Thesis structure: student experience and attempts towards solution

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 34: Higher Education on the Edge

July, 2011, 394 pages
Published by
K. Krause, M. Buckridge, C. Grimmer, & S. Purbrick-Illek
0 908557 85 X

Many postgraduate students grapple with the structure of their thesis. The generation of both research data and a deepened understanding of the topic often culminate in a reluctance to commit these to the written thesis. Writing necessitates linear simplicity, one word, one page, one chapter after another. However, a linear structure may seem unable to truthfully convey the rhizomatic entanglement that the research topic has become. To find out what was so difficult about designing a good thesis structure, we surveyed 92 research students, most of whom were doctoral students. We analysed the different stages of this structuring process: how firm they were about structure when they began the research, at what point they established the initial structure for the thesis, and whether or not they changed it. We were also interested to find out what kind of stories students envisioned their thesis as telling. This paper aims to give a better understanding of the student perspective of thesis writing which may be helpful for advising future students whose theses do not readily fall into a straightforward, formulaic structure.

Keywords: doctorate, structure and axiology