Topics for a PhD in finance

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Topics for a PhD in finance
Finance studies capital allocation by individuals and organisations. (chart image by Kit Wai Chan from

Finance is a broad subject area that contains many subdisciplines and topics. Because financing can be observed at macro and micro levels, the subject of finance can be discussed in many ways and can be hard to define with precision. According to "Encyclopaedia Britannica," finance is "the process of raising funds or capital for any kind of expenditure." A good doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in finance dissertation examines a topic related to fund allocation in a novel, sophisticated way.


In finance, banking refers to the activities of banks and related organisations. Banking organisations include commercial banks, central banks, investment banks and any other institution that lends money, including credit unions and credit card companies. Good dissertation banking topics examine how banks create and maximise wealth through loans and other financial instruments. Examples include loan risk assessment models, money creation and fractional reserve banking.

Corporate Finance

Corporate finance is the study of how corporations allocate capital for business purposes. It includes balance sheet analysis, investment financing, stock valuation, dividend policy and capital structuring. A good corporate finance dissertation topic examines one or more of these topics in relation to corporate growth or profit. Examples include assessing pros and cons of share buybacks, evaluating the advantages of equity financing compared to debt financing and critiquing financial performance ratios.

Personal Finance

Personal finance is the study of how individuals manage money and allocate capital. It examines financial behaviour on an individual level rather than an organizational level. A good topic in personal finance for a dissertation looks at one or more of the financial decisions faced by private individuals and weighs the pros and cons of the available courses of action. Among examples are 401k plans, mutual fund strategies and savings plans.

Investment Management

Investment management is the study of how investors can maximise returns using security analysis and portfolio strategy. Investment management looks not only at how to pick investments but how to weigh types of investments in a portfolio. Examples of dissertation topics in this area include mutual funds, hedging models and portfolio diversification theory.

Financial Mathematics

Financial mathematics is the study of applied mathematics in finance. Financial mathematicians study advanced models that pertain to the valuation of financial instruments in markets. A good dissertation in financial mathematics attempts to derive new applications from a theorem in mathematical finance. Topics include the fundamental theorem of arbitrage-free pricing, the Black-Scholes model and portfolio optimisation theory.

Financial Markets

Financial markets are the places where assets are bought and sold. Finance studies the structure of stock, bond, currency and derivative markets. In finance, markets are important not only as facilitators of exchange but as determinants of asset value and price. Topics include efficient market theory, derivatives trading and market structure.

Financial Regulation

Financial regulation is the use of law to guide the conduct of market participants and penalise participants who engage in questionable activity. Finance studies the effects of financial regulation on market behaviour and financial performance. A good dissertation dealing with financial regulation examines the effect of a particular law on market behaviour and performance. Examples include the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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