Resources for your doctoral research

qq1sgmessydeskWhen I’m supervising doctoral theses, I’m often surprised at the extent to which trainees are unaware of the high quality resources that are around to help.  So I’ve put together some of my favourites, but do feel free to let me know any of your favourites that I’ve missed!

Firstly, it’s worth getting yourself onto Twitter, even if you don’t intend to tweet anything.  Many of the free online resources appear first on Twitter.  Here are the best ones in my view:


@ANU_RSAT is the feed for research resources for students and staff at The Australian National University and beyond. They have a lot of free PDFs and how-to guides.

@thesiswhisperer is Dr Inger Mewburn’s feed; Inger works at ANU (see above) and does research on research, so her insights are invaluable!

@NHopUTS is Dr Nick Hopwood’s feed; Nick is Senior Lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney and an excellent trainer in research methods. His videos are great!

@Write4Research is Prof Patrick Dunleavy’s feed, suggesting resources for writing at research level.

@ThomsonPat is Professor Pat Thomson’s feed; Pat is at the University of Nottingham and writes the “patter academic writing and doctoral education” blog.  Her regular blog posts are almost always relevant to doctoral students!

@docwritingsig is the feed for the Doctoral Writing Special Interest Group. It’s another Australian resource, but very useful content.

Finally, there’s our feed at @counsellingpsy which I manage. I follow all the above feeds and will retweet or curate my favourites, so if you’re lazy, just follow me.  I’m biased though 🙂


I strongly recommend following the above authors, but if it’s not your thing, I’ve collected together some of the best articles, blog posts and PDFs that have been published in the first half of 2015.  They cover varying aspects of the research process, and I’ve grouped them in this way.  I hope you find them worth checking out.  They’re all free:


Literature reviewing and searching

Here is a book extract from Constructing a Good Dissertation A Practical Guide to Finishing a Master’s, MBA or PhD on Schedule by Erik Hofstee. It’s a great read on the literature review: its role, structure, how to read resources effectively and select items for inclusion.

If you’re totally daunted by literature reviews, this blog post on how to better exploit digital era capabilities and begin a literature review quickly is definitely for you!

Inger Mewburn’s blog post on “how to become a literature searching ninja” gives great curated resources and ‘this is how I do it’ experience and instructions for literature searches.

Pat Thomson then writes a blog post on how to structure your literature review and avoid it being overly descriptive, using the rubric “claim, evidence, conclusion”.

In terms of further skills, critical analysis and summary are vital skills in literature reviewing, and these templates will help you learn how to do this better.

Finally, when you get to writing, this chapter from How to do Your Research Project by Gary Thomas is a great start.


Methods and proposals

If you don’t know where to start in choosing a method(ology) for your research, this chapter from Doing Research in the Real World by David Grey will give you an overview of theoretical perspectives and advice on which are most appropriate for your study.

Do the words epistemology and ontology fill you with horror?  Nick Hopwood’s great audio description (using music as metaphor) will make things a bit clearer for you.

Counselling psychology trainees tend to go for qualitative studies, and if this is your thing, this 86 page ReadMe First! will start you off!  It has advice on choosing a qualitative research method, including summaries on grounded theory, phenomenology and discourse analysis.  IPA resources are pretty easy to find, but this chapter on discourse analysis and this chapter on planning a grounded theory study are good starts if you’re new to these methods.

For advice on how to put it together, this chapter providing a stage-by-stage guide on how to write a research proposal is helpful, as is this structure for a proposal by Anthony Heath.

Before you send it away to your panel, supervisor or marker though, check out your proposal against this old but excellent set of criteria “12 things I look for in the methods section of a qualitative thesis proposal” by Lois Campbell.


Help finding participants

No pearls of wisdom here, but we’ll be happy to advertise your call for participants on this blog, once it’s been approved by ethics.  Pen an advert like this, drop me an e-mail via our website and we’ll go from there!


Writing your thesis

Qualitative analyses often suffer from insufficient interpretation and voicing.  Pat Thomson’s blog post on not letting participants ‘speak for themselves’ in your thesis is a great starter here.

Beyond the results chapter, so many trainees ask about how to use voice in their theses. You could do worse than begin with this basic guide to writing about the work of other authors.

And if you struggle with academic writing generally, check this Guide to Tertiary Level Writing edited by Dr Natilene Bowker from Massey University.

APA style is the bane of young psychologists’ lives too, so follow the style guide on Twitter @APA_Style and their blog which will answer any question you have with any luck!

Before you start writing up, check this blog which uses the metaphor of building a house to illustrate the process; and before you hand in, it’s worth checking this guide for how to edit your thesis for content, structure and flow (with three checklists).  This excellent pdf recommends that a thesis answer five questions and be structured with them in mind.

I always recommend that my trainees write their abstracts right at the end of the process, and this quick, concise guide by Graham Badley will help you avoid the usual pitfalls of omission and irrelevance.


Examination and viva

Just mentioning the word ‘viva’ to a doctoral trainee is enough to get them sweating, so these resources are good to help structure that gap between submission and examination.

This interesting paper presents results of a research study exploring how examiners assess qualitative theses.

The originality of the work is an essential doctoral descriptor (if it isn’t original, it will fail) and Pat Thomson’s blog post on this topic is excellent reading about what this means to an examiner.

And what will they ask in the viva?  Who knows, but there are some pretty basic areas, some of which are almost bound to come up, that make good foundational preparation.  A blog post from Writing for Research goes through the most obvious ones.   This blog post from the Doctoral Writing SIG on the examiner’s perspective, also helps to predict viva questions.



I’m always on the look out for new (free) resources, so do comment with your favourites, and I’ll add them in.   Also, research support is by far our most popular service at LCoP, and we can help you at every step of the process.  From troubleshooting your literature review to critiquing your research proposal and ethics form, from extra supervision of your analysis to reading your draft thesis, from proofreading to mock vivas, if you think we can help, give us a shout!

Dr Russel Ayling


2 thoughts on “Resources for your doctoral research

  1. I have a challenge locating relevant resources for my research study and the title is: “An Exploration of the Effectiveness of Namibia’s Adult Literacy Curriculum in Promoting Upward Social Mobility for Women” The challenge lies in finding the journal articles for the last five years, how can you help?


    1. Is it that you know this literature exists but you can’t access it? Or that you can’t find anything at all? If the former, consult your librarian. If the latter, then you may need to modify your search strategy, see our links on literature searching!


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