Writing Your Thesis

Author(s) Paul Oliver
Publisher London: Sage Publications
Published 2004
ISBN 076194298X
Reviewed by Scott Buckler
Institute of Education, University College Worcester
Review published 1 December 2004

‘Writing Your Thesis’ is a book similar in many respects to others in the genre. As the title suggests, the book is aimed at postgraduate students engaged in research. The title is direct and to the point, which is true for the rest of this book. Where perhaps this book differs from many of the others is that the structure of the book, and Paul Oliver’s writing style, are easy to engage with.

The book is divided into two sections, ‘the process of academic writing’ and ‘writing your thesis’. As such, the first section discusses the difference between a masters and doctoral thesis, intellectual content, supervisor role, writing conventions, structuring work, etc. The second section introduces the various chapters within a thesis, i.e. introduction, literature review, methodology, data analysis, conclusion, publishing and the oral examination. Each chapter is similar in structure, providing an overview, examples (i.e. an extract of a literature review), a summary of key points, signposts to success which consist of a variety of tips, and study strategies – activities for the reader to engage with.

Each chapter is clear and coherent in structure introducing the reader to a number of different themes. For example from the first section, Chapter 2 ‘the intellectual content of the thesis’ starts by discussing the thesis as an original contribution to knowledge before progressing to discuss the difference between knowledge and data, introducing the reader to survey data, qualitative data, reflexive accounts and conceptual analysis. Oliver then introduces working within a paradigm and incorporating a theoretical perspective. The chapter progresses with hypothesis testing, presenting alternate viewpoints and developing a coherent argument.

Chapter 9 ‘methodology’ is one of the chapters from the second section of the book. Oliver discusses a number of issues, for example, the relationship between epistemology and methodology, also how the aims of the thesis relate to the choice of methodology. Other areas covered are negotiating access, ethics, sampling and a brief overview of data collection and data analysis.

It must be acknowledged that this book is an entry-level book into writing a thesis – it introduces a number of concepts simply and clearly. Despite a full reference list, it would have been helpful to provide a list of further reading or resources at the end of each chapter in order for the reader to pursue some of the more complex areas, for example, research methodology texts for the novice researcher.

In summary although the book is both clear and coherent in structure, pertinent issues are discussed, similarly despite the simplicity of the book, the message comes across both clearly and thoroughly. The overall impression of this book makes the PhD seem a manageable process to anyone about to start or taking those first tentative steps. This book will undoubtedly benefit anyone whatever stage they are with their work. Despite my bookshelf having several books devoted to writing a PhD, I would happily trade them for this book.