Well, after getting all the way through the first research course at Northcentral, transferring to Northeastern, and starting the rough, rough, rough, draft of the first part of my dissertation proposal at Northeastern, I have learned some stuff that I thought I should share in case any of the doctoral students or soon to be doctoral students have any interest in my humble advice. Listen, that dissertation will sneak up on you VERY quickly if you are not careful. 1. For the love of God, narrow down your dissertation topic to a couple general areas from the VERY beginning of the program. Say I was very interested in Homeland Security, and I knew that there was at least a decent chance I would do my dissertation on something related to the broad area of homeland security. Well, write EVERY single paper you can on something related to homeland security (especially if you are NOT in a homeland security program). You will find that this will narrow down your topic throughout your program. You will also find that you will have a nice little stockpile of paragraphs that can be inserted into your dissertation when the time comes. Another possible value to this might be that you realize you DO NOT want to do a dissertation on homeland security. Better to find out sooner than later. Now, the cycle begins again. 2. Keep thinking about the dissertation throughout your program. When you get bored, go onto Proquest and use different key words to look for other dissertations related to your area of interest. Save those dissertations. You will find that those dissertations have a nice little stockpile of references that have pretty much outlined the progress of research up to this point. Here is a hint: You will probably need those references as well. You aren't copying their literature review, you are simply making a list of the references they are using, so you have an idea where to start. You will also find some helpfull ideas for the types of methods that are being used for research in the area. Why reinvent the wheel? 3. Take notes! Every single time an idea pops into your head for a possible dissertation topic, write it down. I have approx. 13 folders, each with notes for different ideas for dissertations. You won't know how valid your ideas are unless you brainstorm, and do a bit more research into the area of interest. That extra research will also help minimize the possibility that someone else has already done your project. It may also help you identify areas that are not viable dissertation topics. 4. If you are a real go-getter, and you think you have your topic locked down from the very beginning of your program, that is great! But, keep taking notes on other ideas. You may find that your idea was garbage or that it was already researched. You will probably find that your idea for a dissertation is actually too big, and it would be 4 dissertations. Understand that your topic WILL be adjusted when you get to talking with the person who will eventually be your committee chair. If you are "married" to your topic, that will only make it all that much harder to adjust to your chair's expert opinion. My advice: Narrow your topic down, but don't "decide" what your research methodology will be. For instance, know that you will research ethics in undergraduate finance programs in a certain state or region. However, realize that your dissertation chair will have significant input into the type of research you do, your population, and other aspects of the dissertation. Hopefully, you have done the background research into the area (because you were writing papers related to the topic), and you have an idea of what research is lacking in the field, and what has been researched to death. It will also help you identify the most readily accesible data or population to use. The more prep work you have done leading into your dissertation, the less you will do during the dissertation. You will also be much less stressed. Anybody else want to add to this?