Postgrad research – ideas and tips

This page lists some on-line resources for both research students and their supervisors. Topics covered include tips on structuring and writing your thesis or dissertation, and developing your supervisory team. One set of links focuses on doing integrative and/or action research. Some resources are also included to help thesis supervisors, examiners, and students who want to see what examiners may be looking for. The final set of links cover issues around paper authorship and reviewing.

Tips on starting and finishing your thesis

A structured approach to presenting theses: notes for students and their supervisors
This paper by Chad Perry addresses the problem: how should a postgraduate research student in marketing or a similar field (and his or her supervisor) present the thesis? The structure developed provides a starting point for understanding what a thesis should set out to achieve, and also provides a basis for communication between a student and his or her supervisor. Firstly, criteria for judging a PhD thesis are reviewed and justification for its structure is provided. Then writing style is considered. Finally, each of the five ‘chapters’ and their sections are described in some detail: introduction, literature review, methodology, analysis of data, and conclusions and implications.

Summary Notes of Writing for Social Scientists: How to Start and Finish Your Thesis, Book, or Article
A thought provoking piece that reflects upon the essence and the philosophy of writing, and the fears, anxieties, joys and frustrations involved in the process, in a down to earth tone.

Writing and Presenting Your Thesis or Dissertation
This guide has been created by Joseph Levine to assist his graduate students in thinking through the many aspects of crafting, implementing and defending a thesis or dissertation. The site has been built up with experience over a number of years.

How theses get written: Some cool tips
A concise powerpoint style guide to getting your thesis started … and finished! Written by Dr Steve Easterbrook this presentation covers key topics from structure to what examiners will look for.

How to Write a PhD Thesis
This guide to thesis writing gives simple and practical advice on the problems of getting started, getting organised, dividing the huge task into less formidable pieces and working on those pieces. It is written by Joe Wolfe (School of Physics, The University of New South Wales, Sydney). The guide also explores the practicalities of surviving the ordeal. It includes a suggested structure and a guide to what should go in each section. It was originally written for graduate students in physics, and most of the specific examples given are taken from that discipline. Nevertheless, the feedback from users indicates that it has been widely used and appreciated by graduate students in diverse fields in the sciences and humanities.

Three little-known keys to writing a thesis
Worth reading! A short piece in which Chad Perry highlights three valuable tips to writing a thesis that experience and research have uncovered.

The supervisory team

Students’ perspectives on quality supervision
This page provides some University of Otago (New Zealand) students’ perspectives on quality supervision and problems encountered in supervision. It is designed to help postgraduate research supervisors and students in understanding what to aim for, expect and be aware of in relation to postgraduate research supervision. This is divided into two parts: “The 10 most important qualities of the ideal graduate research supervisor’; and ‘The 10 most substantial problems faced by students in graduate research supervision’.

Research supervision
A succinct but well set-out text by Professor Robert Dale, Division of Information and Computing Sciences at Macquarie University, describing a personal view of research supervision. It outlines the mutual expectations of supervisor and supervisee, and it is intended for students so that they know what they are getting into.

Integrated and/or Action Research theses

PhD students and integrative research
This book chapter by Gary Fry, & Bärbel and Gunther Tress raises some interesting issues for PhD students undertaking integrative research. Their focus is on the training needs of PhD students studying integrative research questions and their need for support from both supervisors and the wider institutional infrastructure. The role of supervisors seems key to the success or failure of integrative PhD projects. The authors find evidence that the disciplinary background, interest and motivation of the supervisor have much influence on research outcomes, in terms of the quality and whether PhD studies are completed on time (or at all).

You want to do an action research thesis?
Here Bob Dick outlines how to conduct and report action research, including a beginner’s guide to the literature.
Jack Whitehead’s Action Research Homepage Another site with useful action research links. This site also hosts on-line versions of a number of action research-based theses.

The examiner’s viewpoint

‘It’s a PhD, not a Nobel Prize’:how experienced examiners assess research theses
This paper by Gerry Mullins and Margaret Kiley reports on a study of the processes that experienced examiners go through, and the judgements they make before writing their reports. Clear trends emerged with regard to: the criteria used by examiners and the levels of student performance expected by them; critical judgement points in the examination process; the examiners’ perceptions of their own role in the process; the influence on examiners of previously published work, the views of the other examiner(s) and their knowledge of the student’s supervisor and/or department, and the level of perceived responsibility between student and supervisor.

Examining PhDs and other research programme theses: Good Practice Guide
The purpose of this 2014 Reading University guide is to help examiners to understand what is involved in the examination process, how it might best be approached, exactly what your responsibilities are (as either internal or external examiner) and the standards you should be looking for.

Criteria for assessing a PhD thesis
Although different examiners will adopt different methods of examining the thesis and for conducting the oral examination, there are some general criteria for evaluating PhD theses that may be useful for students and examiners to bear in mind.

Writing and reviewing papers

Authorship guidelines
These guidelines have been developed by the British Sociological Association to help provide a good starting point for discussions about how to appropriately assign authorship. The authors are particularly aware that this is a topic that is of great interest to post-doctoral and post-graduate researchers. They also acknowledge that problems arise when different contributors have different expectations of who should (and should not) be included as an author, sometimes because of different conventions in different disciplines or because of differences in seniority and changes in conventions over time. The guidelines cover general points, then move on to how to attribute authorship and decide on the order of authors.

Reviewing a manuscript for publication
This is a great help to a new reviewer, or a useful refresher for those more experienced. This paper by Alan S Lee offers suggestions about how to review a manuscript submitted for publication in the fields of management information systems, organizational studies, operations management, and management in general. Rationales for the suggestions and illustrative sample comments are provided.

The editors speak: what makes a good review
This org.theory blog post brings together the thoughts from a number of current and former editors at journals in organizational theory and sociology who were asked to comment about what they think makes a good review. You’ll notice that the editors seem to agree on several important points (e.g., be constructive!), but there is some variation as well. Some of the editors make very specific and useful points about what reviewers should and should not be recommending in their reviews. An interesting read.