Archive | July, 2014

How I’m tackling my PhD discussion chapter

11 Jul

Seriously…..I can’t actually believe that I’m now writing my discussion chapter! I mean, how on earth did that happen?! It’s funny, over the past 5 years (I’m doing this part-time remember), my hubby often asked me (which by the way, got really annoying after year 2 let alone year 5!) “Do you see any kind of light at the end of the tunnel Em?” “Nope” I ALWAYS replied, “Not even a teeny weeny speckle of the stuff.” Honestly, I thought I’d be doing this PhD forever.

….and yet, here I am, writing my bloody discussion chapter!

I was inspired to write this blog post after a tweet today from @maggiedavies . The sense of trepidation was evident and I totally got it.   It’s THE chapter isn’t it? It’s the chapter that pulls everything together. It’s the chapter that tells the reader what it all means. It’s the chapter that demonstrates your thesis contributes to knowledge.

So basically, you have to…


…and if you don’t do that, then quite simply, I guess you don’t have a PhD thesis.  That’s just not funny

However, after another very productive and hugely supportive supervision session, I feel much more relaxed. My principle supervisor has this amazing ability to just make complete sense without putting the fear of god into me.  He is pretty remarkable. The advice he gave me in previous supervision sessions and my recent one is exactly the advice I have been/I am following. I will share this with you as it may help you too:

When editing literature review chapter and writing finding chapter(s), open a word document (name it your discussion chapter) and start putting words in it. At this stage, thoughts/concepts/questions will naturally come to you that you know will need to be explained/interpreted/talked about/verified in your discussion chapter. Write them down any way you wish – bullet points, single words, short sentences or paragraphs. Don’t worry about writing academically or if it makes any sense – they will serve as vital ‘cues’ when the time comes. I followed this advice while editing my literature review and writing/editing my findings chapters and I have just counted almost 11,000 words written on that word document (well I didn’t actually count them, my PC did). It’s very messy and in no particular order – some are bullet points, some are sentences, some are reminders with links to literature and some are “notes to self”. I can however, without a doubt, say that if I was facing a blank document now, ready to write my discussion chapter, I think I would have run for the hills.

So here’s what I plan to do now: I’m going to print it out, cut it up and arrange it on a flip chart paper. How am I going to arrange it? I’ve more superb advice from my supervisor.  I’m going to write working subheadings (which won’t necessarily feature in my thesis), but they will help me structure it and ensure that I include what I need to include. Here are those working headings:

  • What I did
  • How and why I did it
  • What I found (answered the research questions)
  • What was congruent with the literature?
  • What was surprising?
  • What are the implications for practice?
  • What are the implications for research?
  • What are the limitations to the study?
  • A final personal reflection (and a request for long term therapy sessions)

So I’m going to write the headings on a flip chart, cut up my rough notes etc. and arrange them under the headings. Then I plan to make further written notes on the flip chart paper about what I still need to write about. Once I have done that, I will write my chapter in the hope that when done, I will live in hope that …..



So basically, that is how I’m going to tackle my discussion chapter. There are also a number of excellent blog posts that I have come across that have been really helpful. Here they are:

How do I start my discussion chapter? by @thesiswhisperer

The discussion chapter – it’s about taking flight by @ThomsonPat

Explaining and justifying the use of theory via a sentence skeleton by @ThomsonPat

The zombie thesis by @thesiswhisperer

Are you currently writing your discussion chapter? How’s it going?

Have you been there and done it? Please do share your thoughts and experiences

If you’re not there yet, have you given your discussion chapter much thought? How are you feeling about it?

Thanks for dropping by, I shall let you know how it goes 🙂

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