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Conflict Resolution Institute

CRI Graduate Degree

MA Thesis

Find a Topic

How do I find a thesis topic?

Find a researchable problem. What is a problem? A general question to investigate and explain through original research; a question that does not have a simple “yes” or “no” answer. Usually a “why” question is appropriate: Why are some mediation sessions successful and others are not? A Policy-advocacy question is less appropriate: Why should we use ADR techniques to settle disputes? (You will not become engaged in original research efforts, but rely on secondary analysis, that is, what others say are good reasons for using ADR). A descriptive question is also insufficient: What negotiation strategies are used most often in family disputes? (You will not explain what accounts for their use). These are only general ideas to help to think in terms of researchable problems.

How to find a problem: (1) Keep a notebook with thesis ideas as they occur to you during your coursework. It has been suggested to write down 3 ideas per course, no matter how valid. (2) Think about your course assignments and whether they could be enlarged and made into a viable thesis topic. (3) Consider your internship experience, your practical work: what might be addressed as a thesis topic within that environment? (4) Read the professional literature to discover the hot topics and debates. (5) Ask your professors. (6) Read or browse copies of completed M.A. theses in Conflict Resolution (The University of Denver copies are available in the Conflict Resolution Office).

Choose a problem: something that interests you about which you could develop a passion, or long term focus, something where you have some previous knowledge and the right skills to examine the issue. Why is this problem important? Develop more specific questions out of the general one in your focus; for example, How does the background of mediators determine their effectiveness in different settings? How do different mediation strategies influence sessions outcomes?

Describe the problem: Write a few paragraphs outlining the problem, why you find it interesting, and how you might do research on it. Meet with professors to discuss your idea and get feedback. Based on these conversations, secure an advisor, don’t look back, look ahead to the next step. There is no perfect topic, don’t waste a lot of time agonizing over which to choose.

Write one page on the Thesis Idea. Outline the problem and questions you want to study. Discuss idea with several professors to find out where your interests mesh and how to reshape your ideas. Then choose your advisor.