Why is it so hard to write the methodology section of a PhD thesis?

I have worked with many students, particularly humanities and social science scholars, who have found writing the methodology chapter a hugely agonizing experience. I recall my own experience as a mature-aged student, acutely aware of my ignorance and uncertainty: I read and wrote blindly for weeks and weeks before showing anything to my supervisor. Like me, for many, the task of coming to understand methodology begins with reading. In the main, research methodology textbooks are big and dense, and it isn’t uncommon for students to disappear, like Alice, into Research Methodology Wonderland only to reappear months later, dazed and confused.


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The Handbook of Academic Writing

Book – If you are an academic, the chances are that your career development is defined by what you write. This simple fact is often the basis of cynicism and hostility within the academic world. Despite the inevitable problems associated with how writing is evaluated and rewarded across the disciplines, academic writing continues to be seen as the fulcrum on which many other aspects of scholarship depend. In light of this, it is extraordinary that the process of academic writing continues to be an under-explored, unexamined and poorly reflected-upon process. If it is a process that lies at the very center of academic performance and success for both academic teachers and their students, then surely its dynamics and challenges need to be subjected to more thorough analysis. This book engages in that analysis in order to provide an empowering framework for academic writers. It aims to help you to develop effective approaches to your own writing challenges. It offers insights and lessons that we think will be particularly useful for those who are new to the academic environment but will also help with the re-conceptualization of writing-related issues for those who have been operating in academic environments for some time.


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Authoring a PhD: How to plan, draft, write and finish a doctoral thesis

Book – Authoring a Ph.D. is a complex process. It involves having creative ideas, working out how to organize them, writing up from plans, upgrading the text, and finishing it speedily and to a good standard. It also includes being examined and getting published. Patrick Dunleavy has written Authoring a Ph.D. based on his supervision experience with over 30 students. It provides solid advice to help your Ph.D. students cope with both the intellectual issues and practical difficulties of organizing their work effectively. It is an indispensable and time-saving aid for doctoral students in the humanities, social sciences, education, business studies, law, health, arts and visual arts, and related disciplines, and will also be a great help to supervisors.


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How to Write a Thesis

Book – Since the first edition of this book was published in 2002, things have changed. It is now expected that students will receive some form of training in writing during their doctorate. There is now broad agreement on the need for training and development in the wide range of skills in a wide range of doctorates, although there is debate about what form that training should take, whether it should be taught in courses, whether these should be credit-bearing, and so on. An update on doctoral skills development has therefore been added to the Introduction, along with guidance on the Training Needs Analysis component of doctoral training programs, which is one way of ensuring that they meet individuals’ needs.


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Advice for successful Academic Research

This document brings together six popular posts I have written over the past few years for my blog This Sociological Life. These posts provide pithy advice drawn from many years of experience about how to successfully engage in various aspects of academic research – from using social media to revising journal articles and many things in between. Some of the content has been written with sociologists and other social researchers in mind, but much of it will be relevant across the disciplines. The original blog posts were designed to be open access and shared with anyone who was interested. In this spirit, please feel free to share this document widely and to use it for your own purposes, but please ensure the original authorship details are acknowledged.


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Building a research impact culture

What sort of research culture underpins effective research impact on policy and practice change?

As part of a research program on inclusive economic growth in low-income countries, we commissioned four case studies to help understand how researchers had engaged with policymakers and practitioners and what happened as a result. We were particularly interested to understand whether specific types of knowledge activity (simply providing the information, translating knowledge, brokering it within the policy environment, or facilitating innovative approaches to engagement) led to different types of impact.


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Qualitative Research on Children’s Well-being

This Special Issue of the International Journal of Emotional Education brings together papers on the topic Qualitative Research on Children’s Well-being Across National and Cultural Contexts. The inspiration for this Special Issue emerged from recent developments in child well-being research. Three developments, in particular, are relevant for this Special Issue. Firstly, we have seen an increasing number of studies on children’s well-being that involve a multinational or transnational dimension, providing opportunities for comparison of different domains and dimensions of children’s well-being across national contexts. Prominent among these is the Children’s Worlds Study (or ISCWeb study), which collects subjective well-being data from tens of thousands of children from over 45 nations. This research provides rich comparative data at the national level on a range of well-being domains including children’s living arrangements, material possessions, time-use, activities, life-satisfaction, school-satisfaction, sense of self, safety, family relationships, peer relationships and assessment of neighborhood.


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Critical gender studies and international development studies: interdisciplinarity and inclusion

Critical gender studies and international development studies are both interdisciplinary, but intellectual agility can ensure they are inclusive sites of knowledge production. To develop intellectual agility, which underpins progressive interdisciplinarity, students must paradoxically venture into more closely defined disciplinary traditions in the social sciences, the humanities, and the sciences. Intellectual agility begins by being fully cognizant of epistemological and theoretical framings in substantive debates, such as, for instance, the perpetuation of violence against women or the entrenchment of poverty. I argue that by explicitly tethering ideas to disciplinary traditions, interdisciplinary research and teaching can more successfully address pressing international development concerns in an inclusive manner. International development studies can easily be seen as utilitarian and instrumental just as critical gender studies can easily be seen as impractical and vague. Here, I show how I have worked critical gender studies into international development studies so that students can develop intellectual agility. Underpinning this is the call for progressive interdisciplinary research and teaching delinked from the defensive claims of long-standing scholarly traditions or the aspirational ambitions of newly cast bodies of knowledge. This article is published as part of a thematic collection dedicated to multi- and interdisciplinary perspectives on gender studies.


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Interdisciplinarity and anxiety

At the level of institutional strategy, interdisciplinary research looks like a positive and productive exchange. At the personal level, where it is enmeshed with career progress, disciplinary anxieties and tensions at the interface between sometimes incommensurate kinds of thinking, there can be frictions and difficulties. These, however, are part of what makes such research so valuable, in that they enable individuals and groups within subjects on both sides to uncover those things that need to be better understood. This article forms part of an ongoing thematic collection dedicated to interdisciplinary research.


Read also: Global funders to focus on interdisciplinarity

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Considering Indigenous Research Methodologies: Critical Reflections by an Indigenous Knower

Within the domain of academic inquiry by Indigenous scholars, it is increasingly common to encounter enthusiasm surrounding Indigenous Research Methodologies (IRMs). IRMs are designated approaches and procedures for conducting research that are said to reflect long-subjugated Indigenous epistemologies (or ways of knowing). A common claim within this nascent movement is that IRMs express logics that are unique and distinctive from academic knowledge production in “Western” university settings, and that IRMs can result in innovative contributions to know if and when they are appreciated in their own right and on their own terms. The purpose of this article is to stimulate exchange and dialogue about the present and future prospects of IRMs relative to university-based academic knowledge production. To that end, I enter a critical voice to an ongoing conversation about these matters that is still taking shape within Indigenous studies circles.


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