PhD thesis guidelines for use by students of the Irish University Business School

What is a PhD thesis?
A PhD thesis brings together the layout of a report with the characteristics of an essay. With a PhD thesis, you are not given a title or subject area. You, the researcher must decide on these and it is important that the subject area is not the subject of a previous PhD. The thesis supervisor should agree with both the title and the subject area.

How should I decide what subject area to examine?
We suggest that you consider the following factors: a) In what topics are you interested? b) What do you intend to do after your degree? c) What work experience have you had? d) What are your time constraints and resource limitations? e) In which areas are you best able to obtain original data?

What rules should I know about?
It should be a minimum of 70,000 words. It should be written in Times New Roman with 1.5 spacing. It should clear a grammar checker set for English(UK) and to check for style as well as grammar. It should follow our detailed ‘Style’ document, which you should request before you commence writing. It should be in report format and 1.5 line spacing with 25 mm margins. It is strongly recommended that you work on the ‘grandfather, father, son’ saving technique to avoid loss of your work in progress. Keeping copies in a different location is highly recommended

What is a literature review
According to Wikipedia ( “A literature review is a body of text that aims to review the critical points of current knowledge including substantive findings as well as theoretical and methodological contributions to a particular topic. Literature reviews are secondary sources, and

as such, do not report any new or original experimental work. Most often associated with academic-oriented literature, such as theses, a literature review usually precedes a research proposal and results section. Its ultimate goal is to bring the reader up to date with current literature on a topic and forms the basis for another goal, such as future research that may be needed in the area. A well-structured literature review is characterized by a logical flow of ideas; current and relevant references with consistent, appropriate referencing style; proper use of terminology; and an unbiased and comprehensive view of the previous research on the topic.” You will be using a literature review as a basis for further investigation, while addressing practical issues, which are reliant on the collection of primary data in order to resolve these problems. It is this primary data, which is of paramount importance in a PhD and it is important that the literature search is not given too much emphasis. Not more than 10% of the total number of words should be given over to the literature review.

How do I go about starting my literature review?
Start with a few key words, which can be used to search databases. You need to focus heavily on academic writings as you need to deal with the subject in an analytical, interpretative or evaluative manner rather than just getting facts. Record the literature you have reviewed to prevent delays when compiling your bibliography. You need full bibliographic details of all works. (You should know how to produce a bibliography, and a good referencing procedure. There are many good references to this on the internet).

Formulation of hypothesis
Before embarking on the research project, a hypothesis is formulated. A hypothesis is a prediction used as a basis for the study. It is important that you do not make assumptions as to the truth or falsity of the hypothesis before you commence with the research. A hypothesis can be stated in two ways: The 'null' hypothesis (abbreviated to Ho)

The ‘alternative' or 'experimental' hypothesis The null hypothesis states that there will be 'no difference' or 'no significant difference' between one variable and another (hence the term ‘null’). The alternative hypothesis assumes that one variable may have an affect on another. Let us say for example that we wish to examine the link between job satisfaction and performance we may state the alternative hypothesis as: ‘Job satisfaction leads to good performance’ or ‘Low levels of job satisfaction lead to poor performance’. The null hypothesis would therefore be: ‘Job satisfaction has no effect on performance’.

Research methodology
There are various methods of investigation, which can be used when undertaking research work. The knack is to ensure you choose the most appropriate and effective methods to suit your study. Not everyone's methodologies will be the same. This is something, which needs to be tailored to your particular research area. The methodologies are too numerous to acknowledge in great depth; additional reading is always recommended. Four popular methods, which are examined below are: interview, observation, questionnaire/survey and experimental method (used mainly in social science for 'before and after' comparisons). Always pilot your chosen method - you should test it through a pilot survey, which will allow you to practice your research skills before undertaking a large study. You will be able to refine the way you word questions, interviewing technique and data recording methods. When piloting questionnaires ask your initial sample what difficulties they had completing the questionnaire and alter it accordingly.

Observational study

As the name implies, this type of study is one in which the subjects of the study are observed for actions/reactions, opinions, and feelings in a natural setting. Studies carried out in natural settings are often referred to as ethnographic studies. The purpose of observation is to portray the events or lifestyle, work patterns or behaviour of the observed group in a way that is as unbiased as possible and hopefully an accurate reflection of the group/individual's way of life. This method attempts to 'tell it like it is' and may not draw conclusions, but may be used to develop theories from the findings; especially if used in conjunction with other methods. There are two main types of observation: Overt observation - non-participant observation, observing as an outsider. Subjects are aware of your presence. Covert observation - sometimes, but not always, non-participant observer. Subjects are unaware of your presence or do not know the purpose of your presence. For example, you may observe 'undercover' by pretending to be a colleague etc. There are problems with both types of observation. Firstly, overt methods may not be as reliable, since people often alter their behaviour if they know they are being observed. This could make your findings inaccurate. Using a covert method of observation can often be controversial. It is sometimes perceived as being unethical. Whether you believe it is comparable to 'spying' or just a method of gaining more accurate, natural behaviour it should be avoided! It also poses questions about the use of such data when authorisation has not been given. The main problem with observation is the lack of time, which an observer has in making a record of his/her observations. Writing up a particular action may mean other observations are missed altogether. The only way this can be overcome is by developing some behavioural categories before the study begins. A table can be developed which can simply be ticked when a specific behaviour occurs. In

doing this, the observer must devise operational definitions to have clear criteria of what constitutes a particular behaviour. For example, if you were conducting a study which examines the implementation of health and safety procedures when using production line machinery, in doing this you would need to define what is 'correct' and 'incorrect' procedure. Interviews When asking subjects directly about thoughts, feelings or their behaviour, you should ensure that any questions are clearly phrased and unambiguous. Closed questions will not give as much information, open questions are more appropriate for interviews. You can easily prompt the subject into expanding. However, the main disadvantage is the interpretation of the question (on the part of the interviewee) and the interpretation of the response by you, the interviewer. You need to be aware that your own biases may lead to misinterpretation. Also, try to avoid leading questions to elicit the response you may want to get. The tables on the following pages highlight the main pros and cons of different types of interview. Fully structured interviews Advantages Quick to administer Easily replicable Data analysis is simple . .. Disadvantages The interviewee is constrained by the question and response system Information gained is too narrow Information may be distorted by ambiguous/complex or in some cases Quantification without bias Low influence of interpersonal variables High reliability inappropriate response list Low validity Inflexibility of interviewer to respond to circumstances

Semi-structured, open-ended interviews Advantages • Responses can still be easily compared Disadvantages • Question wording may reduce richness of response

• No topics are missed or are inadequately • Answers may be less natural, than more informal covered • Interviewees are not restrained by only being able to choose fixed answers interviews • An element of inflexibility on part of interviewer, not wanting to steer away from fixed agenda. This may result in loss of additional information, which may have proved of interest. Informal interviews (unstructured, but guided) Advantages • Increase in the consistency of information • Data analysis is still relatively simple • Information is usually given quite genuinely • Interviewer can be flexible to adapt to the personality of interviewee • Low reliability Disadvantages • Different question wording from one information interview to the other; may have different interpretations and emphasis • Interviewer may miss important topics • Information given may be influenced by interpersonal variables

• High validity

Unstructured interviews Advantages Disadvantages

• Interview can be moulded to individual, situation and context • Rich, full information; including unexpected responses which are relevant, but which the researcher may have overlooked • Interviewees feel relaxed and at ease • High validity Questionnaires surveys

. • Strongly influenced by interpersonal variables

• Unsystematic, therefore you may retrieve different information from different individuals • Difficult to analyse • Relatively unreliable

You can administer these yourself or send as postal questionnaires. They generally cover a set of structured topics and contain similar features to structured interviews. Postal questionnaires can be expensive to administer and the response rate is very poor. By administering them on a personal level, you can ensure a higher response rate. Like interviews, ambiguous phrasing or complicated sentence structure could mean that subjects do not understand the questionnaire (and therefore return it incomplete) or misinterpret the questions, which leads to inaccurate responses. Avoid using technical words/jargon - keep in mind the sample group. A word of advice - keep it as short as you possibly can; they are more likely to be completed! Consideration needs to be given to the type of question; yes/no responses, the strength in which they agree with a statement or open questions. The order of questions is also vital; they should develop one issue at a time, and not frantically hop from one point to another and then back to the original issue. They can therefore be complex to design and need to be piloted before the main study to ensure validity and reliability. The name of the respondent should be shown at the head of the questionnaire with an email or other contact address. We reserve the right to contact respondents for verification.

There are some advantages of using questionnaire over in-depth interviews as raised in the table below. Questionnaire/Survey . Advantages Disadvantages

• Many respondents can be questioned fairly quickly • Less influenced by dynamics of interpersonal variables • Generates data which is easy to analyse with less bias • No geographical restrictions • Most effective when trying to generate large quantities of data Experimental method The experimental method is used as an alternative to less 'controlled' forms of research methodology, and is thought of as being more scientific. In an experiment the researcher will manipulate certain conditions, or variables then observe and measure the outcomes of these manipulations; data which are later analysed. This method may not always be appropriate to business/management research; it is however useful in studying 'before and after' behaviour. In this instance you need an 'a priori' measure (simply means 'before'). This is frequently used in studies where organisations are about to implement new procedures or systems. You would need to take an a prior measure then follow up with the same experiment once changes have been made. The researcher has more control over disruptive or extraneous factors, which may distort the data collected. However, there are negative points to be considered since examining human behaviour in this form is thought to 'dehumanise' it. Due to the nature of the experiment being in a contrived situation, it may produce behaviour which gives a misleading impression of real life and the subject • Structured questions miss more information • Large scale survey can be expensive • More likely to give 'public' responses, ie the response they think the interviewer wants to hear

may perform in a manner intended to please the experimenter. Sampling techniques and selection of subjects The manner in which subjects are chosen is of great importance to the successful conduct of the experiment. This chosen group is known as the sample. The idea of this is that it is as representative of the overall population as possible, encapsulating a variety of age, race, gender etc. If you do not carefully select a sample then the result of your investigation may be biased. You need to consider also the size of your sample to be able to draw any reasonable conclusions. For example, a small sample may not be big enough to highlight any trends or correlations. Evaluation of research findings Empirical data needs to be analysed thoroughly and evaluated in a logical and interpretative manner for it to have any significance within the body of your dissertation. Just simply stating the results is not enough. Confidence intervals for testing hypotheses Reliance on information from samples of a population will always lead to some level of uncertainty. The confidence interval quantifies this uncertainty. It is a range of values within which the population parameter is likely to be included. This is calculated from the sample data and usually reported at the 95% level. In this manner, the confidence interval for the difference between the means is a range of values where the difference between the means of two populations may lie. The width of a confidence interval can provide some information about how certain we are about the difference in means. In general, the narrower the confidence interval the higher is the precision of the estimate. The confidence interval will tend to be wide when the sample size is small and the scores are less homogeneous Confidence intervals are a useful tool for the interpretation of results given that they can provide information as to whether the difference between two means is statistically significant. When looking at the confidence interval of a difference, one can easily check whether the interval includes a value that implies ‘no effect’.

Quantitative analysis Computer packages such as Excel, SPSS, and some database programmes make it easier to analyse the raw data and draw out certain relationships between several variables. Dissertation layout The format for dissertations should be as follows: The title page Contents Introduction Literature review Methodology Results and discussion Conclusion and implications/recommendations Bibliography Appendices The main forms of statistical techniques that business students may need to use are parametric. These include: Correlations - measuring the strength of the relationship between two variables (Pearson's Product Moment correlation coefficient) Graphs and tables showing trends Frequencies - the times a particular behaviour or response has occurred Mean (average) Median (middle value) and Mode (tally of common values) Rank-order 'T' Test - used in 'before and after' Qualitative analysis When evaluating subjective data, such as opinions and views, it is important to devise a coding framework to score the qualitative data. The data gathered from this can then be turned into statistical form for analytical purposes. The writing up of the dissertation

The following sections should be included: The title page The contents page This helps guide the reader through the document. Check for consistency between actual heading/subheadings used in the body of the dissertation and the contents page. The introduction This first chapter should aim to address the issue or problem you are to examine define the subject area briefly, and clearly draw upon the boundaries of the dissertation; giving an indication of what it is not. Here you would state your hypothesis. Why is it important to look at this area? Why are you interested? Will it contribute anything to the wider academic or business community? Or will it simply contribute to the understanding of a particular issue within your case study organisation? State the reasons why. Set the scene for the context of the research and the background of the organisation you may have used for your research environment. The methodology sub-section should discuss the 'way you went about it'. How did you research the issue? It should evaluate previously used methodologies from similar study areas and methods upon which you decided. Why did you choose those particular methods? What were the main advantages/disadvantages of using them? Here you are aiming to persuade the reader (your supervisor) that you chose the most appropriate methods but are aware of limitations. You need to discuss how you collected both the primary and secondary data at this stage. For secondary data - what sources did you use and why? List key words used in your search. . With regard to the primary data - what procedures did you use to ensure validity of results?

You do not give actual data in this chapter, but inform the reader about the ways in which you gathered this data. It is a question of how not what! Literature search Details of the literature search have been covered above. It is usually the easiest part of the thesis to write and you should ensure that it is not more than 10% of the whole thesis. Results What were your findings? They need to be well presented using a combination of graphs and charts. You should fully explain and evaluate these as fully as possible. Avoid lists of numbers! Find imaginative ways of presenting raw data. Conclusion Having presented the results, can any conclusions be drawn from it? What do the findings indicate? Can you accept or reject your hypothesis? What can you logically deduce from the research? Can you identify any implications this may have on the organisation/business/wider academic community? The ability to reflect on the process that has gone before can also be included in this final stage. Bibliography You need to include all publications you have read in preparing your dissertation. An example of full bibliographic details is: Jankowicz, A D (1991) Business Research Projects for Students Chapman & Hall, London If you do not have any book in your possession, you should take a photocopy of the page of the book containing the IBSN as we may call for it. This applies to other publications such as journals. Appendices Materials, which are relevant to arguments in the main text, but which would be too 'heavy' or would spoil the flow of the text should be included in appendices. Questionnaires, letters, interview agendas, raw data from fieldwork are some examples. Only include material that is relevant to the bulk of your research.

This PhD Report is an adapted version of a report produced by Amanda Hinds at Dearne Valley Business School in May 1998

TOP TIPS FOR DISSERTATION SUCCESS Read around the subject area as much as possible - looking at past and current/recent research Don't put off working on your dissertation - it won't just go away! Plan in advance what you are going to do and review it regularly Never underestimate the importance of piloting your study. This helps to iron out any problems with data collection methods before undertaking your main research. Remember to acknowledge researcher bias when analysing data Ensure your English is OK. Check for style and grammar problems, sentence construction, and punctuation. Your work must be passed through a grammar checker set to check for style and grammar. You should avoid writing long sentences, as they can be difficult to read. If you set your grammar checker to show your statistics, your Flesch Reading Ease should be at least 20. Make sure the structure allows for links in passages - is there a sense of direction? arguments flow? Are the paragraphs too long/short/complex? Is the style and tone appropriate - not too colloquial or convoluted? Do you use academic language in the correct manner? Avoid over-generalization - all, everyone, always etc. Familiarise yourself with the guidelines in this booklet, especially dissertation rules and deadlines. Do not give your own point of view as you should be producing a ‘proof’. You should remain objective. . Lastly, good luck! Do your

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