Seminar for research students and supervisors on how to structure doctoral research and write up a doctoral thesis

These seminars discuss a plan for approaching the task of structuring a doctoral research study closely aligned with structuring the research thesis. While not a strict sequence that has to be followed all the time, it can help research students clarify where they might go in relation where they use it to where they vary from it.
Example thesis chapters illustrate the points made. There are also notes on research supervision and a researcher's philosophy of research supervision

1. Seminar on Structuring and Writing a doctoral research thesis: Seminar for ACU Strathfield doctoral research students and supervisors.

2. Doctoral research and supervision, and the role of 'research' projects in the Master of Teaching program: Seminar for ACU School of Education staff

This site has links to materials talked about during the seminar, including mp3 audio files of the seminars.

Seminar 1: The focus of the seminar for doctoral research students was:-

It can be a costly mistake to put a lot of time into doctoral research before giving some detailed consideration to how the final thesis is to be structured and how it is to be written up. Hence, the issues considered in this presentation are likely to be as relevant for someone commencing doctoral research as for someone who has begun the final process of writing the thesis. Different structures, conventions and styles are required for writing the various thesis chapters for an empirical study; it is like requiring a different type of author for each chapter. For a non-empirical study (i.e. combinations of philosophical, historical, theory focused, documentary etc.), the chapter structures and styles need to fit in with the logic of the argument set up in the thesis, and which develops across the thesis. Short samples from a number of successful theses will be used to illustrate the points. There will be opportunities for questions, clarifications and discussion of the issues.

To play the mp3 audio file click here or the icon. Or it can be downloaded by right clicking for transfer to mp3 player -- the complete audio file of the seminar. It is a large file.

(Also available is the audio file of an earlier version of the same seminar )

Click below for word files of documents looked at during the seminar.

1 Doctoral Thesis: Proposed Structure For Empirical Studies
2 Structure of a thesis: The Scope & Approach in each Chapter (empirical study)
3 Practical example of2 -- approach to writing in different chapters (empirical study)
4 Example of the strategic use of headings
5 Example of need for a precise abstract -- focused writing

NOTE: It is easier to keep to a regular structure when the thesis is reporting an empirical study with Intro-LiteratureReview-Methodology-Results-Interpretation/discussion of results-Conclusion. An example of a variation is where the literature/analysis/history work was so significant it would be misleading to label it as 'just' a literature review. Here the thesis was labelled as multidisciplinary with both philosophical/analytical/documentary research as well as a substantial empirical study. (E.g. Notre Dame University PhD Thesis of Anthony Cleary on World Youth Day 2019)

For a philosophical/analytical non-empirical study, the thesis structure is often best organised on how the whole story being investigated unfolds logically and sequentially, step by step, to reflect the core argument in the thesis.

Following up the discussion, some examples of the recommended approach for the different chapters, especially the introduction, methodology and final chapter on conclusions/recommendations have been included below from successful doctoral theses. Click the relevant chapter numbers to download.

Thesis chapter R Tullio
on Retreats
D Kenyon
Ideas of 'success 'in teaching religion
K Wanden Teachers' understandings of religious education

M Maroney
Young people's spirituality


J Fleming
Religion Coordinators
V Mountain
Young children's ideas on prayer
1 Intro
2 Lit review
3 Methods
4 Data
5 Discussion of data
6 Conclusions

Seminar 2: Topics considered in the seminar for School of Education staff

Doctoral research, undergraduate and Master of Teaching research 'projects' and research supervision: Presentation of some ideas on these topics together with forum.

A presentation of some points of view on the following topics, with the main focus on the opportunity to discuss the pertinent issues -- hence to spend most time on the areas of interest to those participating

Doctoral thesis structuring
Structuring and planning the writing of a doctoral thesis can be important not only for those who are in process of writing up the thesis but also for those who are beginning their research project.

The different 'mentalities' and 'styles of writing' appropriate to different chapters in an empirical thesis. Examples of thesis writing from different chapters can be looked at (then or later) to illustrate the points made. See the materials available above for seminar 1.

Doctoral research supervision
The different 'roles' needed by the supervisor at different stages of the research process -- from initial attempts to find a thesis topic through to the finalisation of the written thesis.

Research projects and research supervision in the Master of teaching program
The appropriateness of the special emphasis on research in the Master of Teaching program by contrast with comparable programs in other universities.

What is an appropriate structure for one unit and two unit projects.

Issues in the supervision and assessment of students doing M Teach one unit and two unit projects.

MP3 Audio file of the whole seminar To download the file Right click and choose "save as" and save to your computer before trying playback or transfer to mp3 player -- the complete audio file of seminar 2.

The files linked above for seminar 1 were also distributed and looked at briefly during this seminar.

Notes on progress in research, research supervision and thesis examination: A compilation of ideas for the use of ACU research students and supervisory teams over the years

A summary of a brief 'philosophy of research supervision'. This is a summary of a research supervisor's philosophy of research supervision.

If you have any questions or comments, contact Graham Rossiter

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