Saturday, February 9, 2013

How NOT to write a PhD thesis

In a Times Higher Education article, Tara Brabazon gives her top ten tips for doctoral failure. As I complete my first, not very good essay, I am only too aware of how prophetic the advice in this article may prove to be.
From the article:-
...I understand the angst, worry and stress of supervisors, but I have experienced the other side of the doctoral divide. Examining PhDs is both a pleasure and a curse. It is a joy to nurture, support and help the academy’s next generation, but it is a dreadful moment when an examiner realises that a script is so below international standards of scholarship that there are three options: straight fail, award an MPhil or hope that the student shows enough spark in the viva voce so that it may be possible to skid through to major corrections and a full re-examination in 18 months.
When confronted by these choices, I am filled with sadness for students and supervisors, but this is matched by anger and even embarrassment. What were the supervisors thinking? Who or what convinced the student that this script was acceptable?

Therefore, to offer insights to postgraduates who may be in the final stages of submission, cursing their supervisors who want another draft and further references, here are my ten tips for failing a PhD. If you want failure, this is your road map to getting there.
1. Submit an incomplete, poorly formatted bibliography
2. Use phrases such as “some academics” or “all the literature” without mitigating statements or references
3. Write an abstract without a sentence starting “my original contribution to knowledge is…”
4. Fill the bibliography with references to blogs, online journalism and textbooks
5. Use discourse, ideology, signifier, signified, interpellation, postmodernism, structuralism, post-structuralism or deconstruction without reading the complete works of Foucault, Althusser, Saussure, Baudrillard or Derrida
6. Assume something you are doing is new because you have not read enough to know that an academic wrote a book on it 20 years ago
7. Leave spelling mistakes in the script
8. Make the topic of the thesis too large
9. Write a short, rushed, basic exegesis
10. Submit a PhD with a short introduction or conclusion     
The article contains very sound advice from an informed viewpoint. The follow up comments also contribute some sound advice and information...

Read more here...


Brabazon, T. (28 January2010) How not to write a PhD thesis. Times Higher Education. Available from: <> [Accessed 9 February 2013].

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