Signup date: 31 Oct 2011 at 3:18pm
Last login: 10 Jan 2013 at 12:46pm
Post count: 95
Hi Smoobles - yes your approach to bookmarking starts of chapters and other key pages in the thesis sounds sensible. Hopefully this can act as part of my preparation to know the thesis well, even if ultimately the bookmarks are not used much in the viva itself.
I absolutely agree that taking a recording of the event would be great for doing corrections. As you say, I guess it's just finding out if the examiners are happy with this or not. It would be interesting to know if anyone else has actually used a dictaphone in their viva? I find the whole process of listening to a recording and transcribing very helpful to understanding the point someone was trying to make in an interview/meeting.
I have my viva in October, and was very interested to know what kind of preparation people who had gone through the process felt I should be making at this point. For example, how did you account for things that the examiners were unsure about/wanted rewriting? How did you prepare your thesis document that you took into the viva - e.g. putting notes in, bookmarks, etc. Did your supervisor play a role in helping you prepare for the viva, and if so how?
Thank you very much for your help. I hope this thread will be useful to other people coming up to their viva too. I will of course be happy to share the lessons I learned from the viva experience with everyone after it has taken place.
======= Date Modified 30 Aug 2012 11:02:21 =======
I think it's important to remember that PhD submission does not have to see the PhD in its 'perfect' final form, as long as you have a reasonable draft of each chapter present. Yes of course it's great if it is completely finished, but if you are obviously working at a PhD standard then they are very likely to pass the PhD with minor corrections or ask for a resubmission. Either way you have not then broken the final submission deadline of the university. Even if your final chapter is a little weak, if the rest of the PhD looks reasonable it is still very likely to pass subject to corrections. You are obviously a reasonably good PhD student as you have already obtained a job related to academia that you require a PhD for - so the recruiter obviously had confidence in your academic abilities. I'm sure the examiners will too.
The other point is that, if your doctor signs you off completely from work/study due to health problems, the university will be forced to extend your deadline regardless. It would be very surprising if they didn't. This obviously depends how bad the depression/any other health problems are.
======= Date Modified 13 Aug 2012 22:07:33 =======
If you want to pursue an academic career I wouldn't underestimate the value of having high quality teaching experience on your cv, if you think the journey is do-able. Even if you already have some teaching experence, it won't hurt to have more at a different institution. Even if you did not much more than break even, the cv value could mean it was worth it alone. And it sounds like you will earn some money anyway after the travelling costs.
======= Date Modified 25 Jul 2012 13:14:43 =======
40 interviews might be possible to reasonably analyse from a qualitative perspective. 50, however, starts to be a quite large number, depending on how deeply you want to analyse each interview from a qualitative standpoint. But from a quantitative research perspective, where you will mainly focus on answers that can be quantified, rather than free flowing open questions and answers, 50 would be easily do-able from an analytical perspective. If you are doing 50, you might want to think about having the majority of your answers in a quantifiable form (e.g. with a, b, c and d answers). Even then, it's always nice to have some free flowing answers as well with open questions.
I think your main point though is true as well, you have to be careful about how many interviews you can actually get. It may well be possible to get 50 within a longer time frame, but this could delay you writing up your PhD. If finding the interviewees is a problem, I would think very carefully about your approach to finding your sample - can you improve the quality of communications (by phone, email, snail mail) to each potential participant; can you ask each actual interviewee who takes part for any other interviewee suggestions (snowballing); are there sources to find interviewees you've not thought of (e.g. in databases at places like the British Library or an association in your topic area; any experts in your area who could suggest potential interviewees?). Also contact interviewees several times until you get a response - sometimes busy people will agree even though they've not bothered to respond to the first two approaches you've made. You don't really have to stop asking someone until they actually say 'no' - then of course it's only polite and ethical to leave them be.
I think your best argument with your supervisor that 50 is overkill would be to find published PhDs on similar topics in your discipline and show how many interviews they are using - if you can prove that 20-35/40 is the average, then that seems a good argument that your thesis should pass with that number! Also ask your supervisor what they think is not saturated in your topic with the interviews you've currently completed - can they make a good case for further interviews because some issues remain unresolved in the data you've already collected? Then you might be able to point out when you've got up to say 30 or 35 interviews, that actually the topic is well saturated. If you want to take a qualitative approach with 20-40 interviews, you might also want to say to the supervisor that you want to choose an examiner as well who will think that an-indepth approach to analysing that number of interviews will be appropriate.
I'm sure however there are some very hard working qualitative students who've done 50 plus interviews. I've come across PhDs with 60 qualitative interviews... I'm sure that's not a record by any means.
Having read a few articles about this topic, I'd say around 20 interviews is the minimum, unless you are working with a particular methodological/analytical approach which you have good evidence requires less. It also depends what other data you're collecting (e.g. are you collecting quantitative data as well, or doing statistical analysis on other people's data-sets), as this will give you other data to expand your findings chapters. A good argument for collecting the number of interviews you collect is saturation (i.e. you are finding no new new major issues/topics/sub-topics during each subsequent interview you carry out). Obviously the quality of the data collected as well will suggest whether you have enough to write up a decent PhD, so 20 good interviews which allow you to answer your research questions well, will be more convincing to examiners than 20 interviews that don't seem to give you enough data to sufficiently answer your question.
======= Date Modified 10 Jul 2012 20:11:20 =======
I think that leaving after a year is a good time to go as you've not wasted too long on the PhD. Of course I agree with the other posters that you shouldn't leave until you've got another job. Yes, you may be letting the museum/university down, but they should have also tested your motivation to want to do the PhD in the first place. My impression is that there was not an awful lot of motivation on your part to do a PhD in the first place, but maybe I'm wrong. A PhD is not simply like a normal job, for most people it involves considerable effort and sacrifice and shouldn't be entered into lightly. I know some people find the whole process terribly easy, and that's great for them, but for most of us, it ain't that easy. And frankly, from my experience, you won't find out just how difficult it can be until you start writing up. The first year is easy really be comparison. You've only wasted one year of your life on it so far.... why waste more if it's not what you want to do? Sacrifices of doing a PhD appear to be: greater chance of experiencing ill health; putting life on hold in various ways; poor salary; lack of jobs at the end in most disciplines. I'm not dismissing that it can be a wonderful experience for some people, but the personal sacrifice is certainly greater in continuing the PhD, than the inconvenience to the university in losing its funding.
Larry, I wish I had your sheer enthusiasm for writing! It sounds like you find it hard to stop yourself from engaging your passion. There are some interesting reflections from a social history professor at Cambridge here about writing - he's interviewed a lot of top writers to find out about their writing habits - everything from the type of chair they sit in to how many words they write in one session. Ignore the slightly odd format of the interview.
Most books about how to write a PhD/conduct PhD research will have a section about how to define and refine your topic. If you do an Amazon search you'll find several (e.g. by Dunleavy or Murray). You can also look at existing theses and what topics they've investigated on the British Library thesis service - just google it; it's free to use.
It would be good to have an idea of the topic before you contact a potential supervisor in the university. Obviously they need to see that you can demonstrate some nascent research skills before they agree to supervise you, so it's a good idea to have read around, but of course you don't have to stick with the initial idea once you've contacted the supervisor and discussed together what the best topic for you might be. The potential supervisor will often be able to give you some assistance in completing the academic part of the PhD application if they agree that they are potentially interested to supervise you.
From how I understand it relativism is a position which falls under interpretivism, as a moderate qualitative position to understanding the world and theory building. Is this correct? So you can have a relativist interpretive stance on something, they are not opposed to one another?
Thanks for any input...
======= Date Modified 12 Jun 2012 14:39:31 =======
To me this seems like something for the Discussion chapter rather than the Findings chapter - at least as an explicit discussion of how well the objectives have been met. In fact, the negative aspects of your study may not even arise fully until the final Conclusion chapter in the 'limitations' section (notably short section in most PhDs I've read!). In a sense, though, I suppose each Conclusion of your Finding(s) chapter(s) will start to answer your research question and how your objectives have been met. But a full reflection on how I've met the objectives of my research does not arise until the Discussion in my PhD. Of course, some theses don't have separate discussion and findings chapters though...
As I said in the thread I started, I do think that there is much better advice around about what should go into the earlier chapters (literature review and methodology) than the later chapters (findings and especially the discussion chapter). Anyone who can suggest any guidance on writing good Discussions and Conclusion chapters would be gratefully received - whether from personal experience or a useful article/chapter they've read.
Yes that is a good help, thanks. My findings are qualitative with all the related difficulties of talking about generalisability, but I've found Silverman has some good suggestions for how to make the case for generalisability in qualitative research. I did think I had picked out ways in which I had made contributions to theory, but my supervisor says not. I would be really interested to hear if anyone has found anything helpful they've read about theory development in the social sciences/writing up discussion chapters.
======= Date Modified 06 Jun 2012 02:54:39 =======
I wondered if anyone had any ideas about what consitutes a theoretical contribution as opposed to an empirical contribution in the social sciences? I.e. what counts as a theoretical contribution in the Discussion chapter... Are theoretical contributions often associated with diagrams...? How do you move from making an empirical contribution to a theoretical one?
Advice available on writing good Discussion chapters seems rare to me, compared to advice available on writing up earlier chapters of the thesis.
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