How Long Does It Take To Write A Doctoral Thesis

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Analyzing qualitative data is a different ballgame.

You have to pore over the raw material, noticing themes and variations, until you decide what sort of story you can use it to tell.

The proposal typically consists of three chapters, which, in a revised form, eventually becomes the first three chapters of your dissertation. This sets out, in broad terms, the problem you plan to investigate, and why it matters. You have to pull together into a coherent discussion everything you have read. Here, you explain carefully how you plan to do the study, and you justify your approach by referring to the literature on methods.

There is usually some discussion of other people’s research, but not that much. What are the issues that are of concern to the community of scholars; how have these issues been investigated; what are the areas of agreement and dispute, and so on? You also have to explain how you will protect your participants from any inadvertent harm.

(I am assuming that you have spent part of the preceding six months creating your survey – so that there is no delay when you finally get approval to go ahead).

If, on the other hand, you are doing some variety of qualitative research, you will need to put in a lot more time.There is no question about the fact that quantitative research is faster.Does that mean quantitative research is the better choice?Analyzing questionnaire results with SPSS really does not take that long, especially if you have designed your questionnaire well, and you know what hypotheses you want to test.(Most schools will allow you to get some coaching on this from people like us but of course, we cannot do the study for you—you have tell us what hypotheses we should test.) It is reasonable to think that this could be done in a month.These days, most graduate students interview 15 -25 participants, for about one hour each.(In my day, we all did 75 – 100 hours of interviewing.We also wrote our dissertations by candle light, since no one had invented electricity yet.) You must also transcribe each interview and then (depending on your approach), read through the transcripts, carefully coding them for themes.An optimistic estimate is that you might manage two interviews a week – count on three months for the interviewing alone. Here again, there is a big difference between quantitative and qualitative research.There is usually an extended process of locating participants, and possibly, negotiating with the gate keepers at whatever institution must approve.(These might, for example, include the principal at the school where you hope to interview teachers, or the hospital director where you plan to observe nurses.) And of course, all of these people have busy schedules: You can guarantee another few weeks before you get permission to start. Here, a great deal depends on what sort of research you are doing.


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