Writing a doctoral research paper is not a simple task. Therefore, we have written a number of articles that may help you focus and organize your thoughts during the writing of your dissertation. These articles cover a wide variety of issues, from the choice of the research topic, through the process of writing the research itself, to an article that provides guidelines to writing the doctoral dissertation after writing a professional book in the field.
Process of writing a doctoral dissertation
Writing a doctoral work is a long process that begins with considerable thought, continues with reading and research, and ends with an in-depth analysis of the research results and the drawing of conclusions from the results. The acceptance to the doctorate program is based primarily on the approval of the research proposal by the different universities. The university examines its interest in the topic, the methodology, the researcher’s curriculum vitae, and its ability to identify for the topic an available and appropriate adviser.
Stage 1 – Choice of the Topic for the Doctorate
The choice of the topic for the doctorate needs to be based on four main conditions (see the detailed description in a separate article – “How Do I Choose the Topic for the Doctorate?”).
The student likes the topic.
There is professional literature in the field.
The researcher has the ability to obtain data or to access research respondents in the research field.
The doctorate topic will promote the researcher’s status.
Stage 2 – Writing a Research Proposal for the Doctorate
The research proposal constitutes about 50% of the writing of the entire doctoral work, in terms of the principle “think before you act”. The doctoral student needs to build the proposal in such a way that he can begin his work immediately after the proposal is approved.
Attached is a proposed format of a research proposal. It is possible to make minor changes.
The research proposal is not an objective in its own right. Rather, it is a painstaking work of planning for the doctoral work on the basis of materials at the disposal of the researcher and on the basis of his ability to realize it (the proposal) in actuality. The aim of writing the doctoral proposal is not only to obtain approval of the university abroad but also to constitute a device that requires the candidate to sharpen all of his senses so as to focus on the research objective.
Stage 3 – Review of the Literature
For the doctoral student to learn and understand the atmosphere in which the research is conducted, he must attempt to read a maximum of the research studies, articles, books, and all other publications on the research topic or in adjacent fields. In this case, it is the more, the merrier. There are a number of versions for the internal structure of the review of the literature, and there are no clear rules, with the exception of a limited number of advisers or universities.
The first possibility is to perform the review of the literature according to chronology. In other words, everything is mentioned in the review, from the oldest to the newest.
A second possibility is to have an internal division according to subtopics.
A third possibility is to divide according to the form of publication used. In other words, one chapter will review books, a second chapter will review articles, a third chapter will review research studies (or previous doctoral works), and so on. The review of the literature is intended to present in the doctoral work the researcher’s knowledge and mastery of all the literature written on the researched topic until the writing of the doctoral dissertation. We recommended reading the literature in the first stage of the writing of the work, with the hope that the existing literature will help the researcher crystallize the research questions and research objective as well as the methodology suited to the research. To innovate, the researcher must know what exists, and the place to present this is the review of the literature.
Stage 4 – Formation of the Research Objective and Research Questions
On the basis of the research topic and after having read the relevant literature and written the review of the literature, the researcher can clearly formulate the research objective and research questions.
The research objective in a doctorate is the result of the research topic and must be defined concisely and clearly without many additions. A doctoral student who cannot formulate his research objective concisely is perceived as one who does not know precisely what he intends to research.
The research questions (3-5) in a doctorate are supposed to help the researcher realize the research objective and in essence divide the objective into factors, when the sum of all the answers is the realization of the research objective. The questions, like the objective, are to help the researcher focus on the main things and search for answers for the problems that the research study awakens.
Stage 5 – Writing the Review of the Literature
The review of the literature is intended to present the researcher’s mastery of the materials written till now in the topics that compose his doctoral work. Every doctorate work needs to be based on previous research studies in the researched field and on other publications, articles, books, websites, previous doctoral works, etc. The review of the literature can be conducted in one inclusive chapter or in sub-chapters divided according to times, sub-topics, or sources. During the search for and reading of the literature sources, the researcher learns more about the researched topic and he has the appropriate opportunity to further his understanding and knowledge in the variety of areas that compose his work. There is no doubt that in the review of the literature there is preference for newer research studies and articles, but there is also meaning to the source of the data, to the presenter of the data, and to the place where they were published. The researcher must put forth all efforts to identify a maximum of literature materials and present them correctly in this chapter and even compare them with the results of the research study in the summary chapter.
Stage 6 – Writing the Research Hypotheses
A research study does not require hypotheses, and hypotheses are necessary only if they derive from the professional literature and previous research studies. Many doctoral students think that a hypothesis that derives from their personal experience or their private thoughts is appropriate for a research hypothesis, but this is not the case. The hypothesis in the doctoral work needs to be appropriately formulated (for instance, a relationship will be found between the time duration of the studies and success in them), and the researcher needs to note the basis upon which he makes the hypothesis. There needs to be a full relationship between the research question and the research hypotheses.
Stage 7 – Explanation of the Research Method
The chapter of the method is intended to present the “how”, or in other words, how the researcher performed the research in the doctoral work in actuality.
There are two main schools in research methodology (see the detailed description in a separate article, “Quantitative Research versus Qualitative Research in the Doctoral Work”).
Quantitative research (based on data generally collected via questionnaires)
Qualitative research (generally the analysis of events or action research)
It is possible to combine the two methods in one doctoral work.
The research method chapter is divided into four sub-chapters in a quantitative research study and into two chapters in a qualitative research study:
Population and sample (only in quantitative research). The researcher needs to first address the size of the population that the research addresses in general and to define the size of the sample that will serve the research study in the doctoral work in the chapter. (For example, the researcher wants to examine the willingness of twelfth grade graduates to serve in the military. The population is all the twelfth grade graduates, but for the purpose of the research study the researcher samples only X percentage of them.)
Method of data collection. The researcher needs to define the method in which he collects his data. The data do not have to be quantitative, and a good researcher needs to know to adjust the method to the research in the doctoral work. For example, it is difficult to write a quantitative research in literature and conversely it is difficult to conduct a qualitative research in economics or business administration.
Data collection procedure. The researcher needs to describe in actuality the process of data collection, including times, places, participants’ willingness, and difficulties that arose during the work process. It is necessary to attempt to create equal conditions for all the research subjects and/or to obtain precise and uniform information from everyone.
Method of statistical process in the doctoral work (only in a quantitative research).The researcher must note and explain the statistical methods used during the processing of the data he collected. The researcher needs to be expert in the methods at his disposal (however, it is certainly permissible and acceptable to receive professional help in the topic if necessary).
Stage 8 – Presentation of the Research Results (Findings)
The chapter of the results in the doctoral work is intended to present the research findings without the interpretation of what can be learned from them. In quantitative research studies the researcher needs to present quantitative data that can and should be accompanied by figures for the purpose of emphasis and comparison, while in qualitative research the researcher will note the results of his examinations. The chapter of the findings is a completely objective chapter that does not allow interpretation and reference to the research objectives, questions, and hypotheses (if there are).
Stage 9 – Formation of the Discussion and Conclusions
The chapter of the discussion and conclusions in the doctorate is a most important chapter. This chapter is supposed to analyze the results obtained throughout the doctoral work by the researcher with especial reference to the answers that it is possible to obtain for the research questions, as presented at the start of the work, and primarily what can be learned from the results about the research objective. In the chapter of the discussion the researcher is supposed to compare the research results to the results of previous and other research studies and to attempt to explain differences or identities if possible. The chapter of the discussion and conclusions is in essence a chapter in which the researcher ponders the research findings so as to realize the main objective of the research.
Stage 10 – Summary
The researcher is supposed to summarize the doctorate in the presentation of the main points of the research study with utmost reference to the discussion and conclusions. The chapter of the summary needs to emphasize the innovation of the work and its results (if there are none, then it is necessary to cite this explicitly). In addition, the summary needs to include the following additional sub-chapters:
Research disadvantages. The researcher is supposed to cite in short what he would correct in the research study should he conduct it again.
Recommendation for further research. The researcher is asked to propose additional research studies in continuation of the research study he conducted.
Stage 11 – Preparation of the Bibliography List
There are a number of methods to write a bibliography in a doctoral work. The most popular method is the APA method (American Psychological Association), and it is accepted by most universities around the world for undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees (it is accepted by most professional journals around the world). The researcher is required to ascertain that all the books he used during the writing of his work and cited in the review of the literature indeed appear in the bibliography. It is important to note that it is certainly possible to use Internet websites as a bibliographic source in the doctoral work but the researcher is asked to mention this explicitly. It is supremely important to use new and up-to-date sources.
Stage 12 – Attachment of Appendices
The researcher must attach to the doctoral work as appendices the materials that the readers cannot obtain independently, such as protocols, questionnaires, personal interviews, and so on.
PHD Institute supports doctoral students in the writing of the research proposal – this service is provided free of charge.
PHD Institute supports and advises doctoral students as they write the doctoral work itself (in addition to the university adviser) – this service is provided free of charge.
PHD Institute has fifteen years of experience in writing research works and doctoral works and has a team of doctorate degree holders and professors who specialize in the field.