I'm working on a social science master's thesis based on a discourse analysis of documents. I finished a proposal a few months ago, which my committee approved. But as I continue to scan my sources, I am getting worried that there isn't as much significant evidence available as I had thought when I started doing research. I've done everything I can to find new leads but there is very little academic work written about the topic. I am starting to believe that the topic is a dud, and that maybe there's little written about because it just isn't that interesting...

Aside from meeting with my supervisor, which I am doing soon, has anyone else had to deal with a similar situation, and how did you deal with it? I want to finish within eight months, nine max, so I do not think I would be able to change topics...

2 Answers 2


Don't panic. It's quite normal for the direction of the research to shift a bit after the initial proposal. It's common to find out that for one reason or another it's not feasible to do exactly what was proposed. After all, if you knew exactly how to do it in a way that's guaranteed to work, then it wouldn't be research!

Unless your funding is tied to a specific project, you can probably broaden the scope or make other adjustments. I'm sure your advisors will have some specific suggestions for you, but in the meantime, think about what you could do with the types of materials that you have been able to find.


I agree with @mhwombat that you should not panic and you are right to be meeting with your advisor. Having just completed a thesis myself, I would say that a large benefit from the experience is to work on a mentored research project. It is an opportunity to learn how to conduct research and not necessarily to find significant results, although that is nice.

As you continue to work on the project it may slightly shift focus, however in your conclusions section consider how you can report on the findings you have and how your work could be used to inform future work. If you don't share this work then someone else will probably find this same question later on. As part of your defense of the work you can definitely report on this as a lesson learned from the research project.

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