A PhD Thesis: How to Apply and What Content Should It Have?
A PhD is an increasingly popular degree for students around the world. This is not only because of the fact that a PhD widens the employment horizon, but is also due to the prestige and honour that is usually associated with such a degree. However, getting a PhD degree is not an easy task by any means, as it takes several years of your life. To write a PhD thesis, which is the pinnacle of your doctorate journey, you will need all the persistence and dedication you have, as well as the skills you have developed throughout your academic and professional life.
When you hear that only the brightest students can do a PhD, you should always remember that this is simply not true. While a doctorate is definitely not for everyone, getting yourself a PhD is not something you cannot achieve. Statistically, around 75% of those students who apply for a PhD programme manage to finish it and get a doctorate degree, which demonstrates that this task is feasible if you are a determined, talented, ambitious, and pushing enough individual.
You won’t believe it but even children can do a PhD. A 9-year old boy is about to get a Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and on his path to start a doctorate thesis. Of course, this is a unique case that does not necessarily imply that kids can undertake such a complex and demanding task. You have to be a genius to pull this off at the age of 9. You need some extraordinary capabilities and intelligence to outshine your peers and students many years older.
Luckily, not all students who earn PhD degrees are actually geniuses, which means that getting involved in a doctorate is a doable and achievable endeavour for you. Sure, writing a PhD thesis is the most challenging accomplishment in any student’s academic career. However, in a nutshell, it is just another piece of academic writing that adheres to certain rules and follows certain practices. If you are looking for advice on how to write a PhD thesis, this article is for you. By reading it to the end, you will know what qualities you should have to write a PhD thesis. You will also know how it is structured and organised content-wise.
Qualities Needed to Become a Good PhD Student
Many students say that they never considered getting a PhD because they believed they did not possess the skills, qualities, and characteristics required to qualify for a PhD programme. Although writing a high-quality thesis indeed requires highly developed skills and competencies, we can’t stress enough the fact that you do not need to have all the possible skills to become a good PhD candidate. From our experience, an ideal doctorate candidate should possess the following essential qualities.
Have the intellectual curiosity
PhD students are very passionate about their subjects and projects. They dive deep into the selected topic and devote considerable effort to identify why something is true or false.
To become a good doctorate student, you must be open to and understand new ideas and information, which is the fundamental quality needed to pursue a PhD. This skill demonstrates your academic competence and enables you to approach research problems and phenomena from different vantage points.
You need to be very persistent and have the fortitude to deal with a problem or challenge with irrational ambition. Pushing the boundaries of knowledge is a big challenge so you need to try things others have never thought of.
A high level of ambiguity tolerance
All PhD students step into the uncharted territory so their success depends on how easily they deal with uncertainty, conflicting directions, and unpredictability.
Good communication skills
To become a good PhD student, you need to have highly developed communication skills, both writing and language. Throughout your academic career, you will have to organise and express your thoughts and ideas in a meaningful manner.
Ability to think logically and critically
A successful PhD student should have highly developed critical and logical thinking skills to understand the work of others and analyse it both subjectively and objectively.
Every PhD student must be a good academic writer, which is a must when it comes to writing a high-quality doctorate thesis. How long is a PhD thesis? Well, in most cases, its length ranges between 60,000 and 100,000 words, so you really need to be an experienced academic writer to pull this off. Your previous experience in academia should have equipped you with the skills required to become one.
Project and time management
Writing a PhD thesis takes months and even years, so a good PhD student must know how to plan and manage their time efficiently. Organising the process of research and writing requires certain skills and experience, as it involves work planning, being attentive, meeting deadlines, and providing your supervisor with regular updates.
How to Apply for a PhD Programme?
If you possess all the qualities from the list above and you feel confident enough to engage in a PhD programme, it is time for you to familiarise yourself with the process of applying for such a programme. Even if some of these qualities and skills are currently missing from your CV, you could still give a shot at becoming a PhD. The good news is that all these qualities and skills could be easily developed while being a PhD student. Remember that having all the qualities we have outlined does not necessarily make you a perfect PhD candidate. Concurrently, even those individuals who lack some of these skills can get a PhD degree having no difficulties with it whatsoever.
Once you have decided you need to continue your academic career and get a PhD degree, you need to apply to a doctorate programme. Depending on the university you have selected, the process of applying could be different. Nonetheless, in most cases, it involves several sequential steps that are presented as follows.
The first step in applying for a PhD is to understand your own needs. The student must be clear as to the subject which will be chosen and also have a fair idea about the approach he or she is likely to follow. Thereafter, it is important to create a shortlist of universities which are offering PhD programmes. Since many universities have an online presence, it is advisable to look at their websites online and shortlist 5 or 6 most suitable ones.
Some universities also require the students to identify and interact with a PhD supervisor. Choosing the right supervisor is also important since this will be the person who will guide you in the entire study. Another requirement of some universities is that you need to submit a proposal beforehand. Such a proposal is nothing but a summary of your research topic as well as the proposed methodology that you plan to adopt in your thesis.
Choosing the university can also be done on the basis of the type of PhD you wish to pursue. The most common PhD is the full-time research-based degree. However, there are other options such as studentship. This is nothing but a type of PhD in which the university shares a portion of your costs, funding them using the grants they receive from the government.
After this, the next step involves choosing the final university for yourself. Although you can apply to as many universities as you like at the same time, it is important to focus on one university for your research. Once you finalise the university, it is also advisable to visit the campus and to meet with your potential supervisor as well.
After the university approves your application, there is a need to establish contact with the institution in order to understand any other requirements pertaining to the degree. For instance, there may be a case wherein the university wants you to alter your proposal in order to make it more suitable. Most universities demand that the proposal is concise but at the same time covers all the key aspects of the topic. This could be a potentially tricky procedure, and hence students should look to approach the university with 4-5 different topics rather than just one.
How to Organise Your PhD Thesis?
Once the PhD begins, there are a lot more steps needed in order to complete the degree. Firstly, it is important to sit down with your supervisor and finalise the scope of the study. In collaboration with your supervisor, you should identify the structure of your thesis and what content should go into each chapter. While some universities provide their students with a PhD thesis template, this is not a mandatory requirement. In some instances, students are allowed to come up with their own thesis structure, depending on its aim, objectives, and methods. Therefore, you should first check your university’s website for instructions. In this article, we stick to a standard structure of a PhD thesis that consists of five chapters, namely Introduction, Literature Review, Research Methodology, Analysis and Findings, and Discussion and Conclusion.
In the first chapter of your PhD thesis, you should establish the main aim and objectives. These aims should be specific and measurable. To achieve this goal, you should conduct a preliminary literature review, set a research problem you want to address in your research, and provide your reader with a detailed description of the research context. It is also reasonable to outline the content of your dissertation, so the reader could easily understand what chapter covers what.
The next step in writing your PhD thesis is conducting a thorough review of the existing literature in order to understand the topic better. Often, previous research studies not only help you in getting a better perspective but also help in developing new idea streams. Additionally, literature reviews are helpful in justifying the theories pertinent to the topic. By reviewing and critically discussing the work of other researchers and scholars in the field, you will be able to design a theoretical framework, which would inform the whole study.
Next, it is important to choose the right methodology. The research conducted as part of a PhD may be quantitative or qualitative. This depends on the topic as well as on the availability of data. If you feel that data analysis forms a key part of your study and will help in achieving better results, then you should choose a quantitative approach. On the other hand, if the topic is more theoretical in nature and does not involve data collection, then you can go for a qualitative approach. At every step of the research, it is important to share the progress with your supervisor and take his or her to advise regarding the study.
Analysis and Findings
Once you have collected the data or the facts, you need to analyse and discuss these. This chapter is crucial to the success of your thesis because it demonstrates how the obtained and analysed data informs the aim and objectives. It also creates the foundation on which you can draw the final conclusion.
Discussion and Conclusion
In this chapter, you will compare and contrast your analysis results with the existing body of literature from Chapter 2. At this point, you interpret the significance of your findings in relation to what is already known about your research problem. Based on this discussion, you will be able to explain any new insights or understanding, which emerged as a result of your PhD project.
Once the discussion is complete, you need to summarise the findings. Additionally, it is important to note the limitations of the study as well as the scope for future research. This section should also encompass the contributions of the study and its implications. These implications may be theoretical as well as practical. It is also critical to give the due credit to your sources of information by making the use of correct referencing techniques. This is a key component of any PhD study.
The last but not least, you might need to add appendices that are relevant to your study. While many students overlook the significance of this section, it plays an important role in the reader’s ability to understand and fully comprehend your research. That is why using appendices is crucial when it comes to writing a high-quality PhD thesis. The following section dives deep into the issue of using appendices to your advantage.
How to Use Appendices in Your PhD Thesis?
When you research your chosen topic, you will probably be left with a lot of information to say about your specialism. With appendices, you can still include it, but without making your sentences confusing and difficult to read, thus affecting your result. Appendices are a key tool to help make your dissertation writing coherent and flow well, all the while keeping it detailed enough, to get the best grade.
What to put in your appendices?
If you carried out research such as a survey and/or interview you are likely to have tables, transcripts or graphs as a result of the analysis. These can either be information heavy or need inserting as an image which can majorly disrupt the flow of your assignment. Important key results which support the main body of your dissertation can and should be kept within the body of the writing but additional research which is less significant can be added as an appendix.
Tables or info-graphics
Relevant research found in the form of info-graphics, charts etc. can go into your appendices. As above, if it is supporting a key argument, you may want to include it within the main section of the thesis. However, if it just supported your general research then avoid distracting from the important message you are trying to convey and leave it for the appendices.
Key terms or definitions
If you are writing about something very niche, with many long names or associated words you may have to define or abbreviate certain words in order to make your assignment easier to read. This can be stated at the start of the essay or you could add it in your appendices for the readers to study as necessary.
Have a look at our guide on the essential terms and vocabulary recommended to reach the best grades.
How to add appendices to your coursework
You have a few options if you decide to add appendices to your work. You can either add it at the end of your thesis, after your references. The appendices should go after your references because it is less important than your main body of text. Your references are vital for avoiding plagiarism and passing the plagiarism checks. The other option is to submit the appendices as a second document to help with your dissertation. It is your decision, but sometimes it can be easier to refer to when it is in the same document and listed in your table of contents. Make sure to list them in your contents in order of appearance so the index is easy to use.
How to label and refer to your appendices
To make your appendices fit with university guidelines each appendix must be labelled consistently with a letter or number. For example, Appendix A, B, C or Appendix 1, 2, 3. Again, label these in order of appearance.
Once labelled, you can refer to them when discussing the content of said appendix.
The full analysis on the effect of non-monetary rewards on productivity is shown in Appendix F.
Just in case the word sounds odd after reading it many times, to clarify, appendix is singular referring to one sample, graph, or chart. Appendices refers to all these extracts together. This guide should give you an overview of how to utilise appendices in a PhD thesis but if you are in any doubt it is always a good idea to consult your tutor. Another justified option is to get professional PhD dissertation help by using our academic writing service.
Defending Thesis for PhD
Once the study is complete from your end, it needs to be shared with your supervisor. Then it needs to be proofread and finalised. Once this is done, the study needs to be submitted to the university. There are certain universities which prefer online submission whilst others also require a hard copy of the thesis. Once the university has reviewed your study, then you need to make any suggested changes and then submit it as your final thesis.
Having introduced all the necessary changes, it is time for you to defend your thesis. If you wonder how to excel at your defence, worry not, as we have compiled several really useful tips to help you prepare for the grand finale of your doctorate years.
Prepare in advance
One mistake that many PhD students make is waiting until they have completed all their research and writing before starting their defence preparations. Do not make the same mistake and start as early as possible to make sure you know all the details and intricacies of your thesis.
Attend open dissertation presentations
This is a great way to get to know how the process of thesis defence unfolds. By attending presentations by other PhD students, you will learn various tricks and hacks on how other students defend their theses.
Spend enough time on the slides
Since the defence committee assesses your thesis based on the slides you present to them, it is crucial to prepare the slides before finalising your thesis. By allocating enough time to this task, you can make sure the slides contain the right information and data and they logically present your study to the committee members.
Practice your presentation
To build some confidence, you could practice your presentation in front of the mirror. You could also watch some talk videos to get an idea of how to control your breath and body language during the defence process.
Don’t forget to get yourself plenty of rest before the defence day. Eat well and keep your body hydrated.
To sum up, a PhD process is comprised of a number of steps that need to be completed, and at every phase, it is important to make use of the experience of your supervisor and implement his or her tips into your study. This will not only ensure a better understanding of the topic but also make sure that the quality of the final thesis is high. Our writers specialise in PhD proposal help and thesis writing services, so if you are stuck at any point during your PhD studies, then contact us for more information.