Dissertation Dilemma

Dissertation Dilemma I can deny it no longer: I’m in a bit of a quandary over the proposed title for my dissertation. I’ve been mulling over a few ideas for the past 3 weeks or so but can’t really say I’m any closer to making a final decision. I need to set up an appointment to meet with a lecturer (quite whom depends on what area of law I choose) to discuss my dissertation during the next couple of weeks and have to submit my dissertation synopsis by the middle of next month. Time is quickly running out.

Late last year I announced that I had one potential dissertation topic in mind: the regulation of virtual worlds. This seemed an obvious choice at the time as I had long found the area interesting, it’s undoubtedly topical and the form the legal response should take is wide open to debate. Now, I’m not so sure that this would be the right move.

My main fear is that I don’t want to go lock-stock-and-barrel down the whole ‘regulatory theorist’ route if I can at all help it. Realistically, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I don’t want to go too far down this route as a degree of regulatory theory seems unavoidable in a postgrad dissertation – at least in the units I’m studying. My concern, in part, is that it might be a touch difficult to write a dissertation based on the regulation of virtual worlds while minimising the regulatory theory bit. Fairly logical.

I’ve also fallen victim to the fact my interests in IT law are wide and varied and feel I could select any number of areas to base my dissertation upon. The other day, I shortlisted a dozen or so potential dissertation topics in IT law alone – an exercise, I reflected later, that merely served to confuse me yet further. And even if I opt for the virtual worlds topic, there’s still the question of refining my dissertation question; to what extent should I narrow the topic down, if at all? For instance, I have been contemplating focusing on the role criminal law can play in this area, or examining the intellectual property considerations in isolation.

I think I’ve become so obsessed with the need to select a killer topic that will interest and excite (if that’s the right word) me during the 12 weeks of the summer which we’re ‘required’ to set aside to write the thing, that I’ve painted myself into a corner where I’m almost scared to make a final decision. Like many of my peers, a good portion of those 12 weeks will, in fact, be spent working, earning a little money back, having shelled out another few thousand on furthering my education through this course. Thus, I’m anxious to select a topic will still ignite my enthusiasm when I return home tired, bored and frustrated after a day in ‘regular’ employment. It’s also got to be interesting enough to provide me with the incentive to dip in and out of it during the time I don’t spend working.

What I can safely say is that I am certain I don’t want to write a dissertation on competition law. In fact, I strongly regret ever having taken this module but, having sampled (and thoroughly enjoyed) competition law as an undergrad, it always seemed a no-brainer and featured on my unit choice list right from the beginning. Oh well. You live and learn.

My other modules (company law, corporate governance and IT law) are all subjects from which I could select a topic to base my dissertation on. Besides, IT law, I’m probably gravitating more towards corporate governance, being influenced in no small part by a (rather surprising) interest in this subject and, more to the point, extremely praiseworthy feedback I received from my recent assignment which surpassed all of my expectations.

But again, I’ve got several interests in this area, too. From those I’ve shortlisted so far, I’d probably opt for something related to the role that non-executive directors play (or could play) in corporate governance as I think this area is one which could give me the most elbow room for original thought. Ironically, far from side-stepping the regulatory theory issue, though, selecting such a topic would be walking directly into it.

So where does this leave me? In a pretty confused, perplexed state – that’s where. Or, put another way, in exactly the same position I was when I started this term.


  1. You do sound rather perplexed. All those good ideas running round your brain for dissertation topics must be driving you crazy. I must say I do like the sound of the regulation of virtual worlds, that could be a very interesting topic to do it on, not least because it is topical.

    Good luck with the dissertation and I do look forward to reading what your eventual chosen topic is!

  2. Yeah, I'm still mulling it over. Probably will end up going the virtual world route after all.

  3. Virtual worlds sounds like a great idea, but will you have enough stuff to write about? Plus, will your marker be able to understand everything the way you want them to?

    If I were you, I'd widen the subject and include virtual worlds bit as one section of your dissertation.

    Good luck!

  4. I think I'll have more than enough stuff to write about, Andro. In fact, far from extending the topic area, I'm looking at narrowing it down!

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  6. Please tell me you haven't registered on Second Life or started playing WoW to 'collect material' for your dissertation? :P

  7. No, Andro. I haven't registered on a virtual world yet... but I thought the other day that I'd have to give it a look at some point before my dissertation.


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