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About this book

This engaging and highly regarded book takes readers through the key stages of their PhD research journey, from the initial ideas through to successful completion and publication. It gives helpful guidance on forming research questions, organising ideas, pulling together a final draft, handling the viva and getting published. Each chapter contains a wealth of practical suggestions and tips for readers to try out and adapt to their own research needs and disciplinary style.

This text will be essential reading for PhD students and their supervisors in Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences, Business, Law, Health and related disciplines.

Table of Contents

1. Becoming an Author

Abstract
The authoring process involves all the component parts of producing a finished piece of text, that is: envisaging what to write, planning it in outline, drafting passages, writing the whole thing, revising and rewriting it, and finishing it in an appropriate form, together with publishing all or parts of your text. At every stage a complex mix of intellectual and logistical issues can crop up. As de Botton suggests of problems in general, often there are genuine (permanent) dilemmas surrounded by more resolvable delaying or distracting factors. Neither the fundamental problems nor their penumbra of aggravations may be straightforward to resolve, but we can often make progress on the latter by making the issues involved more explicit. My aim here is to shed light on common authoring problems and to point out solutions which others have found helpful and that may also work for you.
Patrick Dunleavy

2. Envisioning the Thesis as a Whole

Abstract
What is your dissertation about? And what contribution do you aim to achieve? What will be new or different about your work? How would you justify the time and resources that you will devote to it? These fundamental questions will seem very pressing in the beginning stages of your research, as Yeats’ intangible process of locking you into a long-run project begins. But they do not go away later on. You can often push such issues into the background in the central stages of the thesis, during field visits, case studies or the hard slog of library or archive work or data collection and analysis. But they tend to return during the ‘mid-term slump’ in morale that often afflicts dissertation authors. And they invariably crop up again when you have a first draft of your complete thesis, and have to fashion it into a polished and defensible final version. This chapter is about the importance of thinking through some reasonable answers before you invest too heavily in a particular research topic and approach. I consider first how to define one or several questions that will inform your project as a whole. The second section looks at the demands of doing ‘original’ and interesting research.
Patrick Dunleavy

3. Planning an Integrated Thesis: the Macro-Structure

Abstract
Any large text has to be broken up and arranged into a set of chapters. This task may seem unproblematic. First think about how many thousand words you want to write, and then how many chunks of text you need to split up this total effectively. Next settle on what topics to begin with, and where you want to end up. Then fix on some way to get from alpha to omega. So far, so straightforward. But there is a bit more to it than that. One of Neil Young’s ironic songs has a record producer telling a rock artist that they have a ‘perfect track’, although they don’t yet have either a vocal or a song. ‘If we could get these things accomplished,’ he says, ‘nothin’ else could go wrong.’2 Planning a thesis from a blank-canvas requires a similar heroic optimism and there are multiple considerations to keep in mind.
Patrick Dunleavy

4. Organizing a Chapter or Paper: the Micro-Structure

Abstract
The building blocks of a completed thesis are chapters. Yet if these blocks are to hold together they must themselves be effectively structured internally, so that they can bear a load rather than crumbling away under pressure. A first step then is to divide the chapter into parts. In addition, two elements of designing internal structure are commonly mishandled: devising headings and subheadings to highlight your organizing pattern; and writing the starts and ends of the chapter and its main sections. I discuss these three issues in turn.
Patrick Dunleavy

5. Writing Clearly: Style and Referencing Issues

Abstract
An author with a well-organized piece of text must still pass two further hurdles before gaining credibility or approval in academic professional circles. The first is a test of style. Does the author communicate fluently, convincingly and appealingly in the professional manner appropriate for her discipline? Quite where success or failure should be determined here is difficult to specify in any general way. Evaluations of good or bad writing style are notoriously subjective. Much ink has been spilt on good style for novelists and creative writers (see Further Reading on p. 287 for some style manuals). But this literature offers little help to authors of doctoral theses or other large professional bits of text, like academic books. However, it is still possible to pull together some generally useful advice about conflicting style pressures, and some sensible ways of proceeding at a paragraph-by-paragraph, or sentence-by-sentence level, as I try to do in the first part of this chapter.
Patrick Dunleavy

6. Developing Your Text and Managing the Writing Process

Abstract
For creative non-fiction the heart of the authoring process is a person sitting at a desk, surrounded by information, notes, scribbles and sources, or otherwise jammed with ideas, and struggling to organize their thoughts on a blank screen or sheet of paper. This particular image is so dominant in our thinking about authoring because it is so awe-full, so hard to manage your way through at the time, so difficult to capture what you were doing afterwards, and so psychologically stressful or unnerving to contemplate at almost any time. In another field, writing novels, its practitioners’ collective obsession with the angst of an author imagining something out of nothing has gone even further, as John Fowles noted ironically:
Serious modern fiction has only one subject, the difficulty of writing serious modern fiction … . The natural consequence of this is that writing about fiction has become a far more important matter than writing fiction itself. It’s one of the best ways you can tell a true novelist nowadays. He’s not going to waste his time over the messy garage-mechanic drudge of assembling stories and characters on paper … Yes, all right. Obviously he has at some point to write something, just to show how irrelevant and unnecessary the actual writing part of it is. But that’s all. 2
Patrick Dunleavy

7. Handling Attention Points: Data, Charts and Graphics

Abstract
When readers first scan your text they will pay disproportionate attention to any organizers and summaries they encounter, but also to visually distinctive ‘attention points’ which stand out from the main text — especially tables, charts, diagrams, maps, photographs and text boxes. At this ‘eye-balling’ stage readers will often try to make sense of each attention point on its own, without reading closely the accompanying text, since they are trying to decide whether to focus down for serious study, and where. If data presentation is important to your thesis, or other elements play a key role in the exposition (for instance, diagrams in a theoretical argument or photographs in project work), then how you handle attention points will strongly influence readers’ views of the professionalism of your approach. Even if attention points are few and far between in your text, PhD examiners and subsequent readers (such as journal editors and reviewers) will expect them to be competently delivered. Later, too, you will go to conferences, and have only 15 or 20 minutes to give an oral presentation, or possibly secure only a poster session in a crowded conference venue. On these occasions people focus a lot of attention on your presentation slides or other exhibits. Usually these slides will either be versions of your existing attention points or designed on similar principles.
Patrick Dunleavy

8. The End-game: Finishing Your Doctorate

Abstract
Down the ages dispassionate observers have long complained that intellectuals are diffident, unbusiness-like types. They are happy to start projects but reluctant to finish them. Interested in books and ideas and potentialities, they are perfectionists who cannot close a deal, cannot say ‘this is good enough’, cannot easily make a sale or cut a compromise. It is a familiar and discomforting stereotype, which unfortunately has a large measure of truth (certainly in my case). If writing is psychologically difficult as a form of commitment, how much more troubling is the letting go involved in ceasing to work on a project, recognizing that its imperfections and deficiencies (so intimately familiar to the author) have just to be lived with, tolerated, perhaps never remedied or improved upon?
Patrick Dunleavy

9. Publishing Your Research

Abstract
Publishing your work is the key way in which you can insert it into the slipstream of academic ideas, and so avoid your thesis becoming just ‘shelf-bending’ research, sitting in your university library and slowly bending a shelf over the years. The main route is to submit papers to professional journals. More rarely you can reshape your whole thesis into book form and get it accepted by a publisher as a monograph. Neither form of publication is quick or straightforward. They can protract your end-game long past the formal date at which your title metamorphoses into Dr.
Patrick Dunleavy
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