Research Tips for Your Ph.D.

When you are reading, it is easy to get so involved with your topic that you fail to direct your reading sufficiently to make it as useful as it could be in your final work. At first you will be reading so widely that you might find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer amount of knowledge you are assimilating. The following tips should help you to direct your reading in the most effective way:

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  • Every time you open a book make it a habit to note down the publication details in the correct referencing style required by your college or university, this will ensure that you never fall into the trap of accidentally using someone else’s ideas or forgetting from where your ideas came which is fatal.
  • When you are reading, try to read critically, seeking ideas for evidence all the time. It might even help you if you try to note down ideas that come from unanswered questions. An example of this would be when you are looking at a particular angle of the topic and yet cannot find book that covers your precise area of interest – you could fill that gap and you can demonstrate how, too!
  • Look at the established texts first taking particular note of their bibliographies – you can use these to widen and deepen your own reading for your thesis.
  • Move on to the most up-to-date journals and electronic texts (though you should always be careful to check the veracity of the latter as the internet is not always totally reliable) – the internet is great but needs careful verifying.
  • Keep checking these as you must be certain that no-one else has pre-empted you in your research – this happens to the best researchers so be careful.
  • Be sure of the referencing style required by your college or university for the formatting of your quotations and bibliography (see the section on this given in this guide for further information on referencing and quoting correctly).
  • Start your bibliography the day you start your research, don’t leave it until the last moment to try to assemble your sources – this cannot be stressed enough.
  • You will need to keep returning to your books time and time again in order to keep your research current and keep your evidence as relevant as possible.

Remember that you will need to read differently for your thesis proposal from how you will read for the actual writing of your thesis. Make every book you read a stepping stone towards your total research goal – no reading you do is wasted, even if you don’t use the work in your thesis: all reading is useful, no matter what!

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