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THE MACRO-STRUCTURE OF THE THESIS Gita Subrahmanyam Authoring a PhD and Developing as a Researcher: Getting Started.

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Presentation on theme: "THE MACRO-STRUCTURE OF THE THESIS Gita Subrahmanyam Authoring a PhD and Developing as a Researcher: Getting Started."— Presentation transcript:

1 THE MACRO-STRUCTURE OF THE THESIS Gita Subrahmanyam Authoring a PhD and Developing as a Researcher: Getting Started

2 Structure for this talk What is a macro-structure? Chapter sequencing in theses How text sequencing shapes research development Progression throughout PhD

3 STRUCTURE influences growth.

4 - influences the growth of your ideas - shapes the time you have for different research stages - which determines when and how far you develop your ideas and understand your evidence The MACRO-STRUCTURE of your thesis

5 THESIS = LONG, SUSTAINED PIECE OF WRITING ‘Big book’ thesis may be your longest writing across your whole career Also true for ‘papers model’ theses LSE maximum length = 100,000 words (330+ pages) all-inclusive Aim for at most 80% of this = 80K words Over-long theses are unpublishable Over-short theses raise issues for examiners – Is this really an M.Phil?

6 DIVIDING INTO CHAPTERS CHAPTERS SHOULD EVENLY DIVIDE THE TEXT – regularity best manages readers’ expectations Ideal is 8 chapters, (because ‘7 is a magic number +or - 2’) so structure = 8 x 10K Longer chapters become impenetrable and unpublishable, so maximum = 12,000 words Short chapters disappoint readers, so minimum size = 8,000 words. Merge anything less substantial.

7 An GOOD MACRO-STRUCTURE helps you manage length & assure the CORE WHAT IS THE CORE? –clear value-added materials –discovering new facts –showing independent critical power THE CORE MUST COMPRISE OVER 3/5 OF THE TOTAL THESIS –e.g. 50,000 words out of 80,000 for ‘big book’ theses –e.g. 5,000 words out of 8,000 for individual papers

8 NON-CORE ELEMENTS make up the rest PRE-CORE MATERIALS –minimum 1 chapter, maximum 2 –sets up argument, establishes need for and importance of core material POST-CORE MATERIALS –minimum 1 chapter, maximum 2 –sets core in context, analysis, implications of findings, lead out





13 STRUCTURE IN PAPERS MODEL PHD 4 INTRODUCTION 123 1.Review article 2.Job market paper 3.Lesser paper 4.Case study

14 TITLES ASSURE THE CORE CUE AND BRAND THE CORE –in your TITLE –in your ABSTRACT –in CHAPTER AND SECTION HEADINGS –in your ROLLING SYNOPSIS AVOID GENERIC LABELS –Chapter titles such as ‘Introduction’, ‘Literature Review’, ‘Methodology’ etc could be used for ANY project –Ensure your titles capture the core

15 GROUP WORK Explain briefly the subject of your PhD to the rest of your group. Then working together… Identify the chapters of your thesis – lead in/lead-out/core/analysis What changes to the overall structure might you implement in the light of today’s talk/your discussion? You’ve got 10 mins max for each group member

16 MAIN STAGES OF PhD RESEARCH AND THEIR CHARACTER Beginning – defining topic and treatment. Period of intense pre-thinking, lots of contact with supervisor: key review Mid-term slump –accumulating materials. Much more solitary stages Finishing – integrating materials into a whole, getting an overall message clearer Lots of draft inter-changes with supervisor

17 STARTING A PhD First year review process – by May you need synopsis, chapter plan, methods/data plan, first chapter Protracted literature review customary and meets dept’s and supervisor’s needs Fits with ‘collecting instinct’ and postpones hard thinking and the onset of real research

18 THE PhD MID-TERM - Fieldwork, archives, data piles/ analysis - Disconnect from peer group and supervisors - Destruction of theory capital; intractability of explanation; the lure of commonplace accounts - Accumulating materials but not writing up as you go, creating a thinking and writing overhang

19 THE END GAME Love and loathing syndrome by now Timelines tend to telescope together Disturbing for many people to face up to what they’ve done (rather than planned) and to reappraise/ reformulate themes

20 NEXT GETTING STARTED SESSIONS… 23 FebruaryTime Management 25 FebruaryFor Your PhD 4 MarchDeveloping Career Choices Go to to book a

21 Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2003 ISBN 1-4039-05484-3 For more on macro-structure, see Chapter 3.

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