Discarded Research Questions from My Dissertation: A Non-Exhaustive List

When working on a dissertation, one of the most crucial components is its research question. It is the argument’s overall purpose–essentially the question the author aims to answer with his or her kajillion-page opus. Having waded through an obscene amount of academic literature on possible topics for the better part of this summer, I recently sat down to take my first stab at my own research question, and thought I’d share some of the questions that didn’t quite make the cut:

1. If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, who gives a crap?

2. What are the longitudinal physiological and psychological effects of allowing an old man to knick knack on various parts of one’s body prior to rolling home?

3. To what extent does a random sample of people report whether or not they let the dogs out?

4. Where’s Waldo? (A Case Study)

5. In the event of seeing a little silhouette-o of a man, will a sample population do the fandango? And furthermore, in the presence of very, very frightening thunderbolts and lightning, will they let him go? (The researchers hypothesize that bismilah, no, they will not let him go, even despite numerous protests.)

Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody

After careful consideration, I decided that last question didn’t really matter to me.


What do you think should be my research question? As you all know, I’m monumentally pressed for time, so any suggestions you can offer in the comments section would not only be greatly appreciated, but also would contribute significantly to scientific advancement. (We need all the help we can get if we want flying DeLorean time machines by 2015.)


You may also enjoy:

Sustainability All Through The Town   Unanswered Questions from Children's Songs: A Non-Exhaustive List   Veered Science

If not, I’d like to tell you about an exciting opportunity to participate in a research study exploring the body’s knick knack pain threshold.


  1. lovethebadguy

    How might one discover the value of a bird and its status as being less than, equal to or greater than the word? ;)

    Also a matter of great importance: What number of roads are considered sufficient for a male to walk down in order to develop a sense of self-worth and social value?

    These are the questions that keep us up at night…

    Good luck!


    • John Pseudonymous

      Hmm, with that in mind, maybe I should ask Siri what I should research.

      The ultimate problem I had with #5 was that I’m not sure the Institutional Review Board would find the work ethical. After all, it would involve imprisonment, or at least staging it. It’s an interesting hypothetical to consider, but in practice I’m not sure it’s a great idea.

      Plus, it would be pretty expensive to fabricate lightning, and even more expensive to make that lightning particularly frightening.


  2. spaarolifantje

    What’s your general area of expertise?

    And can I borrow your blog’s audience for MY terrible quest for finding some funny and witty disertation propositions? You’re supposed to have them, here in the Netherlands, but I didn’t become a scientist because I’m so funny…


    • John Pseudonymous

      I try to keep my real identity on the down low, so the details of my degree program are not for public consumption. However, it’s no secret that I’m a former teacher, so I don’t mind saying that my general area of expertise involves education and learning.

      I’m not so sure my Loyal Readers would be of much assistance to you, as it seems your blog is in Dutch.

      But you Nether know.


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