PhD process: Introducing Methods, Context, Aims and Objectives

PhD process: Introducing Methods, Context, Aims and Objectives | Tips on How to Write a PhD Thesis
Among the many purposes of a proposal (or thesis) introduction is a brief description of the methods and approaches that will be adopted or devised to explore the topic, problem or phenomenon investigated in doctoral research. Occasionally, a good deal of detail about the methodology is presented in the introduction, but in most cases, detailed descriptions of research methods appear in a separate chapter. You may have firm ideas about your methodology or you may still be working out exactly how to approach your research project; similarly, your supervisor and the other members of your thesis committee may have much or little to say about your methods. Whatever the case may be, it is essential that those methods are appropriate for your research topic and its significance, and viable for providing answers to the questions you ask about the topic, problem or phenomenon you are investigating. Your methodology need not be new, but it should be the most effective you can find or design for exploring your topic, and it is usually best if its specific application to the problem under investigation is in some way innovative, especially if there is already a considerable amount of scholarship on the subject.
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Your introduction should also describe the context of the research you will be conducting. The intellectual and theoretical context of your research might be covered in your discussion of the background of your work, in your introductory overview of previous scholarship or in your description of your methodology; if not, it can certainly be addressed separately. The physical context of your research should also be clarified and justified by explaining where your research takes place (in a university laboratory, in cathedral libraries, on the street, in the homes of users or participants, or in a foreign country), who is involved (trial participants, survey respondents, research assistants, animal subjects or you alone) and why the context you have chosen is appropriate for your research. The resources available at your university may be a limiting factor here, so any potential difficulties should be discussed with your supervisor and other committee members.
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Every proposal (and thesis) has aims and objectives, and the introduction is the place to identify and describe these. The aims and objectives of a research project are closely tied to the nature and significance of the topic, problem or phenomenon under investigation, the amount and type of previous scholarship in the area, the methods and approaches you plan to use and your intentions regarding your research. In all cases, your aims and objectives should be clearly stated – displaying them in a list can be particularly effective, and so can numbering them in order of importance – and they should also be reasonable and attainable in relation to your research. The members of your thesis committee are likely to pay careful attention to your aims and objectives, so be prepared to discuss and refine them as you draft your proposal chapters and participate in the proposal meeting.

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