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Teresa McCormack Queen’s University Belfast.  What are you afraid of?  What’s the worst that could happen?  What would be the best outcome?

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Presentation on theme: "Teresa McCormack Queen’s University Belfast.  What are you afraid of?  What’s the worst that could happen?  What would be the best outcome?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Teresa McCormack Queen’s University Belfast

2  What are you afraid of?  What’s the worst that could happen?  What would be the best outcome?

3  Learning to ride a bicycle versus learning a musical instrument.  There is no substitute for practice.  Begin from the start of your PhD: you won’t get it perfect first time.  Meant to be a learning/training process.

4  Methods sections if appropriate.  Results sections if at all possible.  Record keeping: you think you won’t forget, but you will.  Try hard to be kind to your future self!  By the end, you may not recognize the ramblings of your past self...

5  Agreeing an overall structure with your supervisor and series of deadlines, building in time for re-drafts.  Acquire a writing routine: 1000 words a day is a good target.  Reward yourself for being efficient.  Keep to the routine, but only up to a point...  It is always easier to re-draft than to start from scratch.  Introductory chapters versus experimental chapters first: pros and cons.

6  Accept the need to draft, re-draft, and re-re-draft, and re-re-re-draft and re-re-re-re-draft.  Re-drafting is (usually) the key to good academic writing.  Take the perspective of: A non-expert Your examiners, especially your external Your supervisor.

7  Would they understand this and follow your line of reasoning?  Would they be convinced that this is important?  Any important methodological/recruitment challenges you had to overcome?  Remember, your thesis could be read by ANYONE in the future.

8  How much time are they realistically going to spend reading your thesis?  Be kind to them! Clarity, brevity.  Have you appropriately referred to your external’s work?  Remember they may not always be as familiar with aspects of the literature as you!  It is extra work for them if you have to do major revisions. They will be trying to avoid this if possible.

9  Very latest work published by your external. It will be on their mind.  How are they likely to be in the viva? Students or ex-students.  How hot are they on stats???

10  Balancing act between being supportive and encouraging best possible work.  How much scope for improvement?  Take the long view or see the bigger picture at times when you can’t.  A failed PhD or one that needs considerable re-working is generally (rightly) blamed on the supervisor.  However, remember you will be only one of many people your supervisor is trying to nurture...

11  How quickly are they prepared to turn around drafts?  How polished do they want drafts to be at the different stages?  What do they see their job as being with respect to drafts?  How fussy are they about APA formatting, grammatical errors etc? BUT remember your external may be an APA nut...  How much emotional support are they prepared to give you?  Are there times over the writing-up period that might be especially busy for them?

12  Remember your supervisor is not a god. They were once in your position.  They do not always get it right.  A good supervisor will be prepared to discuss and debate their comments on your thesis.  However, some thesis are not good because supervisor advice not taken on board.  Try to figure out how to get the most from your supervisor during write- up, bearing in mind you can’t change the type of person or supervisor they are...

13  Only one real aim: setting up a rationale for doing your studies.  Why are you doing THIS?  What did you expect/hope to find?  Make it clear you are knowledgeable without slavishly summarizing all relevant literature.  Judging what to leave out is as important as judging what to include.

14  Use subheadings, but can also use figures or tables to summarize e.g., contrast theoretical options, describe models.  Likely to need considerable re-drafting.  Above all, try to remember you are telling a story.

15  Need not be in the order you actually did the studies. Remember, it is a story not a history.  Some reminding/signposting ok, but avoid repetition.  Presenting your stats clearly. Relentless analyses of the data in the hope of finding something vaguely significant offputting. Try to avoid duplication.  Don’t be afraid to get second opinion on your stats.

16  You must summarize your key findings, but you can be creative in how you do this.  Really vital to link back to the issues raised in your introduction: sense of completing the circle.  Methodological advances? Theoretical advances?  Your examiner will be looking for solid evidence that you really grasp the broader theoretical significance of your findings.  Sell your work but don’t gloss over any problematic issues.

17  Re-reading from start to finish to see if either (i) too much repetition OR (ii) stretches long-term memory too much.  You won’t know how your examiner will read thesis (in one go, one chapter a week etc.). Make good use of your numbered sub-headings for reminders.  Law of diminishing returns...

18  Final tidy up, printing etc can take MUCH longer than you think.  Do a last literature check – anything important recently?  Try to get someone else to proof read it. You will not fail for small typos, but poor grammar will really annoy your examiners.  Have something planned for the weeks/months after your submission.

19  Hopefully you will have a good sense of where the gaping holes and problems are in your thesis.  However, your examiners may pick up entirely different issues.  You may know more than your examiners about certain aspects of the thesis.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your examiners as well.

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