1.0. Choosing a thesis topic
Choosing a topic for a Master’s or a Bachelor’s thesis in the field of second language acquisition and language teaching is about both concepts and methods.
Here are a series of questions/steps to choose a topic:
📚 Bibliographic or 📊 empirical?
Are you going to (or do you need to) conduct an empirical study or a bibliographic study only? In other words, do you need to collect and/or analyze new data (e.g., make participants fill questionnaiers, interview people, observe or teach classes, make learners use a certain tool, analyse productions…) or only to do a literature review of existing studies?
Note that for any empirical study, you will also have to start with a literature review of the topic before doing the empirical study.
📚 Bibliographic (only)
If you are going to review the scientific literature on a specific topic, you need to be aware
- Don’t “imagine” the topic yourself without first looking at the literature! Chances are that you are going to have a nice idea, but that does not fit the concepts, ideas, and theories discussed in the field.
- Start by browsing the scientific literature to find the topics, concepts and ideas that have been discussed in the field for the last 5 years.
- Browse the titles of articles published in the recent issues of the top journals in Linguistics and Language Learning.
- Browse reference handbooks about research on language learning (check the table of contents to begin with), for instance:
- Identify the topics and concepts being discussed in the literature. Choose topics and ideas that resonate with you.
- Don’t worry too much about “originality” for literature reviews: even if another literature review has been done on the exact same topic a few years ago, there are always new publications and so reasons to do an updated literature review.
If you need to collect data in the field, then you need to make sure the data you are imagining is actually feasible to obtain for you. You need:
- Access to learners/teachers/institutions
If quantitative data:
- The variable(s) you want to describe or analyze needs to be measurable.
- As a beginning researcher, you should NOT create a new instrument from scratch to measure this variable. You should either use (eventually adapt) an existing instrument, used in the scientific literature and validated by experienced researchers, or at least start from an existing model.
Main journals in the field
See my List of Journals in Linguistics and Language Learning
→ Browsing journals to get an idea of the field
See also the Open Accessible Summaries in Language Studies (OASIS) Database.