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How NOT to write a PhD thesis Professor Michael Balfour

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How NOT to write a PhD thesis Professor Michael Balfour. How NOT to write a PhD thesis. Doubt. …..and humiliation. How NOT to write a PhD thesis. How NOT to write a PhD thesis.

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How NOT to write a PhD thesis

Professor Michael Balfour

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How NOT to write a PhD thesis

Doubt

…..and humiliation

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How NOT to write a PhD thesis

1. Failure to understand that doing a PhD is a grounded training in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

OCD categories:

Washers are afraid of contamination. They usually have cleaning or hand-washing compulsions.

Doubters and sinners are afraid that if everything isn’t perfect or done just right something terrible will happen or they will be punished.

Counters and arrangers are obsessed with order and symmetry. They may have superstitions about certain numbers, colors, or arrangements.

Hoarders fear that something bad will happen if they throw anything away. They compulsively hoard things that they don’t need or use.

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How NOT to write a PhD thesis

2. Make the topic of the thesis too large

The funnel effect…..

From general to specific…limits geography, history and timelines, specific populations.

Data anxiety….I won’t have enough so I’ll do enough for 5 PhDs….!

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How NOT to write a PhD thesis

3. Use discourse, ideology, signifier, signified, interpellation, postmodernism, structuralism, post-structuralism or deconstruction WITHOUT reading the complete works of Foucault, Althusser, Saussure, Baudrillard or Derrida

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How NOT to write a PhD thesis

4. Submit an incomplete, poorly formatted bibliography

  • Examiners are OCD just like you – they often start from the back
  • Absences of key theorists; in-text citations with no match in the bibliography; excess references with no mention in the text
  • 5 errors and you may get a note to ‘tidy up’, over 10 and you may get minor changes, over 20 and you have one grumpy, suspicious assessor!

‘A bibliography is not just a bibliography: it is a canary in the doctoral mine’ (Brabazon, 2013)

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How NOT to write a PhD thesis

5. Use phrases such as “some academics” or “all the literature”

without mitigating statements or references.

‘Some PhD students think that generalisations are ok,

most supervisors or examiners do not’.

Punishment:

Now do 10 press ups or find 20 references to

support your statement.

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How NOT to write a PhD thesis

6. Chasing originality

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.

Over readers and under readers

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How NOT to write a PhD thesis

7. Write an abstract that is vague, incoherent and doesn’t spell out what the research is.

  • Don’t bother to sign post chapters e.g. top and tail
  • You have to live in a high rise to practice your elevator pitch…

Try: Wordle http://www.wordle.net

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How NOT to write a PhD thesis

8. Leave spalling mistakes in the script

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How NOT to write a PhD thesis

9.Submit a PhD with a short introduction or conclusion

The ‘just right’ principle

After the bibliography the conclusion and introduction are the first thing an assessor may read (yes, in that order).

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How NOT to write a PhD thesis

10. Forget or neglect your support network

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How NOT to write a PhD thesis

Summary

1. Failure to understand that a doing a PhD is a grounded training into how to develop an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

2. Make the topic of the thesis too large

3. Use discourse, ideology, signifier, signified, interpellation, postmodernism, structuralism, post-structuralism or deconstruction without reading the complete works of Foucault, Althusser, Saussure, Baudrillard or Derrida

4. Submit an incomplete, poorly formatted bibliography

5. Use phrases such as “some academics” or “all the literature”

without mitigating statements or references.

6. Chase originality by over reading OR under reading

7. Write an abstract that is vague, incoherent and doesn’t spell out what the research is.

8. Leave spalling mistakes in the script

9.Submit a PhD with a short introduction or conclusion

10. Forget or neglect your support network

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