How to Write a PhD Thesis: Top Tips

By StudyLink

When it comes to writing a PhD thesis, it’s all too easy to settle. After years of hard work, research and countless late nights, emotions run high and exhaustion can slip in. When supervisors send back work that was previously deemed to be satisfactory, it’s easy to get frustrated, but there is a reason they seem to be so picky; they care. They don’t want your three years of study to be for nothing, so every alteration they suggest is only there because it might help swing an examiners decision. These top tips have been collected from some of the top supervisors, students and academics to give you clarity when it comes to writing your PhD thesis.
1. Submit a neatly formatted, complete bibliography
PhD students are judged on their sources, so it pays to make sure your bibliography is accurate and presented properly. Make sure you include the key theorists in your chosen topic as without these, the examiner might not be willing to look any further. A bibliography is one of the most basic of academic standards, so mess this part up at your own risk!
2. Make an original contribution… and make it clear!
Number two on the list of basic academic writing skills is an abstract. If you can’t write down your original contribution in a succinct way, it again doesn’t bode well for the rest of the thesis. You need to make reading your thesis easy for examiners, don’t make them piece together your argument that is set out over the first three chapters. Unfortunately, if an examiner cannot find the original contribution, they cannot award the thesis a PhD; the student will have to settle for an MPhil. Because of this, it’s worthwhile stating your original contribution in the abstract, repeat it in the introduction, highlight it in the chapter(s) itself and include it in your conclusion. Make it clear!
3. Size matters, when it comes to introductions and conclusions
The quickest way to lose an examiner is to write a short introduction and/or conclusion. After writing thousands of words, you should be able to write more than a one-page conclusion. Effective conclusions show that you are in control of the thesis, whereas shorter conclusions signify that you may have run out of steam. Short introductions often suggest a lack of deep understanding of the subject. In this case, size really does matter.
4. Stay offline (for the most part)
More and more PhD students are turning to the web for source material. Whilst this isn’t always a bad thing, do not fill your (neatly formatted, complete) bibliography with online references to blogs, news articles and textbooks. The problem is that it is difficult to differentiate between refereed and non-refereed or primary and secondary sources online. Google has placed academic articles next to opinionated blogs, and it’s not always easy to tell the difference.
5. Know the subject like the back of your hand
It is not acceptable to assume that something you are doing is new because you haven’t previously read about it. All this shows, is that you do not know enough about your chosen field of ‘expertise’. It is easy to invent the wheel after three espressos at 3am, but you need to ensure you check whether or not it’s an original contribution before submitting. This is something that really should be picked up by your supervisor, but make their life easier by taking another look over any original arguments before asking for their views.
6. Correct spelling isn’t optional
In a world of word-processors, spelling isn’t something that can be ignored. There will always be the odd typo or word that goes unmarked, but the tolerance for spelling errors is dwindling. Spelling mistakes make for hard reading, so check, double-check, triple-check, just make sure you don’t submit any work with a spelling mistake.
So there you have it, six simple steps to writing your PhD thesis. If you’ve found these tips useful, share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.

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