Sustainability: Identifying A Research Area of Interest

Getting started ... Explore the range of topics and methodologies by perusing a Sustainability thesis previously published on Harvard’s DASH site (select DCE from the Communities and Collections menu).

Choosing a topic of strong interest to you is certainly an essential consideration, but in professional degree programs, such as Sustainability, the thesis can be an important springboard in your career path.  

Virtually all theses in Sustainability are applied research - they investigate real sustainability challenges and environmental management problems and propose solutions that emerge from analysis or modeling of real data in real environmental contexts.

Your thesis can demonstrate:

  • Your commitment to and passion for a sustainability or environmental management problem
  • Your deep expertise in a particular field
  • Your proficiency with specific types of research and analytical tools, such as statistics, GIS analysis, cost-benefit analysis, life cycle analysis, greenhouse gas accounting or corporate sustainability assessments
  • Your critical analytic abilities in critiquing research, designing research questions and testing hypotheses

Your thesis research and writing allows you to hone these skills and to emerge with a product that represents your strongest professional abilities - so think of:

  • Which analytic skills do you wish to represent your capabilities?
  • Which sustainability field do you wish to enter?

Choosing a research topic or problem in Sustainability

  • You may be interested in a topic, but you need to conduct original research for your thesis
  • You need to identify answerable research questions and construct testable hypotheses
  • Therefore, you need some raw material for analysis
  • A yet-to-be analyzed set of data available to you or that you collect
  • Estimates for variables that will populate into a model you will build and analyze

Many interesting research problems must be abandoned for thesis research because data are unavailable for analysis