The challenges of a PhD and the literature review

(5 Posts)
Freespirit24 Thu 18-Jul-19 04:58:43

I come here mostly looking for encouragement but also advice as I try to navigate myself through my PhD. For context, I am technically approaching the end of my 2nd year in my PhD however at this rate it is going to take another two years or 2.5 years to complete when I should be finished in 1 year. My PhD is in business and marketing, qualitative and on large-multinational organisations.

I feel like I always writing a literature review and that's all I have done so far. Part of the problem is that I changed my topic a few months ago because I could not gain access to data on my previous topic. I had a fascinating gap in my earlier topic, but the companies I needed to interview would not talk to me. This is where a change in the topic (not a complete change) came in. My new topic is more interesting than my last and is beneficial as a contribution to academic and practitioner work as it involves current world events.

I have just received feedback from my supervisors on my first draft of the first chapter on my literature review of my new topic. I just feel confused and confused. I have been told that the basis is there but that my writing has to much detail. I do not need to write so much detail about everything the literature is discussing but I need to identify what the takeaway message or key findings is from the literature/papers examined. I need to raise the bar by being less descriptive and more analytical and saying what I think about the papers while I am doing this.

If anyone (academics or PhD students) has any tips on how to advance my writing and understanding of the literature in this way, then I would really appreciate that. In the first year of my PhD, I felt so anxious that I just wanted to quit and I am now determined to finish and get my PhD as I realise it is not an easy task, but I am just struggling with the amount of time it is taking.

Has anyone had similar PhD experiences to me? Is what I am feeling normal? I realise this board covers all aspects of higher education, but I could not find a specific PhD board to write this in.

OP’s posts: |
higherforce Thu 18-Jul-19 05:28:37

It's definitely a skill necessary to develop as your thesis will be rambling and run over the word count if you don't.

Being focused is your writing is really important. Your thesis needs to be tight in structure and style. You need to forge a very discernible path through and not go off on tangents. Think of writing as holding your reader's hand and leading them on a road with no turn-offs to the side.

To help you refine your skills in structuring:

1. Read lots of journal articles which by their nature have to be tightly structured due to strict limited word counts. Don't read for content as such but try to analyse why they come across as tightly focused.

2. There are books on writing theses. You could probably access these online. The other books to look at which may be helpful are those targeting students who come over to the UK to study. These texts are often very good and very explicit in introducing students to the what the academic rules are for style and structure. They'd come under EAP - English for Academic Purposes and although some of them may focus on essay writing, I think they're extremely good in laying bare the skills of structuring and styling writing.

PS. I have a PhD and 25 years uni lecturing as well as teaching academic skills to students.

Good luck!

scrunchSE18 Thu 18-Jul-19 09:26:55

What you’re feeling is completely normal! I am 18 months into my PhD and the struggle to be less descriptive and more critical/analytical is a real one, as is the dip in motivation a year in, particularly if you’ve had to change your focus I imagine.
I get to see other PGRs in my faculty often to compare notes, help each other and sometimes just moan about our supervisors over a coffee! Do you have that kind of support network? We are constantly told what a lonely journey a PhD is but having others who have been through the stage we are at makes the process seem achievable.
Good luck to you - I’d better get back to writing now!

impostersyndrome Thu 25-Jul-19 21:45:18

You could try the thesis whisperer website, which is full of good advice. See if your university has a writing skills course. In fact, I’d expect there to be resources available for doctoral students.

impostersyndrome Thu 25-Jul-19 21:51:25

@Freespirit24 See this for example thesiswhisperer.com/2010/12/01/5-ways-to-tame-the-literature-dragon/.

And try not to despair. If you write alongside other research activities you’ll find that one feeds into the other. For example, now you’ve written this piece, it’s presumably highlighted where gaps lie in your field. Can you use these to structure how to approach your pilot study?

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