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How to write a doctoral dissertation - doing your research

Anyone writing a doctoral dissertation should understand that this is a major undertaking. It will take weeks, months and in some cases even years of planning, research, writing and editing. It carries with it a great deal of prestige and can have a major impact on your employment prospects. Once your doctoral dissertation is finished and has been accepted, you have a major qualification and title for the rest of your life.

There are many aspects to creating a doctoral dissertation and the one concentrated on in this article concerns research. What are some important pieces of advice you should seriously consider when doing the research for your dissertation?

  • Consult a variety of resources.
  • Build an extensive list.
  • Consult widely from those who are experienced.
  • Improve your notation skills.
  • Always backup your information.

It is a serious mistake to restrict the list of resources you consult for research material. The physical resources involve libraries, librarians, academics and obviously printed and digital material. Make as broad a sweep as possible of all relevant resources.

Build an extensive list of items or titles you will research. Do not stint on this list. It is possible to whittle down the list at a later stage but if anything seems remotely relevant and you believe has some potential then include on the list. Before you begin your research, show this list to as many experienced people as you can. Allow them to make comments on specific titles. Is there something here which is irrelevant? Have I left off a resource or title which I should include?

You will be doing a lot of note taking during the research period. How good are you at taking notes? Because this is going to be a major undertaking it could be well worth your while to improve your note taking skills. This could mean using a Dictaphone, using shorthand either the traditional type or one you invent for your own purposes, and any other devices or methods which will help you become better and quicker at taking notes.

It is vital that whatever method you use to notate your research, you must backup your draft material. Just as you would back up the actual writing of your doctoral dissertation, so too you must back up your research material. If it is digital then it is easy to make a copy and keep it them safe. If it is hand written then you should photocopy it and store the copy in a safe place.

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