good to consider how much your topic choice will lock you in a specific subfield. In our experience, for some disciplines, the lock-in effect is stronger (e.g. Economics, Psychology, Engineering) while for others, not so much (e.g. Life Sciences, Philosophy). To figure out how much lock-in appears in your discipline, ask more experienced researchers in the field and track this in your own environment. If you find that there is a good chance of becoming locked-in to a specific field, this will make it that much more important to choose a topic that will be publishable in the best journals and will also be valuable and important to focus on from the perspective of improving the world. We can help you with finding such a topic.

If you want to build your research career in academia, in many disciplines you should focus more on theoretical contributions (e.g., what drives people in general, how a specific type of system works, some theoretical models we can use to understand the world better) rather than applied research (e.g., the effectiveness of specific interventions). Applied research experience might be an advantage if you want to do research outside of academia (e.g., in think tanks, nonprofits, or international organisations).

We are happy to help undergraduate, masters and especially prospective PhD students find topics that are interesting, meaningful and valuable - please check our suggestions and/or apply for our coaching!

GET INSPIRED

Get inspired by our suggestions for high impact fields and find a topic within the field yourself

GET ADVICE

Get advice tailored to your situation from experienced researcher who will help you find a topic that will be a good fit to you

12,000

Research hours

directed towards the most pressing global problems

15

Countries all over the globe

from which students applied and benefited from our coaching

40

Coaches

in our network help students from all backgrounds finding the right topic

Check the finished theses of students we advised and what are current students working on

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What they say about us

Too many students write theses that achieve nothing other than meet the requirement for the degree they are seeking. When there are so many important questions, in a wide range of fields, that need to be answered, that's a terrible waste of time and intelligent, creative energy. The Effective Thesis Project is seeking to change that, and I hope it will.

Peter Singer, Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne (photo: Mal Vickers)