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I want to publish & my supervisor is stopping me

You have no way of knowing the motivations. Some I have encountered:

- Your theory clashes with a pet theory proposed or pushed by your supervisor.
- They see your tone as different to theirs, and feel that it may affect their position or relationships in academia.
- They don't believe in getting published with 'lessor' authors.
- They feel that the journal is unsuited to their career or image.
- They feel it is their 'right' to own your work and credit for it.
- They don't like you and/or want to be associated with you.
- They believe your work won't stand scrutiny or is not rigorous enough.
- They feel you are making over-reaching claims.
- You are being too tentative, or not tentative enough.

It appears you do not have this person on your side, so what are the implications for your future if you just go ahead and submit without them? If you are feeling generous you could add an acknowledgement at the end and mention their names. It has been my experience that many academics are too insecure in themselves and their work to be broad minded or generous. Their 'power' over PhD students is usually administrative and vindictive, rather than being through expertise and relationship.

Starting out of the PhD

One simple piece of advice. Sit down with the research administrator and with your supervisor. Go through the requirements and rules of engagement, step-by-step. You need to be clear as to exactly what both parties are expected to do, in microscopic detail. It will save you a lot of annoyance, confusion and pain, and allow you to plan better and work towards clearer goals. Never underestimate the number of poor academics and petty bureaucrats out there.

For example, if you have not yet submitted a proposal you need to find out what it comprises, who sees it, how long it takes, who approves it, how they will give you feedback, when and how will a supervisor be assigned etc. Do this right through to the award of the degree and receipt of the certificate.

Also be very clear on supervision and on who decides on whether the quality of your work is acceptable. Some supervisors are willing to almost tutor you through, whereas others couldn't be bothered to do more than half an hour every 6 months. How does one ask for a supervision meeting? How frequently can one meet, how long does each meeting take? What help / feedback does the supervisor provide? What do they expect you to do with their advice? Who is in charge of the direction of your research? Will your supervisor expect you to work on their pet project and give them credit for your work? What are the procedures if you are not happy?

Clarifying their research approach and expectations can be valuable too. Do they like or accept 'alternative' methods, or do they make life miserable for anyone trying to use anything but XYZ methodology (particularly the tendency to favour the faux quantitative research method of 'survey-and-statistics').

Finally, find out who the examiners are likely to be. The university will only start looking for examiners when you are about to submit, but they should have some idea of who they may be approaching. Ultimately it is the examiners' decision whether you are awarded your degree or not, and you really should be aligned with their expectations to not have to go through unnecessary pain. In my case I waited 9 months for my viva after submitting, and it was obvious the one examiner had not bothered to read the thesis.

Frustrated after PhD

Yes, this is not uncommon. PhDs working in pizza shops are nothing new.

I was and am still in a similar situation myself, and it's unlikely to improve with the economy. I have been told that I am over-qualified (with a PhD and 2 Masters) as well as under-qualified (because I don't have a two day course certificate) by junior recruitment 'consultants'. This is despite having large amounts of work experience in my field too.

So, I have decided to open my own company. Yes, it is risky, especially in this economy. But I don't have to act dumb because of others' insecurities, I can work on my own terms and I can openly be proud of being educated. The only issue is finding customers, and I am not a natural salesperson. So I had to innovate...

Clean up your digital profile (no drunken photos on Facebook etc.) Create a home presence (i.e. website) that all conversations lead back to and where people can find you. Build useful content that shows you know what you are talking about. Then use social networking to make contact with the outside world. This strategy can be used to find work as well as find business customers.

Devastated... Following up a hard project

Two issues here.

First, the validity of your results. If you researched ethically and took into account the conditions then you'll be fine. If you mentioned the difficulties in your journal article then you are well-covered, but even if not you could write a follow up paper that explains the problems encountered. This will be of benefit to later researchers, and if not published at least you'll have a record of collaborating with your successor on it.

Next, post project depression is a concept I have encountered a lot in my career (IT and telecomms), I taught the concept to MSc Project Management students, and am going through it after completing my PhD.

Projects are goal oriented and driven environments. Those participants who are 100% involved are somewhat removed from their 'normal' business-as-usual duties or career. When those drivers and goals are removed, there is little to carry one through until the next task appears. Participants can feel insecure about their role in and value to the organisation, so good managers will find things for their teams to do when the job is done. Otherwise there is a risk of their people finding other jobs.

Will this pass?

You have to realise that a PhD is 100% up to you - do not wait for direction, ideas or support. This may sound like harsh advice, but it is based on personal experience in coming from Africa to study in the UK.

Many people feel swamped when they realise the true scale of a PhD. Coupled with the lack of support, this can lead to demotivation. Breaking the problem up into manageable chunks, and completing them one by one with rewards for completion does help. I'd suggest starting with some planning to get your mind off the subject. You'll have to do this anyway, so it's best to just get it out the way.

Step 1. Identify the entire PhD process at your university, especially the little details and all the bottlenecks. Map these in a process diagram or gantt chart.
Step 2. Identify what you need to deliver at each stage to get to the next.
Step 3. Read textbooks/guides on how to complete a PhD and write a thesis.
Step 4. Take a large piece of paper and draw an argument map or mindmap of what you know about the topic, what the gaps are, what you need to research, and where you want to get to.
Step 5. Draw up chapter headings for the thesis, and write up a paragraph or two of what you want to include in each.
Step 6. Map out a series of 'quick-wins' - short tasks that will get you to the end-zone and that you can tick off as you go.

Now, if you are not yet ready for the topic, focus on the subject of research. It is a big subject area, with lots to do. Break it into tasks, such as to understand the philosophy of research, to choose a suitable method, to know everything that needs to be known about a particular method etc. Start reading and tick these tasks off one by one. It will keep you usefully occupied without thinking of the big picture.

On the other hand if you are now ready for the topic, sit back and consider what it is about this subject that interests you, how you can use the knowledge in your career, what you would like to achieve at the end? What novelty can you find in the subject? How can your research benefit others? Turn these into personal goals. Then start reading!

Explaining your choice of methods

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Several of my colleagues have been chewed out badly for writing a thesis that was too journal-like, jumbled up and for not keeping the choice of method separate from the literature review of the subject. The choice of methodology is/can be complex, particularly social research. Although one aspect of a literature review could to identify and discuss how the subject has been researched previously, more typically such analysis is included in the methodology chapter to substantiate the choice.

I would try to establish what they are expecting the objectives of the literature review to be, why the methodology is discussed there but not in the methodology chapter, and how they expect it to be implemented.

Anyone taking longer than three years?

Given the bureaucracy involved, I don't think it is practical to expect to complete a PhD in 3 years. Universities don't tell you about all the little steps in between idea and certificate. Consider what happens at the end (based on my Uni procedures)

1. Inform supervisors and administrators one year before you are due to submit.
2. Two months before, get supervisors to agree that work is ready for examination.
3. Submit thesis.
4. Hunt begins for supervisors (because there was a change of administrators, and no-one remembers you giving them notice)
5. University remembers that you once worked for them in a part-time capacity, so now they need to find a second external.
6. Wait seven months for viva (university promises 3 months)
7. Outcome of viva is seldom a straight pass, so...
8. Discuss outcomes and examiner's comments with supervisor (3 weeks)
9. Make minor or major changes (1 month)
10. Submit to supervisor and chair, schedule meeting (3 weeks)
11. Resubmit electronically, university want it printed, print and hand in so they can post it to examiners (in the field of IT) (2 days)
12. Wait for examiners to approve changes (weeks and weeks)
13. Examiners feedback OK, it goes to the faculty research committee (3 weeks to schedule, 2 week wait)
14. Faculty approved, so it goes to the Senate, rules changed, more delays.
15. Wait 2 weeks, sit outside VC's office, receive letter, wait 4 weeks, receive certificate.

Topic approved January 2007, submitted for examination September 2009, viva in April 2010, resubmit July 2010, received certificate mid November 2010.

Sorry to be a miserable git, but I am still irritated by my experience. The UK PhD machine is not efficient and requires more patience from the student than one would expect from a first world system. I've seen a number of highly intelligent and ambitious people systematically demotivated and arguably forced to be subservient to a bunch of entrenched egos who are not quite as bright as they think they are. Welcome to a life in academia.

Don't be disheartened. Take the time to learn more and plan for the future.

PhD Topic confusion

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About the articles - I must give you some hard advice and it is with the best of intentions. Finding literature is a key skill that you should be learning on your MBA. If you do not know where to find relevant and contemporary research and other literature in your field, or have a process of finding it, then you are probably not ready to start a PhD.

There are a couple of threads here about books to read before starting a PhD, and I would suggest Rowena Murray or specialised books on undertaking a literature review. This is a useful article...

Randolph, J. (2009), “A Guide to Writing the Dissertation Literature Review”, Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, Vol. 14 No. 13, online at http://pareonline.net/getvn.asp?v=14&n=13

Regarding sources of research, I presume that you have access to Athens through your University. If not, then start with relevant journals in the library, and start building a mindmap of knowledge in the area, and a mind map of resources that the authors of those journals cite.

Next, you cannot arrive at a concrete research question before you understand what has, and has not been done already. You also cannot start without a better idea of the focus of the research (post purchase behavior hass an enormous range). There are a number of factors to consider when developing your research question, and I would suggest understanding more about research and research methods/methodologies before doing so.

Consider two examples. One is the phrasing of your question that is suggesting you have already decided on a deductive approach. Have you considered that a social phenomenon like post-purchase behavior is better studied inductively? If the phenomenon is poorly understood then an inductive approach is more likely (IMO) to identify previously undiscovered or unanticipated behavior.

Another example is the data. What data do you have access to? Consumer behavior for luxury items is different to consumer behavior for staple foods. Consumers in the UK are dramatically different to consumers in Africa. Do you think purchasers of luxury will want to talk to you? And so on. Choosing a focus will affect your question, your research and your future career, and that focus should be driven by access to data and the factors in the flowchart on page 32.

A PhD is a long apprenticeship - developing your research skills as much as your knowledge of the field. Spend 3-6 months in the beginning getting to understand the subject of research, and make informed decisions about what you are doing. Put that effort in early because your PhD is likely to experience numerous setbacks if you don't.

Books on PhD

Quote From huhu:

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Hi PatrickO,

Is this book suitable for "pure science" research or social science research?


It was written for MSc students in Project Management and Information Technology. That would place it in the 'social research' realm, although the principles of research are common to both.

Books on PhD

======= Date Modified 02 Dec 2010 13:10:26 =======
It depends on your discipline. Social research and 'scientific' research differ in their approach as well as their methods. For a general read I have found Rowena Murray to be useful, and you will find a number of pages from that book available on Google books if you want to judge the quality...


Although I wrote the following as a guide for my Masters students, some of the content and references may also help...


PhD Topic confusion

Hi. There are a few approaches you could use, and I summarised these in Chapter 5 of a guide I prepared for my Masters students here (the advice in there applies equally well to a PhD)... http://www.electronjournal.com/taming/Onions_2010_Taming_the_dragon.pdf

The flowchart on page 32 keeps it simple. On the other hand, if you need even more condensed advice, I would suggest choosing the topic based on available data :-)

Ludicrous Fees

It has been my experience that very few students from outside the EU can afford fees, even for a Masters. Most come over here and work, and often to the detriment of their studies.

Tip number 1: Depending on your visa and other status, you may be able to study as a part time student.

Tip number 2: Look carefully at your academic regulations. You may be able to do a lot of the work before you enrol (and pay) as a student, even enrolling only after your research proposal is accepted. This work may be done in your home country too, hence cheaply.

Tip number 3: Look carefully at your academic regulations and visa. You may be able to 'defer' your studies - a break if you like during which you do not pay fees.That can be 6 months or a year. It doesn't mean you stop studying, only that you don't get supervision.

Tip number 4: use the maximum 'writing up period' - this is when you have finished your research and are now writing up the results. Check your academic regs, you usually pay a small fee (i.e. £100) and this can last 6 months to a year.

Tip number 5: Plan your work carefully, know exactly what is needed to get the PhD and make sure you have a very good understanding with your supervisor. Minimise delays and work efficiently. Do only what is necessary to get your PhD, and don't take any unnecessary detours. You should spend a week going through books on writing and researching a PhD, and look at examples from your faculty in the library. Agree the chapters with your supervisor. Then submit each chapter to your supervisor as it is complete, and get on with the next whilst waiting for their response.

Tip number 6: Stay on top of university administrators and lecturers. Make sure they respond quickly. Do not allow yourself to wait 7 months for a viva (my situation) or allow your supervisor to take 3 months to get back to you (again, my case).

Tip number 7: Don't wait until after your viva to get a proof reader involved. Before submitting each chapter for supervision, have a proofreader review and correct it. Even if your English is very good, it is a useful form of feedback. Before submitting the final thesis for examination, have an expert or well read reader in the field take a look. The cost is minimal compared to the delays of rewriting.

Tip number 8: Aim for a outright pass in your viva, or minor revisions. Major revisions or a rewrite means you start paying fees again.

Hope these help!

How long it takes for you to get your degree?

Not to alarm you, but universities are becoming increasingly bureaucratic and there can be delays. Based on my experience, and because the Christmas holidays are coming I would say you will not get the paperwork done this year (it took me 4 months from the point you are currently at).

My university required the work to be approved by the examiners, approved by the Faculty research committee and approved by the University research committee. There were plenty of delays:

- I had to wait 7 months for my viva
- No Faculty research committee meeting had been scheduled (it took them 3 weeks just to schedule it)
- No University research committee meeting had been scheduled
- The admin paperwork was incorrect when it went to the University committee (one examiner had not done something)
- The new Deputy Vice-Chancellor decided to change the rules and wanted to sign every PhD off himself
- Three weeks from University committee to getting a letter (still waiting for the certificate)

I eventually sat outside the VC's office until someone sat up and took notice.

Masters dissertation guide

Thanks Linda

It is an ongoing effort to keep up with changes to other websites - or even the removal of material. I last checked these at the beginning of October and there are already missing links. :-)

where to put my qualitative data in law thesis

I don't think there is an easy or trite answer to this. It depends!

First and foremost you are writing for an unknown audience :-) Some examiners will prefer to see raw data in the appendices and expect a particular treatment of data. Others may not want to see raw data or a separate analysis. There is no way of guessing what they want, but asking your supervisor is advisable because a) they have a hand in finding the examiners, and b) you have recourse if their advice is poor.

It could also depend on your method. If you are using a quantitative method to analyse it may be convention in your discipline to present data and summarised tables in the body, followed by formal (usually statistical) analysis, then discussion, and leave raw data in the appendices. On the other hand, qualitative research tends to draw on the complexity and pepper the thematic discourse with quotations and illustrations.

It could depend on the data - how many interviews you have and how rich the data is. If you have a dozen exhaustive interviews with experts, then it would be better to draw on those throughout the discussion and use the weight of the experts to support the argument. This is especially important if their views are contradictory, where it may be better to contrast and compare these as you go along. On the other hand, if you have numerous interviews with thin and not very probing data, then it is the statistical probability (weight of numbers) that is supporting your argument and you may want to present analysis and discussion separately so as to draw attention to that.

The research logic is a consideration. Data and theory play different roles in different forms of logic, such as deductive, inductive or even philosophical study. Will it be best to present data and analysis on their own, or will this interrupt the flow of your argument?

My suggestion would be to prepare and think through a couple of alternatives carefully, then ask your supervisor for their opinion on your options. They will see you have done some work and are asking for guidance. A half an hour discussion with someone who knows your work well and knows what the typical examiner in that field is expecting should clarify the matter.