A checklist for your full draft PhD thesis

by Carol A Adams

Main points:

  • There should be a consistent thread right through your thesis;
  • Demonstrating connections can influence the outcome;
  • There are some simple steps you can take to achieve this.

The final months of your PhD can make a difference to the decision examiners make about your work.  The task of putting together the full draft thesis should not be underestimated.  Make sure you have addressed all the feedback received from your supervisors and reviewers on your draft chapters. Have another look at already examined PhDs for learnings on structure and coherence. Then make sure you have demonstrated that:

  1. Your research questions address a gap in the literature (in order that you can demonstrate that you make a contribution to the literature).
  2. The literature review contains an appropriate level of critical analysis and relevant contextual/background information.
  3. Theory has informed your research questions and research methods.
  4. You have demonstrated how any conceptual framework your develop is derived from the literature.
  5. The research method section:
    • Explains your philosophical approach;
    • Explains how theory has informed your method;
    • Justifies your method and sample selection with reference to quality research method texts and quality academic articles that have used the method/approach;
    • For multiple methods research, includes an explanation of how the findings from one method informs another (if applicable) and how each method will contribute to addressing your research questions;
    • Explains your approach to sample selection;
    • Discusses limitations of samples (where relevant).
  6. The findings section:
    • Analyses your findings with reference to theory and prior literature;
    • Answers your research questions.
  7. The discussion and conclusion:
    • Highlight your contribution (to knowledge in the prior literature);
    • Discuss theoretical implications;
    • Identify areas for further research;
    • Discuss how the findings support or change any conceptual framework that was developed from the literature.

Your abstract should concisely (aim for one page) set out your aim, method, theory, key findings and key contribution (to the literature and, if relevant, practice and policy). Make sure the abstract, introduction and conclusions are consistent (for example in the manner in which the aim and key contributions of the thesis are expressed).

Finally, make sure you put the time in to check that you have:

  • Followed any formatting requirements and usual conventions required by your university.
  • Provided references/evidence to support all claims.
  • Reviewed each word and sentence for clarity.
  • Where you have used interview data, reviewed for descriptive quotes that can be paraphrased for easier reading.  (Quotes used should add flavour/emphasis.)
  • Proof read the thesis yourself (several times) (looking for: repetition: vague statements: unsupported claims; words, sentences, paragraphs that are not conveying important points; typos; unsupported claims; connectivity with other parts of the thesis.)
  • Tables/figures and text are consistent.
  • Tables/figures are visually appealing i.e. easy for examiner to digest the key information.
  • Checked referencing (completeness, accuracy, format, correctness between text and reference list).
  • Only use acronyms that are in common use and write in full first time.
  • Make sure page breaks are in a sensible position – not in the middle of a table or just below a new heading.
  • Place tables and figures near where they are first mentioned.
  • Included research instruments in an appendix.

Good luck!

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