A review of 139 examiners' reports ... revealed that rarely were theses criticised for `bad writing' in the sense that most people understand that phrase. That is, theses were acceptable in terms of the mechanics of presentation: sentence structure, paragraphing, spelling, grammar, etc. They also were not criticised for failing to conform to conventions of the discipline about referencing or presentation of data. What frequently was criticised was the students' failure to take a clear philosophic stance or to reach a conclusion. Examiners called upon students to state clearly their hypothesis and their conclusions. If students adequately communicate the `thesis' of their dissertations, they usually avoid unnecessary length, lack of coherence, repetitiousness and confusion in their writing.
Supervisors need to emphasise throughout students' candidacies
that they are striving in the thesis to communicate one big idea; that
there should be a `thesis' or centre to which everything in the document
contributes. (Nightingale 1992, p. 174)
Educational research and our own experience ... suggest that it is extremely important for the beginning researcher to define the research problem at a very early stage in the research process. Defining a research problem is often found to be a most difficult and frustrating task. The reason for this lies primarily in the fact that undergraduate students are by and large not compelled to define the problems they work on; such problems are presented to them by lecturers, and the notion that defining and articulating a problem is a demanding intellectual process in its own right is often poorly developed amongst undergraduate students. Yet it is a crucial preliminary step in the research process, and one which the postgraduate student, who has recently emerged from the security of undergraduate life where problems appear to exist self-evidently, must confront and overcome. It if is not, and the research proposal remains vague and ill-defined, the student's subsequent activities of researching and note-taking will lack focus, be more time-consuming than is necessary, and largely ineffective. (Zuber-Skerritt & Knight 1992, p. 196)
Another crucial phase in the research process is the transition from analysis to synthesis; that is, from the collection and analysis of literature or data to the writing of the first draft. Many postgraduate students attest to the psychological difficulties they must overcome before writing of the first draft can proceed; for many the task appears insuperable, and much time can be wasted at this point as the student prevaricates and justifies this prevarication by asserting the need to continue the phase of analysis. Most supervisors have heard the plaintive cry: 'I still haven't read enough!'; this is frequently a symptom of nerves as the awesome moment approaches when the student must lay aside the security of index cards and plunge into the writing phase. Our experience suggests that problems particularly arise when the postgraduate student is unaware of the stages and steps through which research and writing normally proceed. This manifests itself as an attempt to write a final draft without the intermediate steps of constructing a flowchart of ideas (or a conceptual map), writing a first rough draft, revising and editing, and then rewriting. In the attempt to move immediately to writing the final draft, the student becomes preoccupied with the fine details, stylistic niceties and attractive presentation, often at the expense of development of ideas or argumentation; as a result, the writing process is inhibited, and the product is often characterised by unevenness of thought and argument. (Zuber-Skerritt & Knight 1992, p. 200) [That is, constructing drafts of a flowchart of the sections of a chapter or the subsections of a section is useful early in the process of reading the literature, with several consequent revisions. Rarely has a student not read enough to start writing the first draft of these frameworks.]
Another trap for student writers is that they believe they need long periods of time if they are going to try to write anything. Waiting for the significant piece of free time to come along makes procrastination easy. Two helpful strategies are to encourage students to set attainable sub-goals so they use short periods of time efficiently. For instance, rather than trying to write the whole section on methodology, a student could set the sub-goal of writing only the description of a key piece of equipment. Of course, if she or he had been writing all along, there would be at least a rough draft of this which would simply need to be refined.
Another helpful strategy for writers who often face interruptions to their work is to leave themselves `pick-up points'. This means that they do not work until they are at the absolute end of something, but quit when they can still see what will come nest. They jot down a few notes about what they expect to write next, and when they come back, there is no blank page facing them.
Finally, supervisors who have several research students or whose
departments have a group of novice researchers should encourage them to
exchange drafts of their work frequently. The more commentary, the more
often a student is asked, `What did you intend to say here?', the better
the chances of a well-constructed thesis.(Nightingale 1992, pp. 176-177)
Nightingale, P. 1992, `Initiation into research through writing', in Zuber-Skerritt, O. (ed), Starting Research - Supervision and Training, Tertiary Education Institute, Brisbane. Zuber-Skerritt, O. & Knight, N. 1992, `Problem definition and thesis writing - workshops for the postgraduate student', in Zuber-Skerritt, O. (ed), Starting Research - Supervision and Training, Tertiary Education Institute, Brisbane.
As a rule of thumb, the proposal should be a minimum of about two or three pages and a maximum of about seven to ten pages in length (with the list of references and any appendices of support material not being included in this page count), so the estimates of word and page lengths given below are very tentative. The proposal could have about twenty or so references. Sometimes a QUT proposal requires details of a `coursework' unit and an example of a tailored one is provided in a note at the end of this appendix. Please remember to check spelling and to provide page numbers at the middle top of each page.
Any research proposal should be carefully tailored to the organisation asking for it, so the format should below always be adjusted to suit other requirements.
The research problem is presented at the end of this section, in italics and indented. Note that readers of a research proposal cannot be expected to know the jargon of every discipline, and so the title and research problem should be expressed in as simple terms as possible, and any specialist terms should be defined in this section as they are introduced.
Incidentally, having read a completed PhD thesis similar to the planned one is a good inspiration and guide for the task ahead.
This section becomes chapter 3 in the thesis.
|Chapter or section||Topic||%||Words||Months|
|5||Conclusions and implications||20||14,000||6|
This estimate is not the formal request for the funding, and acceptance of the proposal does not include approval of funding. If outside funding is being used, make it clear that academic integrity will not be jeopardised.
Krathwohl, D.R. 1977, How to Prepare a Research Proposal, University of Syracuse, Miles, M.B. & Huberman, A.M. 1985, Qualitative Data Analysis, Sage, New York. Phillips, E.M. & Pugh, D.S. 1987, How to Get a PhD, Open University Press, Milton Keynes. Poole, M.E. 1993, `Reviewing for research excellence: expectations, procedures and outcomes', Australian Journal of Education, vol. 37, no. 3, pp. 219-230. Sekaran, U. 1992, Research Methods for Business: a Skill-Building Approach, Wiley, New York.
Topic No. Week Topic Section 1: Developing market segments 1 1 Mass marketing versus marketing segmentation 2 2 Introduction to factors used to form segments 3 3 Segmenting consumer and industrial markets 4 4 Requirements for effective segmentation in marketing (these requirements in advertising are covered in section 3.) Section 2: Describing, measuring and choosing segments; implementation 5 5,6 Describing segments - customer profiles, size and growth estimates 6 7 Evaluating market segments 7 8 Selecting market segments 8 9 Positioning strategies 9 10 Choosing and implementing a positioning strategy Section 3: Marketing segmentation and advertising 10 11 Appeals used by advertisers 11 12,13 Advertising appeals and their relationship to bases of segmentation 12 14 Advertising effectiveness: measurement and evaluation Outcomes. A 3000-4000 word report on each section, upon completion of each.Assessment. The supervisor will give a grade for each report. The criteria used for assessment shall be:
Aaker, D.A., Shansby, J.G. 1982, `Positioning your product', Business Horizons, May- Jun, pp.56-62. Aaker, D.A., Stayman, D.M., Hagerty, M.R., 1986, `Warmth in advertising: measurement, impact, and sequence effects', Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 12, Mar, pp.365-381. Abrams, B. 1982, `Middle generation growing more concerned with selves', Wall Street Journal, Jan 21, p.25. Albright, J. 1992, Creating the advertising message, Mayfield, Mountain View. Bertrand, K. 1989, `Market segmentation: divide and conquer', Business Marketing, Oct, pp.48-54. Burnett, J.J. 1981, `Psychographic and demographic characteristics of blood donors', Journal of Consumer Research, Jun, pp.62-66. Bonoma, T.V., Shapiro, B.P. 1983, Segmenting the Industrial Market, Lexington Books, Lexington, Mass.And so on for a total of 28 references.
Firstly, it is wise to consider the thesis as something distinctly separated from the action research project, that is, the candidate will have two projects - the action research project and the thesis project which uses data from the action research project (Perry & Zuber-Skerritt 1992). The philosophy and processes of action research are broader and more complex than those implicit in most PhDs. In particular, the action research project is relatively unfocused, emphasises practice and has outcomes of reflections which include propositional, practical and experiential (group and personal) knowledge. In contrast to action research, a PhD thesis project usually emphasises an individual candidate's additions to propositional knowledge published in the literature of a discipline. In brief, in the action research project, action research may be an ideology, but in a PhD thesis it is merely a methodology. Writing a PhD thesis about an action research project without acknowledging differences between the thesis and the action research project is difficult.
Provided these differences are acknowledged, the structure of a five chapter PhD thesis can be adapted to PhD research using the action research methodology. For a start, the 'research problem' in chapter 1 of the thesis could be different to the 'thematic concern' (Kemmis & McTaggart 1988b, p. 9) of the action research project; the research problem necessarily refers to practices of a workgroup and is written in terms of the literature of a discipline, but the thematic concern is less restricted. For example, a research problem could be 'How can the senior management team at an open-cut coal mine integrate marketing, operations and financial subsystems in the planning of inventories of mined coal?', and the thematic concern of the senior management group at Pacific Coal could be 'How can our inventory management procedures be improved?' The action research project will probably require multidisciplinary solutions, but it is advised that the thesis should concentrate on only one or two disciplines, to facilitate its examination.
Chapter 2 of the thesis written about an action research project would refer to some unresearched areas of propositional knowledge which are the foci of the data collected from the action research project. However, to be true to the spirit of action research, these propositions should not have been finalised before the action research project began - unlike PhD research using some quantitative methodologies, when the hypotheses should be crystallised before the data collection project begins. Furthermore, chapter 2 could outline the boundaries of practical and experiential knowledge which existed at the start of the action research project. Alternatively, the discussion of practical and experiential knowledge might be restricted to an appendix, if likely examiners are not expected to be familiar with action research methodology.
Chapter 3 could be used to describe the action research project - not to allow replication of the experiment, but to demonstrate the researcher's competence in the action research methodology. The chapter could have sections or refer to appendices which contain the following details of the action research project (Kemmis & McTaggart 1988b):
Chapter 4 could be used to categorise the data collected in the action research project (not all of which needs to be included in the appendices referred to in chapter 3). This chapter organises the data from the action research project into patterns. Chapter 4 begins the candidate's own preliminary reflection on the action research project and could be divided into sections according to the propositions of propositional knowledge, and into sections for practical and experiential (personal) knowledge if they are to be included in chapters of the thesis rather than in appendices. So the chapter should be written with the ideas to be developed in chapter 5, in the candidate's mind.
Finally, chapter 5 makes conclusions about the full PhD research, linking the data of chapter 4 to the boundaries of the body or bodies of knowledge outlined in chapter 2. A section in chapter 5 entitled `Reflections on methodology' should be included in a PhD thesis which refers to an action research project . Then sections `Conclusions about the research problem', `Policy implications' and `Further research' will conclude the thesis. In PhDs using other methodologies, a chapter 5 section of reflections on the methodology is not required, because those reflections are incorporated into the `Limitations' and `Further research' sections.
In conclusion, an action research methodology can be used in PhD
research, but action researchers should be concerned that their thesis
may be messy, inconclusive and be unrelated to propositional knowledge
published in the literature of a discipline. Use of the adjusted five chapter
format for a PhD thesis which has been outlined in this appendix may allay
Carr, W. & Kemmis, S. 1986, Becoming Critical: Education, Knowledge and Action Research, Falmer, London. Heller, F. (ed) 1986, The Use and Abuse of Social Science, Sage, London. Kemmis, S. & McTaggart, R. (ed), 1988a, The Action Research Reader, (third edition), Deakin University, Geelong. Kemmis, S. & McTaggart, R. (ed), 1988b, The Action Research Planner, (third edition), Deakin University, Geelong. Perry, C. 1991, 'Action research in management education and research', Symposium on Action research at the Annual National Conference of the Australian Association for Research in Education, Gold Coast, November 1991. Perry, C. & Zuber-Skerritt, O., 1992, `Action research in graduate management research programs', Higher Education, vol. 23, pp. 195-208. Zuber-Skerritt, O. (ed) 1991, Action Research for Change and Development, Gower, Aldershot. Acknowledgment: Discussions with Ortrun Zuber-Skerritt, Bruce Frank and Helen Samujh helped clarify some issues in this appendix. However, the views expressed are the writer's.
Topic Page Adjectival possession 290 Bullet points 226 Contractions and abbreviations 96 Dates 172 Foreign words and phrases (for example, i.e.) 105-106 Harvard referencing style 129-148 He/she and gender issues 121 Headings 220 Hyphens and prefixes 81-86 Lists 226 Names of countries 107 Names of people 107 Omissions using three points 88 Paragraph indentation and spacing 224 Possessive apostrophe 80 Punctuation in quotations 94 Quotations 25 and 230 Spacing between paragraphs 224 Tables 231-237 Titles 51
Brown, R.F., Pressland, A.J. & Rogers, D.J. 1993, 'Righting scientific writing: focus on your main message', The Australian Rangeland Journal, vol. 15, no. 2.
Nightingale, P. 1992, 'Writing about research in the humanities and social sciences', in Zuber-Skerrittt, O. Manual for Conducting Workshops on Postgraduate Supervision, Tertiary Education Institute, University of Queensland, Brisbane. Swales, J. 1984, 'Research into the structure of introductions to journal articles and its application to the teaching of academic writing', in Williams, R. & Swales, J. (eds), Common Ground: Shared Interests in ESP and Communication Studies, Pegamon, Oxford.