4.3 Revising the Introduction, Literature Review and Methodology Chapter(s)

If you have not undergone a proposal process for your thesis, you will be writing the introduction, literature review and description of your methodology for the first time, so please see Sections 3.1–3.3 for detailed advice on drafting these chapters. If you have completed a proposal, you will already have drafted these chapters, received feedback on them from your supervisor and other committee members and in most cases revised them. This does not mean, however, that there will be nothing to do as you prepare them for inclusion in the thesis. Very few changes may be necessary (particularly in your introduction and literature review) if your plans for the thesis have changed very little as you completed your research, but if you have altered the overall structure of your thesis or the exact nature of the problem you are exploring, for instance, or if your aims, research questions, sources or methods have undergone important changes, or if any alterations recommended by your committee members during the proposal process have not yet been completed, significant revisions may be needed to bring your original versions of these chapters in line with your new thesis outline and the requirements of your committee.

If you planned to include tables or figures to enhance the description of your methods (or to clarify any aspect of your introduction or literature review), but did not already do so for the proposal, they should be added at this point (on tables and figures, see Section 1.3 and Section 4.4.1). You will in any case need to expand the summary of the contents of the thesis that appears at the end of the introduction so that it covers the thesis as a whole. You will almost certainly need to adjust your verb tenses in a number of places, especially in your methodology chapter(s), because research, experiments and trials that were anticipated in the proposal will now have been completed: ‘I will be circulating a questionnaire,’ for example, will need to be changed to ‘I circulated a questionnaire’ and ‘I plan to conduct a trial’ will need to be reworded as ‘I conducted a trial.’ You may also have to rewrite sentences and paragraphs describing your methods, their limitations and both their strengths and weaknesses more accurately than you could have before those methods were put into practice, and if any problems arose while conducting your research that resulted in changes to your methodology, those, too, should be introduced and discussed. 

Although it may be tempting to leave the revision of these chapters until the new chapters are drafted, refining your earlier work before moving on to new material is a wiser approach. The distance you have already gained from your proposal while conducting your research will provide you with a more objective perspective with which to approach your work critically, and reviewing your earlier work will effectively return you to the many complexities of your writing. This is also a good time to ensure that styles, formats and other details that must be considered throughout the thesis are used consistently throughout these chapters and thus established for future chapters (see Chapters 6–8 below on formatting, references and quotations). You may or may not have to share your revised chapters with your supervisor or thesis committee, but it is always a good idea to keep your supervisor up to date with your progress, and he or she may have helpful suggestions for effective revision techniques.

Why PhD Success?

To Graduate Successfully

This article is part of a book called "PhD Success" which focuses on the writing process of a phd thesis, with its aim being to provide sound practices and principles for reporting and formatting in text the methods, results and discussion of even the most innovative and unique research in ways that are clear, correct, professional and persuasive.

The assumption of the book is that the doctoral candidate reading it is both eager to write and more than capable of doing so, but nonetheless requires information and guidance on exactly what he or she should be writing and how best to approach the task. The basic components of a doctoral thesis are outlined and described, as are the elements of complete and accurate scholarly references, and detailed descriptions of writing practices are clarified through the use of numerous examples.

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