PhD Topic confusion


Hey guys!
I was searching for a thread on this particular topic but could not find one, so i created a new one.
I'm a MBA marketing student, i just completed it and am considering doing a PhD.But the problem is how to choose a suitable research topic!Are there any particular ways to find a topic from scratch??
(Also i was thinking of doing my PhD from a university in UK.Any advice on which are good universities and funding would also be helpful.)
Any advice and help would be very highly appreciated!!:-)


Hi. There are a few approaches you could use, and I summarised these in Chapter 5 of a guide I prepared for my Masters students here (the advice in there applies equally well to a PhD)...

The flowchart on page 32 keeps it simple. On the other hand, if you need even more condensed advice, I would suggest choosing the topic based on available data :-)


PatrickO: Thanks a lot buddy, that was very helpfull!
Now i have narrowed down consumer behavior as my research interest, and in particular i was looking at post purchase behavior, to focus my research on!
Any ideas about where i can get hold of research articles and arrive at a concrete research question, so that i can start preparing my research proposal :-)


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About the articles - I must give you some hard advice and it is with the best of intentions. Finding literature is a key skill that you should be learning on your MBA. If you do not know where to find relevant and contemporary research and other literature in your field, or have a process of finding it, then you are probably not ready to start a PhD.

There are a couple of threads here about books to read before starting a PhD, and I would suggest Rowena Murray or specialised books on undertaking a literature review. This is a useful article...

Randolph, J. (2009), “A Guide to Writing the Dissertation Literature Review”, Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, Vol. 14 No. 13, online at

Regarding sources of research, I presume that you have access to Athens through your University. If not, then start with relevant journals in the library, and start building a mindmap of knowledge in the area, and a mind map of resources that the authors of those journals cite.

Next, you cannot arrive at a concrete research question before you understand what has, and has not been done already. You also cannot start without a better idea of the focus of the research (post purchase behavior hass an enormous range). There are a number of factors to consider when developing your research question, and I would suggest understanding more about research and research methods/methodologies before doing so.

Consider two examples. One is the phrasing of your question that is suggesting you have already decided on a deductive approach. Have you considered that a social phenomenon like post-purchase behavior is better studied inductively? If the phenomenon is poorly understood then an inductive approach is more likely (IMO) to identify previously undiscovered or unanticipated behavior.

Another example is the data. What data do you have access to? Consumer behavior for luxury items is different to consumer behavior for staple foods. Consumers in the UK are dramatically different to consumers in Africa. Do you think purchasers of luxury will want to talk to you? And so on. Choosing a focus will affect your question, your research and your future career, and that focus should be driven by access to data and the factors in the flowchart on page 32.

A PhD is a long apprenticeship - developing your research skills as much as your knowledge of the field. Spend 3-6 months in the beginning getting to understand the subject of research, and make informed decisions about what you are doing. Put that effort in early because your PhD is likely to experience numerous setbacks if you don't.